I know Marissa Allen, owner of FirstandFull.com from my favorite platform, Instagram of course. What initially caught my attention was how easily I would get drawn into her Instastories while she was sharing recipes and colorful ingredients. I literally wanted to try and recreate everything she was posting. So many of you all have asked me for more of my kitchen & diet secrets, but I’m not deep enough into my journey to feel like I have much to share. I reached out to her and asked if she’d be willing to answer a few of my most asked questions and she shared even more than that. Read below on Marissa’s hacks for eating healthy on a budget, what items we should keep in our kitchens, and some recipes to try out for busy women like me who want to eat clean.
Is it possible to eat healthy without breaking the bank? Healthier items and meals seem to cost twice as much as junk, so for many, it’s hard to make the transition since it typically costs us more.
It definitely is possible to eat healthy without breaking the bank. I think that misconception comes from our desire to seek convenience. We are busy after all! The convenient options tend to be more expensive. Itʼs a tradeoff – you have to find what convenient items fit in your budget (and are worth it) while also making concession and simplifying your meals or working with limited options. I know my bill starts to creep up at the grocery store when I want several completely different meals during the week. A way to cut some costs are to do modified leftovers for lunch, toss in vegetarian meal one of those days, and if snacks are a must, make them yourself.
So many of us women are in over our heads balancing careers, businesses and families. What would be the easiest solution for our schedules? Simpler meals, meal prepping, etc.
I think its a combination of both. I am a huge fan of meal prep but I do mine a little differently. I appreciate variety so I prep components as opposed to complete meals. I have an entire blog post on how I meal prep from start to finish! By prepping components, I can make last minute changes to dinner and am MUCH less likely to waste food. In the post, I also include examples according to how much time you have to dedicate to meal prep. Simple meals are the way to go if you donʼt like cooking or might not be great at it yet. Things like homemade vinaigrettes, sauces, and even marinade are a way to jazz up more basic meals.
What should we avoid at the grocery store?
Something I have always tried to avoid at the grocery store is pre-made treats ie. cookies, oreos, cakes, ice cream, etc; things that are easy to binge on. I once read something about how treats arenʼt inherently bad for but, to make sure you really want something, consider making it for scratch. So if I really want a cookie, I make myself make them from scratch. Once I think of the time and effort involved, it often tampers the craving. Now for some, this might be dangerous because you now have an entire tray of cookies, but thatʼs when I pack them all up and send them to work with my husband! I also try to avoid pre-made salad dressings as they are SO easy to make at home. We skip the bread because I donʼt need it/wonʼt miss it, and artificially sweetened sauces. Check the labels of your marinara, teriyaki sauce, even pre-made pestos; you would be shocked! My final grocery tip is be realistic! Yes, we all want an abundance of fresh veggies and fruits but donʼt buy more than you can consume. If you KNOW you wont wash and cut the fruit when you get home and it might spoil this is where I consider the pre-cut stuff.
Also, what should we always keep on hand for days where we’re short on time?
When I am completely uninspired or just tired, I make a bowl of SOMETHING. So my typical formula is a potato, grain, or greens base, topped with a protein, roasted veggies and some sort of sauce. Frozen vegetables, olive oil and some sort of flavored vinegar for a dressing, marinara sauce, rice or pasta, and frozen shrimp can always be found in my kitchen. Frozen veggies because I prefer them to canned. I have even found cooked brown rice at the grocery store that I like, and shrimp because it takes no time at all to thaw! I can usually get by with a combination of these ingredients.
Calories VS Health Benefits. Which should matter more to us?
It truly depends on your goals. As far as my lifestyle goes, counting calories is just not an option. After I had my kids, I was more cognizant of calories as I had a specific weightless goal. It was causing unnecessary stress and anxiety. We already have SO much on our plates. Counting calories might work for some and even bring comfort but for me, it constantly reminded me of what I shouldnʼt be eating and introduced unfounded guilt. I believe in eating whole foods and when you surround yourself with better options (i.e. whole fruit for juices; they are more filling, vegetables, yogurt, nuts, etc.) you are less likely to overeat and I know I do a better job recognizing the full feeling!
Many women struggle with healthier eating because we try and cut things out of our diet completely, instead of attempting to substitute them with a better option. What are some of your favorite substitutions that almost feel and taste like the real deal.
As you can tell from my previous answer, I am MUCH more concerned with good, CLEAN, whole foods. By that I mean avoiding a ton of processed options, looking for naturally sweetened alternatives, and flavoring food with herbs and spices as opposed to chemical and sodium laden seasoning mixes. I LOVE this question! Some of my favorite recipes on First and Full are those that are reminiscent of comfort foods but cleaned up and much healthier.
- Coconut Sugar for Brown Sugar
- Ghee for Butter
- Avocado Oil for vegetable or peanut oil
- Unsweetened applesauce for a portion of the sugar and fat in baked goods
- Spaghetti squash for traditional pasta
- Thinly Sliced Jicama for taco shells
- Seltzer water for soda
- Coconut Aminos for soy sauce
- Cauliflower mash for mashed potatoes
- Grated carrots to add sweetness to marinara sauce
- Roasted parsnips for traditional french fries
These are just a few! I have also switched to air frying things as opposed to deep frying or even pan frying. I bet you were expecting me to say cauliflower rice. Honestly, it doesnʼt taste like rice or even remind me of rice. If you like cauliflower, go for it but otherwise, be warned!
What are your top five go-to recipes for busy women who still want to eat better and take care of themselves physically?
My easy go-to stir fry, Lighter, 1 Pot Cajun Sausage Pasta, Roasted Chicken Breast and Cauliflower Mash, Grilled Balsamic Chicken, Blackened Salmon with Peach Salsa, and Spicy Shrimp Tacos with Chipotle Sour Cream.
For picky eaters, what are the best ways to sneak nutrition into our daily meals without noticing too much?
This is probably not the answer you expected, but Iʼm not a huge fan of sneaking in nutrition. Now with kids, its a different story but for adults I think you need to try different preparations or serve it in a different capacity till you enjoy it. I used to be PAINFULLY picky and it was through cooking the foods on my own that I overcame that pickiness. Back in 2015, I actually wrote down a list of foods I wanted to try. I then looked for different recipes featuring the ingredient in question. It helped me improve my skills in the kitchen ten-fold. As far as incorporating better nutrition throughout the day, try to have a vegetable with breakfast (favorite change from my Whole30 experience), serve almost everything over a different leafy green, keep roasted or steamed veggies in the fridge for last minute side dishes.
Can you tell us about your kitchen shortcuts that you believe are worth it?
I believe in purchasing peeled garlic, large bags of spinach, and the occasional stir fry veggie mix from the grocery store. I always cook my chicken in double batches for last minute lunches or lazy dinners. I also think there is always a use for a rotisserie chicken or even a prepared protein from the deli. Iʼm into instant pots and air fryers over slow cookers but I know that isnʼt everyoneʼs thing. I use my stand mixer to shred chicken and freeze any and all leftovers.
What are some effective ways to curb a sweet tooth without the cookies and candy?
I might not be the best one to give this advice but for me it was going cold turkey (Whole30) and reintroducing better options. One of my favorites is a Mejool date dipped in cashew butter. I also have an appreciation for sliced apples and greek yogurt or almond butter.