Healthy Meal Series
So far in this series we have talked about what to make for Breakfast and Lunch, and we have tackled some of the obstacles keeping you from sticking to your healthy routine at each of those meals. Today, it’s all about What to Make for: Dinner. Let’s say, you’re on your way home from work, you have no idea what you’re going to make for dinner, you know your family is probably going to want to eat something resembling a meal, and you’ve got nothin’. What a pickle (and no, those are not an acceptable form of dinner). We’ve all been there, and unless you are a seasoned veteran of Chopped, the task of making dinner appear out of thin air is a daunting one. So, how do you feed yourself and your family a balanced meal every night without slaving away in the kitchen all day? First, you plan ahead. Then, you prepare ahead of time. And finally, you keep easy, go-to staples in your pantry, fridge, and freezer that you know you can whip up in no time at all (and no, a frozen pizza doesn’t count. Unless you’re making a pizza with Trader’s Joe’s new frozen cauliflower pizza crust- that thing is delicious!).
First: Plan Ahead!
Are you getting sick of that yet? I know, it’s been my go-to answer this whole series, but really, it’s what you need to do. Sit down for a few minutes before your week gets started and make your meal plan for the week. Decide what you’ll have each night, go to the store and buy your ingredients, and set yourself up for success. The food isn’t going to magically appear in your fridge, you’re going to have to do a little work. Sites like Pinterest are just brimming with meal planning templates to make your life super easy. So, check those out, find some recipes that are easy to make, and create your fool proof, healthy plan for the week. Here are some really easy, make ahead (or make really fast) weeknight dinner ideas:
Next: Prep Ahead
My mom really doesn’t cook much at all during the week. Not because she and my dad don’t eat at home, but because she preps all of her food over the weekend. It’s really very impressive. You walk into her kitchen on a Sunday and it’s like a garden exploded all over her countertops and she’s busy chopping, roasting, and grilling all of the week’s food. It takes some time, and it’s not her favorite chore, but once she’s done and she doesn’t have to think about cooking all week long, it’s the best feeling ever.
So, you’ve made your plan, you’ve gone to the store and purchased all of your groceries, now, start chopping! Choose meals and snacks that will hold up well during the week. For example, if you’re going to make a big batch of salad, don’t dress it yet, or make it out of hearty ingredients like kale, red cabbage, carrots and quinoa rather than lettuce so it doesn’t wilt right away. Grill up your protein, hard boil some eggs, and roast a bunch of veggies so you’re ready to go for the week. Here are some good recipes that will last well in the fridge:
Finally: Keep go-to staples in your pantry and fridge for quick meals
Admittedly, I don’t always get my pre-week food prep done before the week begins. That being said, I do always have a plan for what I’m going to make during the week, and I tend to do my food shopping on Sundays so I’m ready to go. I set myself up with meals that are super quick to make and always grab some go-to staples to make life easy during the week. Here are my pantry and fridge staples that I use to whip up some quick meals during the week when I haven’t prepped ahead of time:
Salads in a bag: I always have bags of spinach, arugula, romaine, and many other greens in my fridge so all I have to do is throw some veggies and protein on top for a balanced meal.
Pre-chopped veggies from places like Wegman’s and Whole Foods: The pre-chopped stuff makes life so, so much easier. All you have to do is open the package, throw the veggies on a sheet pan and roast them in the oven, or toss them in a pan and sautee them with your protein of choice.
Frozen veggies: I keep some frozen veggies like corn, edemame, and broccoli available so I can add them to salads. I always end up sprucing them up a little bit with herbs and garlic so they are extra tasty.
Red Lentil Pasta from Trader Joe’s is delicious and it has 13g of protein per serving- you can’t beat that. We eat this once a week and we love it! Pair it with our favorite sauce from Vesper Brother’s, and you have a great meal that takes no time at all.
Already spiralized zucchini noodles (or, zoodles): Again, paired with some sauce and Trader Joe’s turkey meatballs- delicious.
You will always find some sort of wild caught, frozen fish in our freezer too. I just take it out of the freezer and stick it in the fridge the night before, and it cooks up in under 10 minutes when it’s time for dinner!
I make recipes like the ones below in big batches and freeze them so that I have them ready to go when I don’t feel like cooking anything at all!
I hope you have a great dinner!