These days, it’s normal to work long hours and feel constantly strapped for time. So it’s no wonder so many of us hit the drive-thru for dinner. However, most fast food meals are lacking in the nutrition department.
With proper planning, it is possible serve healthy, satisfying meals at home in a matter of minutes.
Healthy Meal Basics
For a well-balanced dinner, fill half of your plate with fruits and/or veggies, a quarter of your plate with whole grains(like 100% whole grain bread or pasta) and the other quarter with a lean source of protein, like fish or chicken. A nonfat or low-fat source of dairy, like a glass of skim milk, should also be part of your meal.
Planning is Key
The secret to serving a healthy, homemade meal each night is preparation. On the weekends, take the time to plan out that week’s meals. Head to the grocery store armed with a list of all the ingredients you’ll need. Once you get home, start prepping parts of the week’s dinners. Dice up the veggies, shred the cheese, and cook the rice,storing it in the fridge until you need it. Thorough meal preparation is a major time-saver. It’s also helpful to have some ready-to-eat foods on hand; try pre-washed salad greens or a rotisserie chicken.
Dinner is Ready
Here are some healthy meal ideas that require minimal prep time:
1. Bean burritos: Heat canned, low-fat refried beans, a can of chopped green chilies, and a packet of chili seasoning on the stovetop. Place the bean mixture into whole wheat or corn tortillas, and top with light sour cream and reduced-fat cheddar cheese. Add lettuce, tomato, onion, salsa or cilantro for an extra punch of flavor and nutrition.
2. Stir-fry: Fry frozen carrots, broccoli, snap peas, peanuts and kidney beans in a tablespoon of olive oil. Add soy sauce and serve over instant brown rice.
3. Omelet: Omelets aren’t just for breakfast! Scramble a couple of eggs, cook over medium heat and add your favorite omelet toppings, like bell pepper strips, mushrooms, tomatoes, and reduced-fat cheddar cheese.
4. Taco soup: On the stovetop, heat up a can of pinto beans, 1-2 cans of water, frozen corn, canned tomatoes, canned chopped green chilies, and chili seasoning. Top the soup with low-fat cheddar cheese and plain yogurt.
5. Salad bar: Let everyone in your family throw together their favorite salads. Build individual, entrée-size salads out of leafy greens (arugula, spinach, napa cabbage), chopped vegetables (carrots, cucumber, onion, tomatoes, peppers, peas), fruits (berries, raisins), a source of protein (shredded rotisserie chicken, black beans, hard-boiled egg), and small portions of extra toppings (sunflower seeds, cashews, reduced-fat cheese, avocado, croutons).
6. Pizza: Buy a plain or veggie frozen pizza, and top it with extra vegetables.
7. Veggie spaghetti: Broil some veggies and then throw them on prepared whole wheat, thin spaghetti. Top with heated marinara sauce.
8. Baked chicken or fish: Bake a piece of chicken or fish in the oven, and top it with a healthy pre-made sauce. Serve with a side of instant brown rice and heated frozen vegetables.
9. Pasta salad: Take cooked whole grain pasta and mix it with a can of rinsed black beans and your favorite raw veggies. Top with a small amount of low-fat salad dressing and parmesan cheese.
10. Rice and beans: Heat and mix together rinsed canned black beans, tomatoes, and canned corn. Serve over instant brown rice and top with shredded, part-skim mozzarella cheese.
What’s your go-to quick and healthy quick meal? I’m a child at heart and cannot resist a good peanut butter and jelly sandwich!