It doesn't matter how many health buzzwords you pack into a recipe; if you don't have time to make it, it's not going to happen. Unfortunately, the fast pace of our modern lives doesn't allow for much downtime, and despite our best intentions, nutrition often gets kicked to the bottom of our to-do lists. But what if we told you it is possible to put the "super" back into your daily diet without taking too much of your precious time? Nutrition expert, yoga guru, and TV star Julie Montagu of The Flexi Foodie is a busy mother of four, but she doesn't let that be an excuse for not eating healthily and taking care of herself.
In fact, Montagu has made it her life's work to educate people on just how simple it is. Her new book, Superfoods Superfast, does just that, with 100 plant-based recipes that take 20 minutes or less to cook and pack a punch in nutritional value. "With busy lives and the constant demands that go hand in hand with striking a work-family-play balance, superfoods give us energy when we need a healthy boost in our day," she said. We couldn't agree more. We took five with the master chef on the superfood superheroes we all need in our cupboards, her favorite snacks to beat the afternoon slump, and how she sneaks greens into her kids' meals.
MYDOMAINE: What are some of your go-to foods/ingredients that ramp up the nutrition in a meal?
JULIE MONTAGU: I always keep these firmly stocked at all times to really ramp up the nutrition in my meals: avocados, kale, lentils, turmeric, cayenne pepper, chia seeds, cacao, mushrooms, brown rice, and sweet potatoes.
MD: That 3 p.m. slump is so real, and we often reach for coffee and chocolate. What are your favorite snacks for a boost of energy?
JM: Three in the afternoon is usually when we need to boost our energy, as we still have half the day to go and we've already burned a lot of our fuel. I like to keep a stash of my lentil brownies near me at all times, as well as my sweet fruit-salad jar topped with chia seeds. Both of these recipes can be taken on the go and eaten during that slump to help you feel immediately energized.
MD: You're a working mom with four children; how do you keep yourself healthy?
JM: I'm all about small moments of self-care, even if it’s just 10 minutes a day. I’m a firm believer of yoga, meditation, nutrition, and ample sleep to keep me healthy. Just 10 minutes of meditation, yoga poses, or even a nap can definitely help.
MD: What are some simple tips/recipes/foods you recommend moms add to their morning routine to keep their energy up throughout the day?
JM: Wake up 30 minutes earlier then your schedule actually demands. This time spent alone will help you to wake in a positive way before the chaos of the day begins. It also means you're able to get organized peacefully and embrace the quiet of the morning. During this half hour, you can dedicate a few minutes to self-care. A short session of morning meditation is a good choice. It will help to clear your mind for the day ahead.
Personally, I like to make one of the three breakfasts in Superfoods Superfast. The are designed to be made the night before (and, of course, take under 20 minutes), so when you wake up, you can just grab it and go. All three recipes—apple and maple buckwheat stew in a jar, quinoa seeded breakfast in a jar, and raw oatmeal with chia jam in a jar—will keep you full for hours and energize you at the same time.
MD: How do you add nutrition into your kids' meals when they don't like vegetables?
JM: Smoothies and soups. I've been doing this for years, and by blending veggies into fruit smoothie and soups, well, kids don't know if you've just put a handful of kale in because they can't see it or taste it.
MD: You talk about superfood superheroes in your book. Can you name these "usual suspects" that are commonly found in our cupboard and how we can use them?
JM: At the beginning of each chapter, I list five ingredients that I believe should be stocked at all times. They are my favorite superfood superheroes due to the nutritional punch that they pack in. For example, in "Super Salads," I highlight paprika, beetroot, cabbage, sweetcorn, and turmeric. You could easily season the beets and the sweetcorn with the turmeric and paprika, then roast. While roasting, you could shred the cabbage, boil it for a few minutes, and then mix all the ingredients together. Delicious.
MD: What are some of the foods you never eat? and why?
JM: Doughnuts. Eating doughnuts, nutritionally speaking, is one of the worst ways to start off your day. It will throw your blood sugar off and doesn't provide any real nutrients, which means you'll soon be hungry again. Doughnuts are fried, full of sugar and white flour, and most all varieties contain trans fat.
MD: What is your go-to weekday family meal that's nutritious, delicious, and fast?
JM: Hands down, Julie's Sloppy Joes. Easiest meal to make, all four kids love them, and they pack a nutritional punch too.
Ready to make something quick and healthy? Julie shared one of her favorite recipes with us: kale mac and cheese. See the recipe below.
"When I was growing up in the middle of America, I loved and lived on mac and cheese," Julie told us. "I mean, let’s be honest, it is just so good! However, most mac and cheese isn't exactly going to give you what you need nutritionally, and it depletes the energy supply. So, for my kids' sake, I had to find a mac and cheese that tasted as good (if not better) and filled them with all things good. This recipe takes 20 minutes, but you do need to do a little planning and place the cashews in a bowl of water the night before. Then you're ready to go when you come home the next evening."
Kale Mac and Cheese
2 cups dried macaroni (even better if it’s gluten free and/or whole grain!)
1 tbsp. coconut oil
1 small onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 heaping cup cashews, soaked overnight, then drained
1½ cups almond or coconut milk
1 tbsp. arrowroot powder
3 tbsp. nutritional yeast
½ tsp. sweet paprika
½ tsp. ground cumin
Juice of ½ lemon
Large handful of kale, shredded
1. Cook the macaroni according to the packet instructions.
2. Meanwhile, heat a medium-sized saucepan over a medium heat, add the coconut oil, and sauté the onion and garlic for 5 minutes, or until soft.
3. Put the onion, garlic, soaked cashew nuts, and the rest of the ingredients, except the kale, into a blender, and blitz on high until thoroughly blended.
4. Pour the cashew "cheese" back into the saucepan with the shredded kale, and cook on a low heat, stirring frequently, until warm and the kale is wilted (about 2–3 minutes).
5. Add the drained, cooked macaroni to the pan, stir well, and serve immediately.
Make this delicious meal tonight, then tag us in your creation on Instagram. For more nutritious recipes, shop Julie's book, Superfoods Superfast, below.