I love Giada De Laurentiis. If there’s anyone in the culinary world I want to be, it’s her. She makes four course meals seem effortless; meanwhile, I’m standing over a hot stove two hours in with four half-burned pans of what was supposed to be dinner. It’s moments like these that I realize that I’m only willing to spend 20 minutes making a healthy dinner, especially when it takes my family and me less than 10 minutes to eat it.
While I’m not exactly Giada, I do know how to get fast, healthy dinner on the table most nights of the week. If you’re in the time consuming world of meal planning, prepping, and cooking, here are 5 tips that will unleash your inner-weeknight chef:
1. Buy frozen. Studies have shown that frozen produce is just as nutritious (if not more so) than fresh. Plus, frozen veggies are often pre-chopped (hello, shortcuts). Keep a bag of frozen mixed veggies in the freezer and you’re ready to cook up a quick stir fry on the fly.
2. Roast. If you have pinned “40 nights of crock pot dinners” and haven’t made a single one, I’m talking to you. Don’t worry if you can’t get into the crock pot cult- I can’t manage getting a meal chopped, seasoned, sautéed, and submerged while hustling the family out the door in the morning either. But roasting- now that’s my jam. Perfectly caramelized Brussels sprouts in 20 min at 425F while you change into llama pajamas after work. OR use that automatic shut-off timing feature on your oven to roast potatoes or proteins while you’re out driving the mom taxi. Remember those frozen veggies? Toss them in a pan- they’ll thaw and cook all on their own, no prep required. Now that’s what I call a healthy dinner done right!
3. Go semi-made-from-scratch. For those nights you don’t want to cook, start with a box-o’-something and add some extra ingredients to make it a full on meal. For example, a simple tomato soup can become a hearty stew with a can of garbanzo beans, roasted summer squash, wilted spinach, and fresh basil. Add a little crusty bread and voila- insta-dinner.
(And for those of you keeping score, that counts as fruit, veggies, grains, AND protein in a single bowl. Booyah.)
4. Eat time-saving proteins. Prepping animal proteins is a dirty job (and if you’re a hypochondriac like me then you’re spending twice as much time washing your hands than actually cooking). Save time by subbing in heart healthy plant-based proteins; for example, black beans for quick tacos or shelled edamame in a noodle veggie bowl. Cooking time is virtually nada and your desert-dry hands will thank you.
5. DON’T COOK EVERY NIGHT! Pick 3 nights per week you know you can cook a 15-30 minute healthy dinner meal and double the portion. Eat the leftovers the next night or refrigerate/freeze the extra portions to eat later in the week. Makes meal planning a snap- instead of planning for 6-7 nights, you’re only planning for 3.
Now you know some of my secrets, I want to hear yours! How do you save time on healthy meals?
For more healthy and nutritional tips visit me at Oh My Nosh! Nutrition Coaching. Oh My Nosh! is also offering new meal plans and is celebrating with a launch party on April 9th. RSVP + invite your friends here.