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Food Burnout + What to Eat (When You Don't Really Feel Like Cooking)


Hey guys! So today's post is about how to feed yourself for health and happiness when you (honestly) just don't feel like cooking. When you just want to feed yourself well - with extreme ease and satisfaction. Plus, a bit on my personal experience with food burnout. And if you don't know what food burnout is, well don't worry, neither did I until I wrote this post.

So here is my "What to Eat When You Don't Feel Like Cooking" Meal Ideas. And spoiler alert, yes, there is a (little) cooking involved for some of them...

"I want to eat but I don't want to cook."
"Ugh, I don't feel like cooking."
"Too drained to think about food."
"What should I eat? I don't know what to eat."
"Shoot, I should eat something."
"Why did I just eat that?"
"I'm hungry, but I'm also tired, busy, uninspired, distracted, but I'm hungry."
"What's for _________? Something easy."


Relatable. Lately, and I mean the past six months or so, I have said "Meh, I don't feel like cooking." quite a lot. For me, a two-time cookbook author, someone who has literally made food and recipes my job for the past twelve years, as well as having my B.S. in Health + Nutrition, having a disinterest in cooking felt really odd. I felt ashamed that prepping ingredients and turning on the oven or warming up a pan just felt daunting.

My passion for cooking felt zapped, running on fumes. I was still cooking, but it felt forced.

All signs of some sort of burnout. And yup, I have been a bit burnt out, emotionally and food-wise.

And that's ok.

Burnout. From pushing out Finding Vegan Meals, to blogging and working on FindingVegan - and food for myself and family, you could say my life sees a lot of grocery store + kitchen time. So burnout is only natural. I definitely felt it after both cookbooks. But really anyone can feel food burnout. Maybe you are going through a stressful or super busy life transition or maybe you just put too much pressure on yourself around food. The truth is - and it took me a long time to realize this with my whole soul - your meals should energize, excite and nourish you. Smiling while eating should be a thing, like always. Humming a little happy song works too. You see kids do it all the time when they eat food they love! Adults, sometimes.

Feeding yourself shouldn't feel overwhelming. (And I'm not even talking about dieting or self-esteem. That is a whole other ball game.) But just in regards to cooking and what you should eat to feel good. It can get confusing as heck for the average person. And with so many rules, trends, photos, hashtags, standards of plating perfection and such online these days, it's no wonder (I) and maybe many of you are feeling food burnout. Even when you love food + cooking + all of that.

Luckily, being vegan really makes things easy. Mantra: I eat plants. A lot of them. It's fun. And makes me feel good and proud. But in regards to everything else, I wanted to solve my burnout problem with -- well -- cooking. Sort've. And it helped!

Here are the two simple secrets to healing food/cooking burnout:

1) Take the pressure off yourself.
2) Eat what you love. Eat what makes you happy. Makes you feel good. Not just what you are "supposed to eat." (This doesn't mean eat junk food! See below...)

..Number One, give yourself a break. If you have to order take-out every night in one week, so be it. If you resort to frozen pizzas and whatever is on hand, that's cool. If you aren't making the perfect brown bag lunches for your kids or a three-course meal for your spouse, seriously, you're still rad to me. Cooking and food has become high pressure these days. From Instagram to grocery stores and restaurants, today's food is pretty, fancy and everything is taken up five notches. It can be overwhelming to a beginner - especially if an old pro like me gets frazzled from it! I mean, if I see one more avocado rose I just might... no, no, it's all good. Do what makes you happy. If avocado roses make you happy, cool...

...Number Two,
If cold cereal at ten PM sounds cozy to you, go for it. I had a giant smoothie bowl and a piece of leftover pizza for dinner last night because I got home late, and it was actually kinda fun. Eat what you want and what makes you happy and feel good. HINT: Eating well + healthy will make you feel good over time. So don't skip alllllll the salads and veggies. Learn to love them, any way you can. Trust me, it's not hard once you do some research. And by "research," I mean browsing blogs, cookbooks, and FindingVegan.

...And three, when all else fails and you just NEED some inspiration, hop over to your fave food blogs (hey there) and say hi, browse recipes, pin stuff. Food photos never fail me. And sometimes you just need a good nudge to spark your desire to want to cook. Who knows, maybe a three-course meal will come flying out of you, putting Martha to shame. PS. As a food blogger, THANK YOU for being here. We appreciate you.

FOOD RELATIONSHIPS in real life.

Real Life, Not InstaLife. Life circumstances, tastes, health status, careers, relationships, STRESS, location and priorities can change our relationship with food. Don't let that stress you out. Find a way to make your meals work for you + help you thrive.

Personally.... The past year I have been back in school at UCLA, in a really amazing, magical screenwriting program. It's been so fun! And that has taken a lot of my mental creativity. When I'm finishing up a sixty page script, I have nothing left for my food photography. So that has been another source of 'food blogging burnout' for me. And so new recipe posts have slowed a bit lately, and I've felt awful about that. But it's all good. Space and balance is a great thing. Growth is great. Learning new things, awesome. Simply put: I needed some space from food. To focus on developing the other parts of ME. Cool beans. (I have never said cool beans in my life, but felt it worked there.)

No matter what, one thing remains true: we all need to eat and many of us may need to feed our spouses and/or kids too - even when we don't feel like it. So today, I want to share some of my go-to, as easy as possible, stress-free meals and snacks for health and happiness. Now, don't get mad, you do have to COOK a tiny bit, but these tried-and-true recipes are hopefully day-savers for you as they are for me. :)

Kathy's Recipes for "What to Eat When You Don't Feel Like Cooking"



Breakfast:

My favorite meal of the day lately. Probably because my foamy latte and devouring blueberries in some way...

- Oatmeal + Blueberries. So simple, but so good. I make an instant oatmeal packet (plain flavor) using a pinch of salt. Then I toss frozen organic blueberries into the bowl. Sometimes I add nut butter or chopped nuts. I even have tried pouring some leftover smoothie on top when I make my husband a big smoothie - sounds weird but it is so good! Might have to post that sometime. To drink, I have a matcha latte or a one-shot espresso latte with lots of cinnamon. This recipe post is from 2012, so yeah, it's been a fave for a while.
- Blueberry Smoothie. Non-dairy milk, frozen blueberries, two Medjool dates, 5-10 Brazil nuts (or walnuts), maybe a banana and maybe some ice. Recent Blueberry Smoothie recipe. Of course I make plenty of variations on a morning smoothie. You can find 365 of them in my cookbook. Or here on the blog.
- Almond Butter Smoothie. This easy energy shake is a fave when I'm craving a nut butter banana flavor.
- Breakfast Sandwich. English muffin, vegan cheese, vegan sausage patty, strawberry jam, hot sauce and avocado. Maybe some kale or spinach in there too. That's our "house" breakfast sandwich and we love it. I love this one too.
- Scramble. When I want something hearty and hot, a QUICK tofu scramble does the job. Tofu, tamari, spinach, nutritional yeast, salt and pepper and any other veggies on hand. Hot sauce and toast on the side. Video of one of my scrambles here.
- Juicing. I don't drink celery juice for breakfast guys, but I DO love a good green apple blend when I want something hydrating and light. This recipe has been my go-to. I usually eat something non-liquid a half hour or so after my juice. Maybe avocado toast or nut butter on toast.
- Avocado Toast. You know the drill. Toast, Smashed avocado. Salt. Maybe some lemon and red pepper flakes. Amazing.
- Nut butter Toast. Same deal. Easy. Whatever you have on hand - sliced banana, hemp seeds, sliced apple, something to add some oomph.
- Bagel + Kite Hill Cream Cheese. Yum.



Lunch:

That meal in the middle of a busy day. Fast, easy, nourishing is key for me.

- Avocado Toast. Again, you know the drill for this one.
- PB&J. I like A LOT of nut butter and a low or no refined sugar jam. I love using a whole wheat English muffin. Or double it.
- Leftovers. If I made something last night like soup or pasta, leftovers are perfection.
- Grilled Cheese. Add spinach like this for bonus points.
- Fast Salad. Open a bag of pre-washed greens, or prep some yourself and toss them in a big bowl with your fave dressing. Add some nuts, hemp seeds, chopped fruit, kidney beans, leftover quinoa or whatever you have that's 'salad approved' in your fridge. Toss. Enjoy. Like this. Or this fan fave.
- Smoothie. So many options for this. Again, check my book, FVmeals or this blog for ideas. Love a matcha shake for lunch.
- Beans on Toast. Love this one. It's still toast, so it's easy. But it's warming and hearty beans - so you get lots of satisfaction and nutrition.
- Quick Pasta. I love making the Kite Hill vegan ravioli for lunch. Or you can simply toss some cooked pasta with a warmed up jar sauce. Or even easier, with some lemon juice, EVOO, minced garlic and vegan Parm. Or you can do a beans + sauce + pasta type thing if you have some time.
- Sandwich. Have you tried the many vegan 'lunch meat' options out now? I love the mushroom flavor by Field Roast best. But they make hearty lunch sandwiches SO easy. Add tomato, mustard, greens.
- Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons - Simple ingredients with a big flavor + cozy payoff. Try it.
- TTLA Sandwich. When I have time, this is one of my faves.
- Mushroom Toast - Quick skillet and this is a win. great for brunch too. Here.



Dinner:

Truth be told, some nights we order take-out from veggie grill. Or something from Erewhon. But when I do cook, these meals are my easiest and most-loved. Give them a try..

- Mac + Cheese. No joke, this is easy, yummy and you can absolutely add veggies to it to make it a one bowl wonder. Broccoli or peas are my fave veggies to add. This one with veggies. This one that's baked - yum. This one from a box.
- Easy Pasta Night. Pasta. Sauce. Gardein 'Meatballs.' Follow Your Heart Parm Cheese. Side salad or toss in some spinach and boom. Easy. Or do a DIY sauce with lentils. Or beans.
- Big Veggie Stew. I made one of these a few nights ago and it was so good. Add EVOO, onion, garlic, chopped potato, beans, bay leaf, veggie broth, chopped zucchini, chopped carrot - whatever - to a big pot. I like to add in nutritional yeast and Field Roast spicy chipotle sausages to add protein and body. Serve with crusty bread and maybe Vegenaise on the bread if you love that stuff like I do. This one is easy.
- Hot Dogs - Super easy, guys. Warm up or grill some vegan veggie dogs, toast some buns and add toppings. Dinner is done. Tip: Add lots of veggie toppings.
- Frozen Pizza Night. Cook a vegan frozen pizza, toss a big side salad and enjoy.
- Chickpeas on Grains. So many options to play with this idea. I love these peanut butter chickpeas or these . I sometimes use frozen bags of pre-cooked rice for extreme ease. Add some veggies.
- Break Out the Casserole Dish - My fave: enchiladas.
- Burritos. Beans and rice and avocado and salsa and greens. Easy!
- Buddha Bowl. A bit more intense, but even if you make 2-3 components and it's a winner.
- Avocado Toast - Yes this toast is an all-day approved recipe. I add chickpeas or mushrooms to pump up the heartiness. Veggie side, optional.
- Soba Noodles. Soba noodles cook in a flash and they taste great tossed with a homemade peanut sauce. Just add in some veggies. Yum.
- Smoothie Bowl! No, really. Sometimes I crave a big-a** smoothie bowl for dinner. I'll add extra nuts or other healthy fats and protein to it.
- Stuffed Sweet Potatoes. Baked sweet potatoes + hummus + avocado + smoky paprika. Easy, light and yummy. Pretty too.
- Tofu to the Rescue! Tofu can build a meal, guys. Add BBQ sauce, peanut sauce, or toss it in a stir-fry. It's protein packed and can absolutely taste amazing. Tofu, guys.
- Sweet Potato Soup with Avocado. My fave soup when I 'don't feel like cooking.' I use my blender to blend and heat the soup.
- Broccoli Soup. Hearty, and a sneaky source of protein! Love this one-bowl wonder meal.

Also check out my round-up post: 99 school-night dinner recipes



Snacks:

- Apple
- Banana
- Dark Chocolate
- Veggie Chips
- Kale Chips
- Brazil Nuts
- Granola Bars
- Fig Cookies
- Gluten-free (seed-based) crackers + vegan cheese
- smoothie, any variety
- any in-season fruit
- veggie sticks and hummus
- Cookies + other vegan treats



Drinks:

- Matcha Latte
- Smoothie
- Rooibos Tea
- Water, water, water
- juicer juices
- ginger beer with ice
- sparkling mineral water
- Hibiscus tea
- ginger root tea
- water, water, water

Desserts:

Ok, so lately I am all about cookies after dinner. One big chocolate chip cookie. It's an addiction, I guess. And I'm ok with that. But here are a few options... Some easy, some require baking. But when it's dessert, it's always fun, right?

- Chocolate Chip Cookies - These or these should do it.
- Chocolate Pudding - Easy, so good and packed with protein. Try it.
- Ice Cream - This color tho... Or my other fave, Cookies 'n Cream.
- Refreshing Blend - Some DIY "DOLE" Whip.
- Cake. Ok, this takes some time. But it's sooooooooooo good. Rainbows on top.

ps. I didn't want to cram this post with photos, but click to the recipes linked above to see how yummy they are. Food photos are the best for inspiration! (I mean, I do run Finding Vegan...)

...I hope some of those ideas help inspire you when you want to feed yourself well, but maybe want something kinda easy, but still homemade. Have a great week everyone!


Easy meals.

..More time to: Go on adventures.



PB&J? More time to.. spend with your faves.



Lay in the sunshine..




Or... Play in laundry. Whatever makes you happy, right?


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