You know how it goes – you arrive home late after work. You’re tired. You don’t feel like cooking. You start to contemplate having cereal for dinner or hitting the drive-through on the way home and calling it a night. But I promise if you have just a few things on hand you can throw together a really simple, quick, and nutritious meal with little to no effort. Here’s how!
1) First, decide if you’re in the mood for a warm or cold meal, and then pick your base. For warm meals, take a few handfuls of fresh baby spinach and pop it in the microwave for about 1 minute on high to wilt it. Only have frozen spinach? No problem! Once it’s thawed in the microwave, it’s ready to be used! For cold meals, start with a few handfuls of fresh salad greens – any kind that you like.
2) Choose a serving (½ cup cooked) of one of the following: brown rice, barley, quinoa, whole wheat pasta, or any other whole grain. A good idea for this step is to make a big batch of grains one night so you have it on hand the rest of the week.
3) Add ½ cup of any of the following cooked beans to your plate:
- Cannellini beans (great with pasta)
- Black beans (great with rice, quinoa, barley)
- Kidney beans, chickpeas or lentils (good with anything)
- Any other type of bean that you have in your pantry!
Beans will add fiber and protein to keep you full! I recommend canned beans because they are so easy – all you have to do is just drain and rinse them! You can also use any leftover cooked meat that you have in the fridge, or any canned meat/tuna.
4) Add some veggie power! Veggies add nutrients and a lot of volume to your meal, which will keep you full for longer. You can add in as many of the following as you like:
- Cooked or fresh broccoli, chopped peppers
- Steamed zucchini and/or squash
- Your favourite frozen vegetable mix (I love Asian mixes because they are so simple to add to a quick stir fry)
- Chopped or cooked carrots or celery
- Cooked string beans
- ….pretty much anything that you have in your fridge!
5) Top your plate with a little healthy fat. Pick one or two of the following:
- 1 to 2 tablespoons of cheese (cheddar, feta, goat, etc.)
- ¼ of an avocado
- 1 to 2 tablespoons of seeds or nuts
6) And finally, pick a sauce! You could, for example, use salsa for Mexican inspired meals, marinara sauce for pasta dishes, or balsamic vinaigrette for warm or cold salads.
See? That doesn’t sound too bad, does it? To get you going, here are two combinations that worked really well for me when I was time crunched. I basically just threw all of the ingredients onto into a bowl, gave it a good mix, and served it. In my house, these meals may not always win a gold medal for presentation, but they sure are nutritious, delicious, and fast!
Base of steamed spinach or fresh greens
½ cup cooked brown rice or quinoa
½ cup black beans
Chopped peppers and tomato
¼ an avocado
2 Tbsp. shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/3 cup salsa (I love the chunky, medium kind)
Simple Veggie Pasta
Base of steamed spinach
1/2 cup cooked whole wheat pasta
1/2 cup cannellini beans
Zucchini + squash, steamed in microwave
1/2 cup marinara sauce
1 to 2 Tbsp. shredded parmesan
I hope you find these suggestions helpful the next time you arrive home with no idea what to make for dinner! Just remember that the key is to include a lot of volume from veggies and to add some kind of protein to help keep you full, and you’re golden. Before you know it, those busy nights won’t be quite as daunting!
What’s your favorite quick and easy weeknight dinner staple?
Barb practices a holistic approach to health and wellness, which means that she looks at how all of the areas of her client’s lives – activity level, eating habits, stress, relationships, and work – are interconnected. She then helps them work towards the results they desire, such as such as achieving an optimal weight, reducing cravings, incorporating more healthy foods into family meals, and minimizing fatigue, in realistic and enjoyable steps! Barb doesn’t believe in magic pills or fad diets, and has seen firsthand how dramatic results can be achieved through simple nutritional and lifestyle improvements!
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