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.