A woman who hates cooking shared the 5 easy, healthy meals that helped her lose 200 pounds

Leah Mancuso before and after losing 200 pounds.
Leah Mancuso before and after losing 200 pounds.Lauren Hansen/Tara Dunn
  • Leah Mancuso lost 200 pounds in two years by adopting healthy eating habits and walking.

  • Mancuso shifted from a diet of drive-thrus and freezer food to minimally processed meals.

  • Her staple meals include eggs, cottage cheese bowls, sourdough sandwiches, and chicken with potatoes.

When Leah Mancuso started her weight loss journey in March 2022, she started small: eating one nutritious food a day and walking on the spot at home for 10 minutes.

As time went on, Mancuso, 35, based in Scottsdale, Arizona, began building up healthy habits, and two years later, the photographer had lost 200 pounds.

Previously, Mancuso mostly ate drive-thru meals and freezer food because she hated cooking — and still does.

"I try to eat mostly at least minimally processed foods, but also make it very, very easy because I don't like cooking," Mancuso told Business Insider.

So she developed new staple meals like cottage cheese bowls and chicken with potatoes.

"A lot of very simple things, but it felt like I'm eating real foods at least," Mancuso said.

Mancuso's diet shift comes amid increasing awareness of the link between ultra-processed foods and an array of health issues, from weight gain to heart disease, though researchers aren't entirely sure why.

Mancuso shared the easy, staple meals that helped her lose 200 pounds over two years.

Leah Mancuso
Leah Mancuso has more in her life now she's not held back by her size, she said.Leah Mancuso

1. Eggs

Mancuso's first diet change in March 2022 was eating eggs, which have since become her go-to breakfast, she said.

Her favorite combinations are:

  • Eggs scrambled with cheese and cottage cheese, with fruit on the side

  • Fried eggs, again with fruit on the side

  • Poached eggs on sourdough toast

Eggs are a great source of protein, which helps keep you feeling full, as well as B vitamins, folate, and vitamin A.

2. Cottage cheese bowls

"I've had cottage cheese bowls most days," Mancuso said.

She said she sometimes eats cottage cheese as it is, but other times blends it into a smooth yoghurt-like consistency.

"I add maple syrup to sweeten and also sometimes add a flavored protein powder to add more protein," Mancuso said. "Then I top with granola and fruit."

Cottage cheese is naturally rich in protein and low in calories if you use a fat-free version, and thanks to social media, it's experiencing a renaissance.

3. Open sourdough sandwiches

Mancuso said she's been eating a lot of sourdough bread and enjoys topping slices with combinations such as:

  • Salami, goat's cheese, and pesto

  • Jam, ham, and goat's cheese

  • Tuna mixed with mayonnaise and cottage cheese, with pickles on top

Sourdough bread is rich in nutrients and generally easier to digest than other forms of bread.

4. Chicken strips with potatoes

Healthy eating doesn't mean never using frozen ingredients.

Mancuso is a fan of organic frozen chicken strips. She usually serves them with a potato that she's chopped into pieces, sprayed with avocado oil, and cooked in the air fryer.

Mancuso admits she's not a huge fan of vegetables, but dietitians and nutritionists generally recommend creating plates that are 50% vegetables, 25% protein, and 25% starchy carbs.

5. Sausage and vegetable pasta

Mancuso sometimes uses protein pasta but is also a fan of sourdough noodles, she said.

Mancuso makes pasta dishes with pork or chicken sausages, vegetables such as broccoli, bell peppers, or riced cauliflower, and a sauce such as marinara or pesto blended with cottage cheese.

Mixing cottage cheese with a classic pasta sauce adds more protein and also creates a creamy texture.

Mancuso hasn't cut out all her favorite foods

Mancuso knew that her lifestyle had to be sustainable and achievable to maintain her weight loss, so she didn't try to eliminate all her favorite foods or cook elaborate dishes.

"I also love bacon and will eat it like a meal," Mancuso joked.

But instead of getting takeout on her own, she now only enjoys those less nutritious foods in a social setting.

"I used to spend a lot of time just getting fast food and eating it by myself in my room, and that's just not healthy for us for a lot of reasons," she said. "Instead I decided to enjoy them when I'm with people and with community."

Read the original article on Business Insider