When Time Is Tight, We Go for Healthier Fast Food Options

This has been an exceptionally rough and busy week at Our Little House.

I will write more on that for next Tuesday’s post; I cannot yet put my thoughts and feelings about this week’s events to paper.

As I’ve written, we’ve gone to a 99% plant based diet most of the time (my one weakness is still Ranch dressing, and Dale will eat some dairy and meat every once in a while. We both still have the occasional piece of fish).

Eating healthy requires menu planning and shopping. In the rural area where we live, the unnamed retail giant rules, and it isn’t always easy to buy healthy food, especially organics without pesticides and GMOs. Our health food store options are 50 minutes away, and they both have limited store hours.

So what do busy, two-income wage earners who want to eat healthier do when it isn’t always feasible to look for recipes, plan menus and shop?

We do what most American households do; we eat fast, processed food.

Amy's Tamale Verde with black beans and fresh guacamole added

No, we haven’t been grabbing a burger or prepared chicken in the deli. We’ve been buying Amy’s organic vegan and vegetarian frozen foods. I don’t remember how I came across Amy’s, but I had already discovered them when my acupuncturist/herbalist told me he indulges in a frozen burrito from Amy’s when time is tight.

We have always been fans of Mexican food. We had the opportunity to grow up in a railroad town, and there were many Hispanics in our neighborhood who not only shared their food stuffs with our parents and grandparents at work, but their recipes as well. My dad would make large batches of burritos to freeze for our lunches based on recipes given to him by a coworker. My husband’s “family” taco sauce recipe was given to his grandmother by someone she worked with.

As well, we had some great restaurants from which to choose, and we spent a lot of our discretionary income on food. Two of the best years of our dining lives were when an authentic Mexican restaurant opened down the street within walking distance of our house. Of course, they were probably two of the unhealthiest years of our lives as well.

When we moved here, to a rural small town, we craved the Mexican food we left behind in the city. I learned to cook more recipes at home, which began our quest to eat healthier.

One of our favorite Amy’s brand meals is a black bean vegan tamale covered in tomatillo sauce with rice. I whip up a batch of guacamole and open a can of vegan organic refried beans, heat a couple of wheat organic tortillas and voila, we have a quick and very good meal.

The ingredients on Amy’s foods are always organic and non-GMO, and the company has also invested money into the GMO labeling initiative. From my research, I believe they are one of the healthiest processed food companies.

Of course, it is still processed food and the sodium content is higher than meals prepared from scratch. It’s best, when I can, to prepare meals from scratch, but when time is tight, I don’t mind opening one of Amy’s products. It’s a lot healthier than having a Mexican food restaurant down the road.

We try not to eat any processed foods these days more than once a week. However, in addition to our tamale meal, I did send Dale to work with an Amy’s burrito, some chopped lettuce and On the Border salsa (all natural ingredients, although GMO content unknown) so he could have a burrito salad one day. I do try to make our salsa from scratch (his grandmother’s recipe), but didn’t get to it last weekend.

Have you heard of Amy’s products? Do you think any processed food is healthy?   

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10 Responses

  1. Benjamin V says:

    I have eaten a lot of Amy’s meals like this since I found out that I have Celiac Disease, so I have to be on a strict gluten free diet. Overall they are very high quality and very flavorful for a frozen meal…the Indian food is wonderful, too, for a variation now and then (have you seen these?).

    I can find some of these a lot cheaper at Target, but obviously those aren’t on every corner down there in the northern Arkansas woods like they are here! I fear I will be sentenced to living in some kind of metropolitan area from now on, since the availability of gluten free items is far greater–just sticking with the basics, though, works great for me, when I have time to cook. I found a delicious, simple vegetarian meal, though, last week in my newest issue of Diabetes Forecast….not too labor intensive, either. It is roasted vegetables (red & yellow peppers, garlic, oregano, + I added yellow squash), combined with fresh spinach & cannellini beans w/a simple dressing made with olive oil, Dijon mustard & red wine vinegar). I’ll see if I can find you a link. (You could substitute other kinds of beans, too, to your liking). ENJOY!!
    http://forecast.diabetes.org/recipes/cannellini-bean-salad-with-roasted-vegetables

    • Kerri says:

      Our town has gotten much better, it is small and we even have two health food stores where you could shop in one town and three in another not an hour away. Don’t give up if you want to live “out,” Benjamin! Thanks so much for the recipe, I’m always on the lookout. This sounds lovely. I’ll put it on he menu for next week!

      • Benjamin V says:

        I’ve usually gotten my best recipes when somebody would share one of their favorites–forgot to mention the cherry tomatoes in this one, though (not quite the same without them!). I know you will enjoy it, and there is a lot of versatility on what you can add to the roasted vegs. mix, according to your taste. I can’t wait to make it again!! Oh, and I NEVER give up!! Good old stubborn Arkansas boy here–I come from a very LONG line of incorrigible people!! 🙂

        • Kerri says:

          LOL, I bet you do! I have the ingredients on my shopping list for next week. I’ll let you know how we like it!

  2. Sorry to hear you had a hard week. I have been known to buy an Amy’s burrito from time to time as well. It is a brand I feel comfortable with. I almost never buy prepared foods, but once in a while, it’s a treat.

    • Kerri says:

      Yep, we have to give ourselves a break sometimes, Brette, and it’s better if we can feel like we aren’t totally blowing our healthy eating habits doing it.

  3. Amy’s Vegan Margherita Pizza is one of my favorite lazy-night meals, coupled with a very quick salad. Mmmm… You should also check out Colleen Patrick Goudreau’s Food for Thought podcast on vegan food. I’ve gotten so many great ideas from her! http://www.compassionatecook.com/publications/food-for-thought-podcast

  4. Mary says:

    It seems as though the grocery stores have more and more ready to eat meals, while they have less and less ingredients to make your own meals. Of course, making your own healthy meals from fresh ingredients takes much more planning which takes extra time.
    Have not heard of the Amy products. But, if you checked them out I’m sure they are fine and served the purpose of feeding you when you didn’t have time to plan and prepare your own meal.
    Keep up good work.