We’re well into the second month of 2019, a reasonable point to look back and assess any health goals we set for the year. It’s a great time to congratulate ourselves on our progress and hard work, and also to attend to any essential adjustments needed to assure we stay on track with mindful eating.
After the holidays—and all the exotic foods I indulge in during the month of December—I am always excited to get back into my ordinary nutritional routine. My daily practices between January and November aren’t quite as thrilling as all the glitter and glamour of the holiday season, but I love the fact that a healthy regime has become simply a way of life, rather than a “chore,” for me; getting back to my everyday lifestyle is something I anticipate with enthusiasm.
I believe there are many reasons why folks, especially in that “chore” phase when changing eating habits requires more effort and diligence, fall away from their healthy eating goals. It’s easier to pick up take-out than it is to cook something (at least, many people think so). Additionally, breaking dependence on the added junk in most prepared foods, which is tailored especially to be addictive, is a feat in itself.
But even I—someone who is comfortable with both cooking and habitual healthy eating—find myself stuck in ruts sometimes, and the allure of take-out and prepared foods creeps in. Honestly, my biggest hindrance to cooking at this time of year is inspiration. It’s a challenging time of year to stay creative, in large part because much of the delicious seasonal produce that encourages us to eat well simply isn’t available, or it has limited flavor.
In other words, it’s not really that I get burned out on the work of cooking itself (though I do have my days). It’s mostly that I get brain burnout from trying to keep things interesting enough that healthy food still sounds better than the alternatives.
Meal-prepping is one of the best ways I have found to be sure I am eating well, and to save myself time and excessive thinking when hunger strikes. I’m not necessarily talking about devoting an entire day to cooking a week’s worth of meals (though this is an excellent option if you have the time and resources), but more to just be sure I have some readily usable items at my disposal, so part of the work is already done when dinnertime comes around. I often intentionally make extra servings of meals, so I can be sure to have some leftovers for subsequent days, when I might feel less inclined to cook. Most specifically, I almost always make extra protein, so I can be sure to have protein-rich snacking food and things to transform into lunches and future dinners.
Composed meat salads are a great way to keep my protein levels in check when I’m busy and inferior quick-bites sound appealing, or when I’m otherwise just burned out on creativity. Because really, it’s pretty easy to get creative with a protein salad, using different seasonings, dressings, and additions.
This curried chicken salad is a favorite of mine and makes quick use of leftover cooked chicken. I took the general idea of a more Indian-inspired curried chicken salad that many of you may be used to and gave it a makeover with more Eastern Asian/Thai flavors. I adore different regional curries, with no explicit bias toward one or another, and this variation is a test of that. It is different, though no less delicious, than the more familiar curried salad, and a welcome change when my meal rotation starts feeling stale.
This salad is full of big flavors and contrasting textures, plus it’s loaded with veggies. At home, I usually just eat it straight from the container, or I’ll pile it into lettuce leaves and wrap it up, if I’m feeling extra fancy. Of course, it would make an excellent sandwich or wrap, and would also be pretty awesome wrapped in rice paper, like a salad roll.
Peanut-Curry Chicken Salad
Makes 4 hearty servings
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 10-15 minutes
3–4 cups diced cooked chicken
1 small cucumber, diced or sliced
1 small red pepper, sliced
1 bunch green onions, minced
1 handful cilantro, chopped
¾ cup good quality store-bought or homemade mayonnaise
3–4 tablespoons full-fat coconut milk (I use Native Forest “Simple”)
½ inch ginger root, grated
1 tablespoon curry powder
½ lime, juiced
A dash of fish sauce (I use Red Boat)
1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes
2 drops stevia
⅓ cup roasted, salted peanuts, for garnish (optional)
Sliced mango, for garnish (optional)
- Dice cooked chicken and place in a bowl with cucumber, red pepper, cilantro, and green onion.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, fish sauce, curry powder, coconut milk, lime juice, ginger, crushed red pepper, and stevia. Season with salt and pepper. Taste and adjust to your liking, adding extra lime juice if you like it tangy, extra stevia for more sweetness, or extra crushed peppers for more heat.
- Toss chicken mix together with dressing.
- Top with peanuts and serve.
Image from Briana Goodall.