Cooking Brain Food on a Budget

by Dave Farrow
1 comment

Diet & Brain Food

On average, our brains make up only 2{44c8773cfc5435cd81ad20e0c4d9124b8149e87e023df21bb722cbe5a8d7cc51} of our body but our brains use about 20-40{44c8773cfc5435cd81ad20e0c4d9124b8149e87e023df21bb722cbe5a8d7cc51} of all the nutrients we eat and about 20-30{44c8773cfc5435cd81ad20e0c4d9124b8149e87e023df21bb722cbe5a8d7cc51} of the oxygen we breathe. Brain foods are nutrient rich and many improve blood flow and oxygenation, so it’s really worth it to eat healthy. If it is healthy for the body it is also healthy for the brain.
We all know that eating healthy is important and there are many approved “brain foods” like beets, avocados, nuts, berries, etc.  But there has been a lot of discussion about whether or not a person can cook quick healthy meals on a tight budget. 

Here are some hacks for quick cooking brain food on a budget:


One Pot Wonders

One easy and cheap way to cook meals that are chock full of brain food is by making a “one-pot-wonder.”  Stews, soups, goulash, curries…are healthful dinner options and they all begin by sautéing veggies or protein in a single pot. Not only does this make for easy clean up, it can feed a family for a week or more, depending on size of family, size of appetite, and size of freezer.
Check out one pot dinner recipes here.


Cook in Bulk

Cooking in bulk saves time and money. Adding a few more veggies to fill the pot full takes just a few minutes more, but doubles the number of meals and cuts the per/meal prep time in half again.
I cook from scratch, for an army size, like our grandparents did back when there were 5-10 kids per family.  Then, I batch it into containers to freeze for later, like our parents did during the “Tupperware” fad.  Think of it like the original, home-made, frozen dinners.
If you haven’t cooked in bulk before in can be overwhelming but with a little planning and preparation you can shop smart and cook a month’s worth of healthy food in just a few hours.
For more information and recipes on batch cooking click here

Experiment with Ingredients:

Every time I make a “one-pot-wonder” it’s a little bit different.  I never follow a recipe – I cook by taste and experimentation. I use the ingredients I have around the house. If I run out of broccoli, I’ll cut up the peppers.  If I run out of peppers, I’ll add some spinach. Don’t be afraid to substitute items.

Use Healthy Substitutions

Cauliflower Instead of Carbs: It’s well known that eating too many carbs can cause inflammation in your body. To all of the bread, cereal and pasta lovers – I’m sorry to break the bad news, but too much those processed carbs found in boxes will just make your body and brain feel worse.  An easy swap is to use cauliflower instead.
I love cauliflower and the reason is simple:  It’s easy to cook, it’s almost tasteless, and the texture is versatile which makes it a great healthy substitute. It can be grated like rice, mashed like potatoes, or used like flour in sauces and doughs. It’s also very hearty and durable and it is usually the last vegetable in the fridge to spoil. For more cauliflower cooking tricks click here.
Veggie Noodles Instead of Pasta
Sometimes we just need comfort food. Although pasta can fill the comfort role perfectly it is not exactly the best option for brain health.  Luckily we have found a solution: VEGGIE NOODLES!  Spaghetti squash, thin asparagus shoots, shaved zucchini ribbons, shredded cucumbers or carrots, and slices of hearty eggplant all make excellent pasta substitutes. For more veggie noodle substitutions click here.
Almond Milk Instead of Milk & Cream
Cream is delicious but it comes at a high price. It is majorly caloric and filled with fat. Instead try almond milk. Because it’s made of nuts, almond milk is protein rich and fatty enough to substitute for cow’s milk at a one-to-one ratio.


Eat the Rainbow

Not only does multi-colored food make eating more interesting and fun, it also has great health benefits and it is great for your brain. “Different colors typically mean foods have different vitamins and minerals,” says Antonio Cain, RD, a nutritionist with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
Blue / Purple:  Foods with a purple or blue hue are rich in anthocyanin, special kind of antioxidant that is particularly heart healthy and may help support healthy blood pressure. Some of these blue / purple foods include eggplant, blueberries, blackberries, prunes, plums, and pomegranates.
Green: Green vegetables are excellent sources of vitamin K, folic acid, potassium, as well as carotenoids and omega-3 fatty acids. The darker and more vibrant the color the better. Some of these green leafy foods include broccoli, spinach, kale,  and Brussels sprouts.
Yellow/Green:  Many light green foods are rich in lutein a naturally occurring carotenoids which helps promote eye health.  This can be found in pistachios, yellow carrots, avocados and kiwi.
Red: Many veggies that are red are great sources for lycopene.  Lycopene is another carotenoid which reduces the risk of cancers and protects against heat attacks.  It can be found in tomatoes watermelon, guava, and cranberries.
Information source:


Use Herbs & Spices

So many people complain that healthy food is dull and tasteless. That is where herbs, spices and aromatic veggies come into play! Many people are afraid to use herbs and spices because they don’t know which herbs or spices work well together, or don’t know which ones work with a given meal. The only excuse for not using herbs and spices is that you don’t have them in your kitchen! There is no rule book for using them. Some work well with others. Garlic and ginger work well together.  Parsley, basil and oregano work well for pasta dishes and tomato sauces.  But these are generalizations. Every person has different food and flavour favourites, so the best advice I can give is to simply experiment. Pick 2 or 3 seasonings to play with. Add a little and taste. If you can’t taste anything then add more until you can taste it.  If you like it, add a bit more or use it another time.  If you hate it, then add something else to cover the taste.  The only wrong way to use herbs and spices is by not using them at all.  Here is some general info for
Garlic & Onions: While they may cause stinky breath, garlic and onions are aromatic vegetables that are natural, healthy and add flavor any meal. Garlic can also reduce high blood pressure, reduce hardening of the arteries and can treat athlete’s foot and tick bites.  It so versatile, it’s hard to ignore. Onions are great too.  Onions are low calorie and nutrient rich, so they are a great filler to any meal to give it a healthy punch.  So whether you buy fresh onions and garlic, minced garlic in a jar, or even as a powder, try to add garlic and onions to spruce up any meal.
Peppers & Hot Sauce: Need to spice things up?  Try adding some hot sauce or pepper to the mix. Hot sauce and spicy peppers have capsaicin which helps reduce appetite so you don’t overeat. Black pepper helps digestion among other things and everyone has a pepper shaker next to the salt shaker.
Ginger is another aromatic multi-purpose seasoning. It treats nausea and motion sickness but it also reduces inflammation and improves circulation. You can buy it as a powder or paste or splurge on a ginger root and chop or dice to add to a meal.  It will save for months wrapped tightly in cellophane in the freezer.
Parsley is a powerhouse for preventing cancer, improving bone health and getting rid of garlic breath.
Oregano is an anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial wonder that also fights cancer and reduces phlegm for colds and flu.
Dill helps digestion, improves bone health, fights insomnia and much more.
Cilantro helps to detox your body from heavy metals, is an anti-oxidant and can decrease risk of diabetes, obesity and heart disease.
Basil reduces inflammation, is an anti-oxidant and is rich in vitamins, iron and calcium.


Moral of the Story

Eating healthy and cooking at home is not that hard.  Getting brain foods into your diet is so important and can be very easy with a few kitchen hacks, a little bravery to try new things.  A little information can go a long way in keeping you healthy.


Dave Farrow

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1 comment

Lydia May 22, 2015 - 10:12 am

Thank you for tips on brain foods. It is so inspirational. I am getting learned. I can’t wait to prepare my brain foods.



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