Simplicity (and Braised Cabbage): The Key to Maintaining a Healthy Diet


It’s the second week of January. This means those of you who made New Year’s resolutions to “get healthier” are (hopefully) still on track, but by now, you’re realizing that following through on this resolution isn’t as easy as proclaiming it on New Year’s Day. You’re realizing that cooking your food takes time. Exercising takes time. Planning healthy meals takes time. And with the kids back in school, errands to run, a million extracurricular activities to chauffeur the kids to/from, picky eaters in the family, and a house that would fall into chaos without at least some attempt at a cleaning intervention, and for many of us, this pesky thing in the daytime called a job, sometimes it can become way too overwhelming, causing us to reach for the nearest quick-and-easy solution to dinner. Which all too often means something processed and unhealthy.

I know that I fall into the habit of trying to plan too much. I am a fan of meal planning, and will sit down once a week and plan out meals for the following week. I’ll cook something most every evening for dinner, sticking to the plan, but inevitably, as I look at what I’ve written, come Thursday evening, when I’ve reached the epitome of exhaustion (does anyone else find Thursdays to be particularly tiring?), I’ve planned something that takes 15 ingredients to chop, slice, and prep, and an hour’s worth of complicated cooking time. I had the best of intentions, but when I’m already stretched thin, it’s just too much.

The key? To keep it simple. Simple doesn’t have to mean processed, and it certainly doesn’t have to mean unhealthy. Simplicity in meals, for me, means just a handful of ingredients and straightforward preparation. I don’t want to overwhelm my brain at the end of a long day – and I rarely have that much time. So I keep it short and sweet – many times, our weeknight dinners consist of:

  • some sort of quick-cooking protein (baked fish, pan-seared chicken breast, a steak or lamb chops – using this super-speedy method)
  • a veggie or two, often steamed, quickly sautéed - such as this swiss chard, or baked. Or braised, as was the case for this cabbage.

Cabbage is one of the humblest of vegetables, isn’t it? It’s inexpensive, and it’s unassuming. But don’t let a humble vegetable and a simple preparation mean that this dish is any less enjoyable. To me, braised cabbage is a delicious comfort foodone that fits into your budget, time constraints, and healthy diet. When cooked this way, it’s subtly sweet, and meltingly tender. Even better? It’s hardly a recipe; more of a technique. You can have it cooking and barely pay attention to it, leaving you time to focus on the rest of your meal, which now could be done in enough time to get on with the rest of that “to do” list.

Gosh, that humble cabbage can help you keep your “get healthy” resolution. Who’da thunk it?

What are some simple foods that are helping you keep that resolution?

Braised Cabbage

Serves 4

1-2 T fat of choice (grass-fed butter, coconut oil, vegan butter, etc. – I used coconut oil)
1 large head white cabbage, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Heat butter/oil over medium heat in a large, heavy stockpot or dutch oven. Add the cabbage and stir.
  2. Cover and allow to cook for about 10 minutes, removing the lid and stirring every 2 minutes or so, until the cabbage has softened and leaves have wilted. (I like to keep a little bit of firmness in the ribs of the leaves, but it’s up to you how “done” you want your cabbage.)
  3. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Alta Mantsch is the author of Tasty Eats At Home, a food blog dedicated to tasty gluten and dairy-free recipes, foods, and living, and is a Community Leader at the Udi’s Gluten Free Living Community Forum.

27 Responses to Simplicity (and Braised Cabbage): The Key to Maintaining a Healthy Diet

  • Sounds fantastic, Alta! I’m on a cabbage kick lately and have been eating it three times per day on some days. Thanks for inspiration to keep up with healthy goals! :)

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  • Maggie says:

    Okay, I’ve never had braised cabbage and now I can’t wait to try it! I often buy cabbage – for all its nutritious goodness – and then have trouble using it all. This would be a great way to use it up. Thanks for the technique Alta. And thanks for a fabulous post :)

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  • Kim Lutz says:

    I also have not had too much to do with cooked cabbage other than in soups. I love their little cousins, brussels sprouts, though, and this recipe/technique looks too good to pass up. I think your idea of rethinking a quick dinner so that it’s easy, but still healthful is such an important one. Thanks for the reminder that you can still have a resolution-friendly dinner, even when you’re exhausted!

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  • Kim Maes says:

    I love cooked cabbage. I could eat it every day. My kids, on the other hand, are not big fans (although they will eat raw cabbage all of the time in salad and not think twice). I am a huge believer in all of the health benefits of cabbage, green and purple! A lot of times I take a whole chicken that I actually lay some bacon strips over and then place over a bed of cabbage and roast in the oven. The cabbage gets wonderful flavoring from both the chicken AND the bacon. I love your ideas for simplicity here!! Thanks for the inpsiration, Alta!

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    Alta Reply:

    @Kim Maes, Kim – I LOVE bacon and cabbage. Might have to try that REALLY soon.

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  • Vicky says:

    I totally agree on keeping it simple! Especially at the end of the day. I love cabbage, in any form! Great post!

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  • Ricki says:

    I agree–simplicity is the way to go! And I love cabbage, too. This braised cabbage sounds perfect, and a perfect antidote to the excesses of December. ;)

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  • Alisa says:

    You aren’t kidding about healthy meal planning taking time! Now that I’m dealing with a fella who wants to / needs to be grain-free, dairy-free, egg-free, and almond-free, I struggle with ideas, but love coming back to simple veggie ideas like this one! Your timing couldn’t be more perfect either. I’ve never “braised” and realized that this is exactly the technique I want to use for an upcoming recipe test (with cabbage!). Thanks Alta!

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  • This is a family favorite from my childhood. Mom just knew it was cheap and we loved it and I feed it to my kids, because we love it too. Don’t you just love it when comfort food turns out to be healthy food!

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  • Kathryn says:

    Great thoughts on keeping it simple meal planning and my favorite way to cook cabbage! Sometimes I through a pinch of caraway seeds in the pan with the cabbage and it’s delicious.

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    Alta Reply:

    @Kathryn, Good call – Caraway sounds delightful.

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  • Cara says:

    You’ve convinced me to give cabbage a chance. I don’t know why I never think to make it. But I think we’re going to have some leftover this week from another recipe.I sense we’ll be braising the rest on Thurs or Fri, when I’m too spent to do anything else!

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  • You describe this so well, making it fit into the meal prep so easily, and it is absolutely a delicious dish. My family — especially my husband — always likes braised cabbage. Thanks for filling out our meal plan.

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  • Debbie says:

    This is the just the way I cook my cabbage and I love it! (I didn’t know it was called “braised” so it’s nice to know what I should call it.) Sometimes I add a little bacon fat mixed in with the coconut oil for a delicious flavor. Cabbage is excellent for detoxification. Simple meals are the way to go.

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  • Carol says:

    I too am a huge cabbage lover and could eat it every day!

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  • Iris says:

    I love cabbage, and I have never made them quite this way. Will definitely give it a go!

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  • We really like cabbage too but I always end up with part of a head that ends up going to the chickens because I am not sure what to do with it. This is perfect!

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  • Diana says:

    I love braised cabbage…same as you. Sometimes I throw in a sliced onion, 2 tsp. mustard seed, 1 tsp. turmeric and 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice. Working on perfecting my sauerkraut now…so good for you. Thanks.

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    Alta Reply:

    @Diana, I bet your version is delightful – the lemon juice would brighten it a lot. Yum.

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  • Gigi says:

    I love cabbage and this is a terrific simple and healthy dish! So affordable, too! I’ve been growing cabbage for several years and love to find creative uses for it, but my favorite is a dish like this along with a piece of gluten free cornbread. :)

    xoxo,
    Gigi ;)

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  • Looks tempting Alta! Growing up, my mom used to boil cabbage (to death) and it would get so slimy *shiver* and sulfur-y that I would have to dump a tablespoon (or more) of salt on it while plugging my nose just to choke it down, LOL! Definitely gonna give braising a try, thanks for sharing! :-D

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    Alta Reply:

    @Heidi @ Adventures of a Gluten Free Mom, LOL – ew. Thanks for sharing the not-so-yummy cabbage story. Hope a version like mine can change your cabbage memories for the better!

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  • I use coconut oil as well and love the very subtle flavor it imparts. Cabbage is awesome cooked this way. If I don’t use oil, I use a small amount of chicken broth. That’s delicious as well. Serve with one of those Applegate Farms chicken and apple sausages. OMG, it’s delicious. We’re on the same page with this, Alta. Great post.

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    Alta Reply:

    @Melissa @ Gluten Free For Good, I love Applegate sausages. I bet they’d be amazing with the cabbage.

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  • Kudos on the cabbage recipe. Caraway, cumin or fennel seeds also mitigate the explosive after-effects.

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  • Alta says:

    Maggie – you’ll find with a recipe like this that the cabbage cooks down a lot – it’ll be easy to use it all when braising it! :)

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  • Tess Masters says:

    Alta
    I always eat my cabbage raw and this was a wonderful change.
    I cooked mine in coconut oil and it was absolutely delicious.
    I am thrilled to be sharing this journey with you.

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