Weeknight dinners create a lot of unnecessary stress. Rushing around to get home, get the kids settled, cook a meal and trying to enjoy a few minutes of family time seems like an impossible task. In fact, most people will give up and just order take out, which creates inflammation in the body since the food is typically not healthy.
If you think ordering take out salads are a healthy option, you need to rethink that strategy! Since you haven't made the salad yourself, there will be extra calories, sodium, sugar and fat from croutons, cheese, dressing and bacon bits, just to name a few.
So how can you make sure you have healthy and quick dinners for the family every week? Having a plan definitely helps. Before going to the food store, create a list that specifically focuses on fast, healthy options that can be cooked quickly. I always have key staples in the pantry and freezer that can quickly become dinner in 30 minutes or less.
After you've created a a plan, the next step is to do a little bit of prepping before the week begins. By prepping fresh ingredients, you are increasing the chance of being able to quickly make dinner. This may mean chopping fresh vegetables and putting them in the fridge until you want to use them. This could also mean cooking the vegetables ahead of time so they just have to be reheated. You can even cook a couple of meals ahead of time. Then all you have to do is reheat the entire meal.
Below are some products I keep in the pantry that are healthy and fast:
Seeds of Change Grains. These are ready in 2 minutes! They have rices and combinations of grains and rices that are organic. It makes having a side dish that is healthy really easy to make.
Frozen Veggie Burgers. If you are trying to have one meatless night per week, a veggie burger works wonders! You can top it with sauteed veggies and eat it on a bun. If you are watching the amount of carbs you are eating, you can simply put a veggie burger or two on top of a mixed salad. Add some sliced avocado and you are getting healthy protein and veggies in one quick meal. There are plenty of brands on the market. Even my local grocery store has a private label veggie burger brand that is very inexpensive.
Frozen and canned vegetables and beans. These are life savers since they are pre-cut and heat up quickly. Perfect for stir-fry's, side dishes or added to pasta for a quick meal. I always have broccoli, green beans, corn, pinto beans, kidney beans and spinach in the house.
Pasta in all sorts of shapes. Pasta only takes up to 15 minutes to cook, depending on the type and your preference for softness. Mix it with veggies or add chicken strips, ground beef or chicken for a quick dinner. Plus, frozen tortellini, ravioli, gnocchi and cavatelli help keep dinner interesting. If you are gluten-free, there are plenty of pastas in the grocery store that are made from beans or rice helping you and the family avoid the harmful effects of gluten.
Below are 5 quick and easy recipes that come together fast with healthy ingredients.
Buy chicken strips which eliminates slicing up large chicken breasts
Always have frozen veggies ready to go. I use frozen chopped spinach and broccoli florets. They can easily be thrown into the pan with the chicken once the chicken is cooked half-way through.
Mrs. Dash seasonings are a life saver! Made without salt, they add flavor to the meal without sodium. Try the chicken seasoning with this dish.
Put the sauteed chicken & veggies over rice (using one of the Seeds of Change products I listed above) and dinner is ready! Or, if you are watching carbs, serve the chicken and veggies with a salad.
Another Tip: purchase pre-made sauces for stir-fry's. To reduce the sodium dilute 1 cup of sauce with 1 cup water. The sauce still tastes great even when diluted.
Pork Chops with Two Veggies
Pork chops are usually cheaper than chicken and cook up quickly. In 20 minutes they are done. I season them with black pepper, onion powder & garlic powder. Then, cook them in a pan with olive oil.
Pair with two veggies such as canned or frozen green beans and fresh zucchini to increase vegetable intake and reduce carbohydrate intake. This is where a little planning can help. Chopping the zucchini on the weekend and storing it in the fridge until you want to use it, allows you to spend less time per meal prepping ingredients.
Zucchini also cooks up fast. I like to diced it and saute it in garlic flavored olive oil with chopped onions. In about 10 minutes, the zucchini is done.
Eating two veggies instead of a vegetable with a potato or rice or pasta can help our bodies stay healthy by providing essential vitamins and minerals. While carbohydrates are part of a healthy lifestyle, we tend to eat too many. Serving two veggies for dinner is a great way to cut back on carbohydrates and still feel full!
Buffalo Chicken Salad
Salad for dinner is always an easy and quick way to get veggies & lean protein into a meal. Any cut of chicken breast will do. Simply slice the chicken into bite size pieces. Next, dredge the chicken in seasoned flour (I use onion powder, garlic powder & black pepper). Cook the chicken in olive oil until it is cooked through and has a crunchy coating.
Take the chicken out of the pan, put it in a colander with a bowl underneath it, and pour your favorite hot sauce over the chicken.
While the chicken is cooling, prepare the salads with lots of fresh veggies.
Eating a variety of vegetables daily provides healthy fiber to allow our bodies to eliminate toxins. But if you and your family aren't used to eating a lot of vegetables every day, make sure to drink more water to avoid constipation.
Cavatelli with Broccoli
This is an example of a meatless meal that is fast and healthy. Cavatelli is sold in the frozen food aisle and cooks up in about 10-12 minutes.
Use either fresh or frozen broccoli. Saute the broccoli with jarred chopped garlic until it is cooked to your desired tenderness. I like my veggies al dente so they cook up in about 5 minutes for frozen; 10 minutes for fresh.
Finish by putting the pasta on the dish, top with broccoli, then melt butter with chopped garlic in the microwave or in the broccoli pan; toss it over the pasta.
Serve with a salad.
Pasta can be troublesome for the digestive tract. If you find you or someone in the house gets bloated or has gas after eating pasta, looking for a gluten-free pasta or a pasta made from beans or rice can help. This recipe will still work with a different type of pasta.
As I mentioned, veggie burgers are so easy to make. They are in the frozen foods aisle and take about 10-15 minutes to bake.
Cook up some veggies like canned corn or make a salad to go with them. Slice up some avocado or tomatoes to top the burgers.
There are also healthier frozen potato products such as frozen sweet potato fries or frozen potato pancakes that make easy side dishes.
Gluten-free rolls help keep the gut healthy by avoiding gluten, which is just a side product of carbohydrates. Gluten does not have any nutrients so avoiding it even if you haven't been diagnosed with an allergy to gluten, is always a good practice.
Doesn't that seem easy? I know weeknight dinnertime is stressful. I hope this post inspires you to create a plan for dinnertime and to shop for easy, quick ingredients that supports good health. Do you think you can do something like this? Leave me a comment below!
If you feel you need help creating quick and healthy meal-plans for weeknight dinners, I can help! I am a Certified Holistic Nutritionist helping people like you learn how to take control of your health with easy habits that fit into your lifestyle. If you suffer from bloating, gas, indigestion, heartburn, abdominal pain, diarrhea and constipation, I can help!
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