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Eating well on a busy schedule

Published:Wednesday | April 14, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Recently, I had to part company with my housekeeper, who used to assist me with meal preparations. I lead a very busy lifestyle and I am convinced of the benefits of wholesome home-cooked meals. But it has been an uphill battle, with my morning activities starting at 4:30 and evening activities sometimes ending at 8:30.

On weekends when I am not out of town, I prepare salads and marinade cuts of meats such as chicken breast (I freeze them in their marinades in single-serving portions). Two servings are placed in the refrigerator for my husband and me at nights to allow for thawing. In the mornings, the chicken breast is grilled quickly in the toaster oven and sliced and placed with a large salad for lunch.

Dinner in a jiffy

Dinners can be a challenge. Meats can be done over the weekend for more than one day's meal, the same for rice and peas. Two dishes that I find quick and relatively easy are my jiffy vegetable soup (which can be made before work) and my stir-fry dishes, which can be made during the window period, 5:15 and 5:45 p.m., before the start of some of my evening activities.

To make the soup in a jiffy, you have to prepare assorted vegetables and put them in the refrigerator in special plastic bags. Also, always have cooked peas or beans in the freezer, in portion sizes, which you can thaw the night before. Just throw everything in your saucepan to make a hearty soup. Add some potatoes or spinners, flavour with fresh seasoning. You don't have to add sodium or soup enhancers, just simmer as you get ready for work.

Stir-fry dishes

For stir-fries, I always have marinated chicken breast in the freezer, a bag of large raw, cleaned shrimp, tofu and cooked beans. I prepare a stir-fry mix with a wide variety of vegetables in the morning, before I leave for work, put the shrimp in some quick marinade - usually grated onions/garlic and flavoured vinegar. In the evening, I use my microwave to assist me. I put firmer vegetables like carrots, cauliflower and broccoli in the microwave for two minutes while I stir-fry the meat using fresh seasonings.

I add my firmer vegetables first, ending with a few leafy greens such as mustard and the liquid from the marinade with a little cornstarch. I add some fresh black peppercorn and this is ready to be served within half-hour with rice which would have been in the refrigerator and can be microwaved.

I have had to make concessions but I will continue to eat healthily in spite of my busy schedule and little help. The real solution may be to cut some of my evening activities. I am working on that.

Rosalee M. Brown is a registered dietitian/nutritionist who operates Integrated Nutrition and Health Services; email: