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Do you guys have those weeks where you just don’t feel like cooking?
Don’t worry, it’s completely normal. At least I think it is. I love cooking and find time in the kitchen as cathartic, but let’s be honest, it just doesn’t happen night after night. Or, week after week. We’re allowed off weeks and days. I’ve learned to give myself grace.
People think that because I’m a Registered Dietitian, I have it all together. I cook a perfectly balanced and nutritious meal every night. What a myth! Those who know me know this isn’t the case, and I try to be as real as I can through this blog.
Sometimes, meal prepping goes to the wayside, and I think about what takeout I want on the way home from work. Other times, I have an idea of what to make, and I get home and just don’t feel like cooking. So, we’ll head back out.
Here’s the thing. I love cooking, and I love eating out. But, you can totally balance the two!
Start With Your Pantry Staples
Firstly, to be successful in eating healthy and being somewhat prepared without meal prep, it’s important to keep a well stocked pantry. And yes, I’m referring to canned goods and boxes that last a long time but come in handy in a pinch.
Canned soups, canned beans, lentils, canned tuna/salmon, extra virgin olive oil (great to use as a salad dressing in a pinch), canned tomatoes, nuts, peanut butter, oats, pasta, pasta sauce (look for low sodium/low sugar), whole grains (get microwaveable versions for quicker 90 second results) are vital.
No need to ban all processed foods. With these outline of ingredients, you can put together a healthy meal in no time.
For more insight on what I keep in my pantry, check here.
Aside from my pantry, the freezer is LITERALLY my best friend for putting a meal together. I’m going to be honest with you guys. Half the dinners we eat each week are probably just plucked and put together.
By that I mean, heating up a bag of frozen veggies, microwaving brown rice, and sauteeing some meat or tofu. As long as your meal has a close combination of fruits/veggies, carbohydrates and protein, you can really call it a meal. It doesn’t have to be marinated overnight, and cooked for an hour to be a healthy meal (but when you can do that, GREAT).
Things I always keep in the freezer: Whole wheat bread, frozen veggies (mostly broccoli, which happens to be my favorite), frozen chicken and fish, chicken sausage, sweet potato fries (Alexia has a great tasting and nutritionally sound option!), frozen oatmeal bakes.
I realize these simple options may not work for everyone, or those trying to feed a family or those with different food allergies/preferences but in the spirit of trying to keep it simple!
This is a list of easy freezer foods if you are into meal prep.
Easy Meal Options
A sandwich on whole grain bread with a side salad, or side chips/hummus (My go to’s: grilled cheese, tuna/turkey sandwich, fried egg sandwich). This can be a perfectly healthy and balanced dinner option.
Feel free to add all the veggies in your sandwich as you like.
I find that this is enough for a meal because the pasta has extra protein, thanks to the chickpeas!
Microwave sweet potatoes (~7-8 minutes). While they are cooking, boil black beans and cut up some veggies (or buy, precut)! Stuff black beans and cheese into the sweet potatoes and enjoy. Or, you can make sweet potato nachos.
Note that they do take time to cook, but it’s not time you need to be standing in the kitchen watching it. You can go shower, watch the news, get ready for tomorrow, etc.
More often than not, I just saute chicken sausage and veggies in one pan with some olive oil or sesame oil (love the flavor for stir fries), throw it over quinoa or sweet potatoes, and top it with cheese. This is very minimal “cooking” and takes 10 minutes at the most.
Quinoa takes 5-6 minutes to cook, and we cook 3 cups at once to last for the week. So, that’s easy to reheat while the chicken sausage is cooking!
Here’s a similar throw together!
Similarly, combine cous cous with veggies, add in some protein if you want and bam. Cous cous cooks in like 5 minutes and is easy to reheat!
Also, eggs! While you technically have to cook the eggs, they cook quickly and pair perfectly with toast for a healthy, balanced meal. Quiche, omelets, frittatas, scrambles, all are high in protein and nutrients (hello, choline and Vitamin D from egg yolks) and easy and tasty.
Breakfast for dinner is a favorite! I love to add yogurt to my toast for extra protein plus it’s creamy and a great base for toppings.
Another favorite easy idea that requires barely any cooking is taking tortillas and coating them with hummus. Then, add cooked black beans and veggies (I like onions, peppers and spinach), and topping with cheese. Easy tacos/tortillas. Or, using tortillas as a base for pizza. So, I’ll cover it with pasta sauce, shredded cheese and whatever veggies/protein I have. And just throw it in the toaster oven.
Also, who says you can’t just have a yogurt parfait, or cottage cheese with some cereal and fruit? Easy, balanced and nutrient dense. Give yourself permission to not stress out about a home cooked meal every night. Stressing out about these small things can be more damaging to our health.
I’ll be the first to admit that on a busy night when I’ve been on my feet all day, I have no desire to cook. So, be realistic with yourself. Maybe takeout 1-2 weeks will keep you sane, or doing Hello Fresh or SunBasket can help.
I know I can’t relate to being a busy mom with kids, but this is something I talk about with clients all the time. Mom has to take care of herself for the family to thrive. And sometimes, taking care of yourself means not stressing about cooking.
Life can be messy and healthy at the same time.
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Lastly, crockpot/Sheet pan meals! Is it really “cooking” if you just place a bunch of things on one sheet pan and throw it in the oven? Here are a bunch for inspiration. I also love the book, Need Mom Help? for great easy, healthy recipe ideas for both kids and families.
Also, salmon – preheat oven to 350. Marinate salmon with mustard, soy sauce, garlic and honey and throw it in the oven for 10 minutes. Super easy. Or, I love to top with BBQ sauce. Or throw it on a sheetpan with some cut potatoes and frozen veggies.
Those are some of the main ideas I discuss with clients.
Do you have any quick go to dinner ideas?
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