Our notoriously hot, sticky and humid summers in Toronto have officially arrived! We can finally shed our heavily layered clothing and begin to enjoy the warmth. While I absolutely love the heat, I find myself feeling fatigued, less energetic and sluggish at times. I am personally guilty of eating out more often and refusing to cook during heatwaves. I limit stovetop and oven usage to prevent my house from turning into a sauna. This summer, I decided to challenge myself to make more of my own healthy dishes at home by following a meal plan. In my blog post for this week, I’ve mocked up a few recipe ideas and meal plans I hope you will enjoy, most of which require very little effort and cooking time. These recipes are perfect for those hot summer days where cooking next to a heat source for prolonged periods of time seem out of the question.
Easy Summer Meals
Overnight Breakfast Oats
I typically use mason jars for these meals. The jars provide a nice portion size and they look quite pleasing when the oats, yogurt, berries and milk are layered. I like to fill about a third of a mason jar with oats. I then add enough milk (almond, soy or coconut can also be used) so that the oats are completely submerged in liquid. Toss in some of your favourite fruits, nuts or shredded coconut. Protein powder can also be added to the mix. Place your mason jar in the fridge overnight and enjoy the next morning!
I love how versatile this grain is. It can be served hot or cold. It can be used in soups, baking, stir frys, salads and breakfast bowls. I favour quinoa over white rice because it has more protein, fiber and vitamins. I like to whip up a large batch of quinoa at the beginning of a week and gradually remove small amounts for lunches or a side dish with dinner. My favourite quinoa dish is a cold salad with chopped cucumber, tomatoes, arugula, a sliced hard boiled egg for protein, red pepper and balsamic dressing. It takes very little preparation and cooking time, especially if you’ve made a batch of plain quinoa or hard boiled eggs beforehand.
Chopped Vegetable Salads
No cooking required for these salads! I like to use a lot of cucumbers, tomatoes, chickpeas, red cabbage, carrots, red onion, baby kale, avocado and arugula. Add your favourite salad dressing to this mixture. You can also add goat cheese, seeds, quinoa and fruits for extra flavour and dimension.
Your combinations for pasta salads are almost limitless! You can prepare a large batch at the start of your week which can be eaten throughout the course of a few days. I usually use a smaller sized pasta like macaroni and spiral pasta. I find that pesto and salad dressing work really well for a cold pasta dish. Be sure to accompany your pasta dish with a serving of greens or veggies to balance out your meal!
I try to avoid eating meat everyday in the summer. It can be heavy to digest, especially during heatwaves. I like to eat more eggs, legumes and tofu during hot summer months for lighter, alternative sources of protein. If I am cooking steak or chicken, I tend to cook a larger than usual portion so that I can add meat to salads and quinoa throughout the week. Barbecued steak and chicken strips work really well with salads and taste great hot or cold!
The Five Day Minimal Effort Meal Plan
Breakfast: Overnight oats with frozen berries, vanilla Greek yogurt and milk.
Lunch: Chickpea salad with avocado, sliced hard boiled egg, tomato and cucumber.
Dinner: Grilled salmon, asparagus and quinoa.
Breakfast: Scrambled egg, sliced avocado and fresh berries.
Lunch: Basil pesto pasta salad with extra salmon grilled on day 1.
Dinner: Sautéed tofu, rice, mushrooms and broccoli in soy sauce with minced garlic.
Breakfast: Overnight oats with banana, strawberries, shredded coconut, coconut milk and cocoa powder.
Lunch: Chopped veggie salad with balsamic dressing.
Dinner: Green salad with sautéed marinated beef or chicken strips.
Breakfast: Overnight chia seed pudding in a mason jar with banana, berries, Greek yogurt and milk.
Lunch: Beef or chicken strips prepared on day 3 served with chopped veggies.
Dinner: Quinoa dinner bowl with grilled red pepper, avocado, cucumber, red onion, arugula, lime juice and fresh cilantro.
Breakfast: Yogurt with fresh berries and granola.
Lunch: Cold bean and chickpea salad with a vinaigrette dressing.
Dinner: Barbeque night! Grill up some protein and veggies. Portobello mushrooms, zucchini, eggplant, bell peppers and corn grill quite nicely. Sauté your ingredients if you do not have a grill to use.
Other tips for healthy eating this summer:
- Drink plenty of water! Try infusing with mint, fruits and cucumbers to make your water more exciting and flavourful
- If your appetite is suppressed from the heat and you feel like snacking instead of eating full meals, try and choose healthy snack options. Chopped veggies, fresh fruit and nuts are always good choices
- Stick to light meals on really hot days. You’ll feel less bloated if you eat more veggies, grains and fruits. It’s much easier to digest these foods than a heavy meat dish
- Make meals in bulk! You will be less inclined to spend money on takeout if you know you have a meal waiting for you at home. Cooking in bulk saves you meal preparation and cooking time as well as the headache of the planning multiple dishes
Author: Claire Ford
Clinical Receptionist | Social Media Specialist | Toronto Health & Fitness Advocate