Monday, 20 May 2013

Low carb for the time poor.

I apologise for the longer-than-usual absence of recipes, and I also apologise for the fact that this post won't contain a recipe either.

Life likes to get ridiculously busy from time to time. Or all the time, if you're unlucky. For a student household, that's assignment season.

My life right now.

There's a huge range of convenient heat-and-eat options for those counting calories or fat, but what about those of us counting carbs?

The obvious answer is to cook ahead of time and freeze individual portions, but who is that organised?

While junk food is quick, convenient, and tasty, I've found it can seriously hamper my brain power. It's hard to concentrate when something's sitting in your stomach like a big old rock. I'm currently nursing a food-over from a wild weekend of poor nutritional choices, and it sucks.

Here's a few of the low-carb, no-prep meals we've tried over the past few weeks:

Barbecue chicken and salad
The old staple of chicken and bread rolls - without the bread rolls. There's an ever-improving pre-packaged salad section in most supermarkets, just keep an eye on the sugar content in the dressings, and leave out any crispy noodles or croutons. This is a great, quick meal for around $15 for the two of us, and we get leftover chicken to munch on later.

Kebab plate
Most kebab shops are quite happy to put kebab contents on a paper plate for you, without the bread. They're usually pretty generous with the ingredients, so it can be a really big feed. Good option for when you need to source lunch in a food court, and don't feel like mortgaging your home to afford a piddly little container of Sumo Salad.

Weight Watcher's frozen Beef Burgundy
I thought I'd give this a go, and I didn't think much of it. In my books, it's barely food. It's processed out the wazoo, and left a suss plasticy taste in my mouth. It is, however, just about the only frozen "diet" meal you can get that isn't full of potato, rice, noodles, or pasta. It's just meat (I use the term loosely) and veggies in a red wine sauce. It's a small-but-adequate serving, with only 13.5g of carbohydrate.

Steggles Frozen Wing Things
Easy as. A big bag of frozen chicken wings. They're pre-cooked, so all you have to do is thaw a few in the microwave, and you've got an easy lunch. They're $9 a bag in Aldi, and we usually get 3-4 lunches out of them. A little bit too salty I think, but not enough to really put me off.

Coles Italian eggplant and zucchini bake
A little pricey, but because they're fresh, you'll see them reduced to clear a lot. They should be in the fridge section near the lasagnes and garlic breads. It's a cheesy, hearty, flavoursome, and vegetarian friendly meal, at around 25g of carbohydrate per container. I've been known to buy a few at a time and freeze some for later.

And my all-time, absolute favourite...

Pre-packaged vegetarian curries
I cannot rave enough about these babies. They don't require refrigeration, and you probably don't even need to heat them up if you don't have a microwave handy. When heated, they're almost like a thick, hearty soup. Great winter food, and excellent for work lunches.

There's quite a few brands to choose from: Pattu, MTR, Maharajah's Choice, and Tasty Bite. Pattu has been my favourite so far, as it's usually really cheap (around $2 a box), tastes pretty authentic, and comes in a plastic pouch you can put straight in the microwave. Tasty Bite, as nice as it is, would have to be the one I like least. It's about $4 a box and isn't spicy enough for me. I end up drowning it in Cholulua Hot Sauce.

My precious stash.

I would recommend buying these from an Indian grocer (either Raj's Grocer or Indian Rice 'n Spice in Newcastle). Not only is it usually cheaper, but you're supporting small business, and there'll be a bigger variety to choose from. If you live in a regional area and that's not an option, you can get a small variety of Tastybite and Maharajah's Choice in the Asian food aisle in most supermarkets, usually up high above the Indian curry pastes.

What about dessert?

Easy. Diet jelly. It's right there in the supermarket with the normal jelly, and it's not overly expensive. Mango passionfruit and peach apricot have been the best I've tried so far. Yes it does require a little preparation and forethought, but it's simple enough to make up when you boil the kettle for your morning coffee.

And that, along with many handfuls of nuts and breakfasts of protein shakes, is what we eat when we have no time for anything.

I'm sure there's plenty more options out there, especially in terms of frozen fish and seafood if that's your thing. Please feel free to comment with your convenient-yet-still-healthy finds!

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