Time is so precious! Especially during the busy weeknights. What makes it worse is when you are managing embarrassing gut health issues, such as constipation, diarrhea, bloating, excess gas and abdominal pain. The reason managing gut health makes it harder during busy weeknights to get a healthy dinner on the table is we mostly want to default to fast food solutions. This may mean the meal is full of gluten, fried foods, dairy, processed foods and caffeinated drinks, all of which may trigger unwanted symptoms.
But there is an easy way to make sure you have the foods you need on-hand. Plus, there are meals you can cook ahead of time to make it easy to heat and eat. Before we get to the recipes, let's look at the key ingredients to have in the pantry and the freezer to make healthy gut weeknight meals fast and easy.
Fresh, frozen and canned vegetables are a key ingredient for a healthy gut. Fiber helps keep the digestive tract healthy and feeds good bacteria. There are vegetables that are easy to digest and anti-inflammatory. Why I love buying frozen or canned vegetables is they are already chopped reducing preparation time, they take on flavorful spices and sauces quickly and they can be more economical when it is the off-season.
Easy to digest vegetables are mushrooms, spinach, kale, watercress, broccoli, cauliflower, artichokes, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and zucchini. Keep these on your weekly shopping list as either fresh, frozen or canned to maximize gut health while getting healthy nutrients.
Vegetables that are not as easy to digest but can help remove toxins in the gut are sweet potatoes, yams, beets, carrots, squash, parsnips, tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes and pumpkin. Since these vegetables are helpful to remove toxins use them occasionally, about 2-4 times a month.
Spices can help heal the digestive tract as well as reduce inflammation. Garlic, ginger, cilantro, turmeric, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, cardamom and fennel seeds are the key spices to keep in the pantry. If you can buy some of them fresh, such as the garlic, ginger and cilantro, feel free to use fresh as well. There are some great spice blends that you can buy with combinations of the above. Those are also great to use. I like to use McCormick Organic Garlic Powder, Frontier Organic Cilantro, and NatureVibe Organic Ginger Powder. All are available on amazon and since the amounts called for in recipes are not that big, the herbs will last for quite some time.
Fruit is an important part of a healthy gut eating plan. Often, we don't think of incorporating fruit into dinners. Instead, we think of fruit as a snack or part of lunch. Blueberries, raspberries, pineapple, kiwi, papaya, grapes, oranges and strawberries are healthy choices that can fit into dinner meals. Plus, they can be frozen (either when they are in season or purchased frozen) making them easy to eat year round.
This is where it can get a little tricky when cooking for good digestive health. Brown rice, quinoa, corn and gluten-free products are healthy choices. But there is limited variety, which can make dinners boring very quickly. Using other ingredients such as legumes, lentils and barley is acceptable. Just use them infrequently to break up the routine. There are some great products on the market that are quick to cook. Seeds of Change has many options that only take 2 minutes or less to heat up. Their products are sold on amazon and at local food stores.
Now that the pantry is stocked, here are 5 recipes that are easy and delicious.
Crock Pot Pineapple Chicken from Well Plated
This is the perfect easy, delicious and gut friendly meal. Pineapple contains bromelian which is a digestive enzyme. The recipe calls for ginger and garlic, which we already learned are gut healthy spices and once the chicken is done, it can be served over brown rice, cauliflower rice or quinoa. This is just one way to use fruit in dinner recipes. Click here for the recipe.
Thai Ginger and Garlic Noodle Bowl from Vanilla and Bean
Just because you are eating for gut health doesn't mean you can't have noodles. Rice noodles are perfect for gut healthy eating because they are gluten free. Plus, they cook in 2-3 minutes. Making this dish an easy and delicious dinner recipe. I love making stir-fry's during the week because it is the perfect dinner to use frozen vegetables so it cooks fast. No prep needed.
Also, you can customize the vegetable selection to the taste buds in your household. Don't like shitake mushrooms? Substitute button mushrooms. Here is a hack for when a recipe calls for cabbage: I buy the pre-shredded cole slaw mix in a bag! The mix contains carrots and cabbage already sliced up and cooks in just a couple of minutes. Click here for the recipe.
Best Ever Chicken Lettuce Wraps Recipe from Yummy Healthy Easy
Lettuce wraps are a great way to enjoy a grain free dinner. Plus, it is so much fun stuffing lettuce leaves that even kids will enjoy this dinner. Lettuce wraps are ready in 20 minutes. Making this an easy dinner for the weeknight. Need to add a little more depth to dinner? Serve with sauteed zucchini and onions. Click here for the recipe.
Stuffed Zucchini Boats from Spend with Pennies
This is another recipe that can be customized to the taste buds of your household. The recipe uses ground beef but if you want to lighten that up, you can use ground chicken or turkey. I also will make this vegetarian for our meatless Monday dinner. I'll use mushrooms, frozen chopped spinach and frozen broccoli florets.
Zucchini boats are also a great meal-prep dinner because the stuffing can be made, the zucchini can be stuffed and then pop the whole dish in the oven when you are ready during the week. There isn't anything in the ingredients that is going to spoil if it isn't cooked in a few days. Serve the boats over gluten-free noodles, brown rice or just a side of quinoa. Click here for the recipe.
Spinach Artichoke Quinoa Casserole from iFOOD Real
Casseroles are a life saver for me during the week. They are made on the weekend and then simply reheated for dinner during the week. Serve with a side salad to increase the veggies at dinner. Artichoke hearts can be bought frozen or in a can with brine. The advantage of the brine is it helps provide fermentation which is great for promoting good bacteria in the gut. This recipe calls for cheese but if you are dairy free, just use a cheese substitute. Click here for the recipe.
Tackling gut health issues and concerns by eating the right foods will help reduce symptoms and promote health in our bodies.
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