You know the drill – you arrive home late after work. You’re tired. You don’t feel like cooking. Usually this means you end up having cereal for dinner, or hitting the drive through on the way home, or just eating a container of ice cream and calling it a night. But I promise if you have just a few things on hand you can throw together a really simple, quick, and nutritious meal with little to no effort. Here’s how!
1) First, your base. Choose one to go on your plate:
- For warm meals, 1 huge handful fresh baby spinach – pop it in the microwave for 1 minute on high to wilt it.
- For cold meals, 1 huge handful of fresh salad greens – any kind.
2) Choose one of the following and put a serving (½ cup cooked) on your plate.
A good idea for this step is to make a big batch of grains one night so you have it on hand the rest of the week. Another option? Uncle Ben’s 90 Second Brown Rice – it’s awesome.
- Brown rice
- Whole wheat pasta
- Any other whole grain
3) Add 1/2 cup of any of the following cooked beans to your plate.
This will add fiber and protein to keep you full! I recommend canned beans – they are so easy. Just drain and rinse them! Alternatively, if you have leftover cooked meat in the fridge (or canned meat/tuna), you could use that instead.
- Cannellini beans (great with pasta)
- Black beans (great with rice, quinoa, barley)
- Kidney beans
- Chickpeas or lentils (good with anything)
4) Time to add some veggie power – anything you have on hand!
This will add nutrients and a lot of volume to your meal, keeping you full longer.
- Cooked or fresh broccoli
- Chopped peppers
- Steamed zucchini and/or squash (great with pasta)
- Chopped or cooked carrots or celery
- Cooked string beans
5) Top with a little fat (choose one or have both):
- 1 to 2 tablespoons of cheese (cheddar, feta, goat, etc.)
- ¼ of an avocado
6) And finally, a sauce! Choose one depending on your theme:
- Salsa (for Mexican inspired meals)
- Marinara (pasta) sauce
- Balsamic vinaigrette (I like Newman’s Own brand of balsamic vinaigrette – go for the regular version as low fat dressing often just have more sugar/salt/preservatives added).
To get you started, here are a few of my favorite combos:
- Base of microwave steamed spinach or fresh greens
- ½ cup cooked brown rice or quinoa
- ½ cup black beans
- Chopped peppers and tomato
- ¼ an avocado
- 2 Tbsp. shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 1/3 cup salsa, any kind
Quinoa Chickpea Salad
- Base of fresh greens
- ½ cup cooked quinoa
- ½ cup chickpeas
- Chopped veggies – peppers, carrots, cucumber, etc.
- ¼ an avocado
- 1 Tbsp. feta cheese
- 2 Tbsp. Balsamic vinaigrette
Simple Veggie Pasta
- Base of steamed spinach
- 1/2 cup cooked whole wheat pasta
- 1/2 cup cannellini beans
- Zucchini + squash, steamed in microwave
- 1/2 cup marinara sauce
I hope you guys find this post helpful the next time you arrive home with no idea what to make for dinner! The key is to include a lot of volume from veggies to help keep you full, and to make sure to add some form of protein – either beans or a lean meat/seafood.
A few more previous posts you might also find helpful:
- How to Make a Recipe Healthier (includes a printable healthy ingredient substitution flyer!)
- 10 Healthy On the Go Snack Recipes
- 4 Healthy, Quick, and Portable Breakfast Ideas
- How to make time for health when you’re busy
- How to pack lunch in 5 minutes flat
- Tips for feeling satisfied and staying healthy
What’s your favorite quick and easy weeknight dinner staple?