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Healthy Habits for Eating Well in 2015

Erin Johnson Erin Johnson Healthy Habits for Eating Well in 2015
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I’m thrilled to take part in Health & Wellness Week on Columbus Underground for a third year! While my previous contributions have focused on specific recipes (here and here), this year I hope to offer some ideas for healthy, thrifty, and efficient habits and ideas in the kitchen. A little planning and preparation can make healthy eating easy!


I have two boys, ages four and two, who have inherited my husband’s metabolism and my love for all food. Their eating habits impress – they eat anything and everything and A LOT of it. I fear for their teenage years, because I’m going to need another job to keep the fridge and pantry full. My boys bring new meaning to breakfast being the most important meal of the day. If not fed within a half hour of waking up, they turn into grumpy, hangry, destructive, terrorizing meanies. They can’t get dressed, they wander aimlessly, they collapse to the floor in dramatic weakness, all the fault of plummeting blood sugar levels. Last Sunday, they each ate six pancakes, three eggs, and half a carton of strawberries for breakfast. You can imagine how hard it is to keep up with their appetites during the week, when we’re headed out the door for school and work and don’t have time to make a big breakfast. The most common quick breakfasts aren’t going to cut it: Bowl of cereal? Not enough protein. Yogurt smoothie? Not enough bulk. Granola bar? Ha! So we ended up in the Tim Horton’s drive-thru more than I’d like to admit. I’d grab some fruit and head out the door, and we’d stop for egg and cheese sandwiches on English muffins (and some of my favorite coffee). While not a terrible option (and Tim’s gets props for making egg whites, turkey sausage, and spinach part of their menu), I felt pretty lame for not being able to make such a simple meal myself. Not to mention I was paying about 500% more than the cost to make the same thing at home, and I knew I could make it healthier.


Feeling inspired after catering a brunch for forty people, I set out to adapt the egg strata recipe I used for the brunch to make my own breakfast sandwiches – in bulk to fill the freezer! In a large bowl, I scrambled three dozen eggs and added eight cups of other ingredients. The possibilities are endless, but in this case I used fire-roasted tomatoes (canned, drained), sautéed onions and mushrooms, spinach (frozen, liquid removed), and diced ham. Once mixed together, it filled two well-greased 18”x13” jelly roll pans, and I baked them at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Once cooled, I cut 24 squares from each pan, set them on toasted English muffins (whole grain), and topped with a slice of cheese. It made 48 breakfast sandwiches, which I divided into vacuum-sealed bags and put in the freezer. A quick zap in the microwave, and we’re eating a fast, healthy, hearty breakfast! High protein and packed with veggies – we get a head start on daily veggie consumption in a meal where that’s pretty uncommon. It just takes a little prep up front but saves us tons of time and money!


Here’s another example of how some prep in the beginning can yield a ton of food, and fill a freezer with easy, inexpensive meals. In an effort to use up a fridge and pantry full of CSA veggies (big shout out to our friends, Ben & Lisa, the best farmers around at Sippel Family Farm), I started chopping… and chopping… and chopping – onions, potatoes, leeks, turnips, apples… And I bought too many cans of fire roasted tomatoes by accident – eight cans too many… About an hour, a chopping blister, and disaster of a kitchen later, I had four BIG pots going on the stove.


The result was 21 quarts of four different soups, which I froze in quart jars before screwing on the lids. For our family, two quarts of soup with sandwiches, salads, or a fruit/cracker/cheese platter is a fast and filling meal. Forgive me for not having exact recipes here – I cook by taste and experience, and never with exactness.

Turnip & Apple Soup

  • turnips, chopped
  • apples, chopped
  • leeks, sliced and rinsed
  • chicken or vegetable broth
  • milk or cream
  • olive oil
  • thyme, nutmeg, salt, pepper

Saute turnips, apples, and leeks in olive oil.  Add broth and thyme and cook until tender.  Puree with immersion blender and gradually add milk or cream.  Season with nutmeg, salt, and pepper.

French Onion Soup

  • onions, chopped
  • beef broth
  • butter
  • red wine
  • salt, pepper, bay leaves

Caramelize onions in butter.  Deglaze the pan with red wine.  Simmer, add broth and bay leaves, and simmer some more.

Potato & Leek Soup

  • Potatoes, chopped
  • leeks, sliced and rinsed
  • vegetable or chicken broth
  • milk or cream
  • butter
  • salt and pepper

Sauté potatoes and leeks in butter.  Add broth and cook until tender.  Puree with immersion blender and gradually add milk or cream.

Fire-Roasted Tomato & Herb Soup

  • fire-roasted tomatoes, canned
  • vegetable broth
  • onions and garlic, chopped
  • olive oil
  • thyme, basil, oregano, salt and pepper

Saute onions and garlic in olive oil.  Add tomatoes and herbs and simmer for flavor.


A few weeks ago, we headed out for a day-long road trip. Our plans didn’t necessitate us hitting the road until late morning. We had eaten a hearty breakfast, but we weren’t going to be on the road long before the monsters started demanding more food. (No doubt there is a theme here – my life seemingly revolves around keeping preschooler bellies satisfied in the midst of crazy schedules and tons of activities). We wanted to stay on schedule, save money, and eat healthy on the road. Thanks to a fridge full of washed and prepped fruits and veggies, and a freezer full of frozen sandwiches, it only took a couple of minutes to put together a few to-go boxes and water bottles for the road. My kids hold these on their laps or use their handy seatback trays and everyone is happy. We even get a few brief moments of silence in the car while they’re busy chewing!


From January 5 – 11, Columbus Underground is featuring our Health & Wellness Week series, brought to you by the The Fitness Loft. The Fitness Loft is more than just a gym – it’s a visionary approach to developing a sustainable community and creating an atmosphere that encourages people to lead a healthier life. Our holistic concept includes biometric wellness screening, Technogym exercise equipment that records progress, free group fitness and nutrition classes, an on-site Registered Dietitian, and much more to give you a truly unique wellness experience. Located at 625 Parsons Avenue, Columbus, OH 43206.

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