Having some quick, go-to weeknight meals in your repertoire is a MUST if you’re a busy person. So yep, that’s pretty much everyone. Like, everyone.
I get asked all the time what the best way to lose weight is, and one of my answers is…to always be prepared. I know the Scouts coined it, but I’m totally using it, and so should you.
If you’ve ever blamed a little (or a lot of) weight gain on “I don’t have time to eat healthy” o, “Cooking for one person just doesn’t work” or “I get home from work and just feel like eating crackers over the kitchen sink,” then read on. I’ll make it quick.
4 Tricks to Always Having Healthy, Quick Weeknight Meals
1. Go vegetarian (at least for a couple dinners per week)
Healthy dinner ideas can begin in a can. Swap in beans instead of meat as your easy protein. Think chickpeas, black beans, pinto, or cannellini beans, edamame, or even black-eyed peas. I know you really don’t feel like baking chicken tonight. Or tomorrow night. That’s okay. Opening a can of beans is as easy as ripping open the sleeve of crackers and is a much better idea.
Beans are high in fiber and protein while being low in fat (and filled with antioxidants) so they’ll fill you up and help slim you down. Make sure you rinse and drain canned beans to get rid of extra sodium, and go for BPA-free cans as much as possible.
Serve them over salads (yes, reaching into a bagged salad and putting a couple handfuls of it into a bowl can count as making salad), as spreads (fork smash white beans in a bowl, and stir in some olive oil, garlic, and lemon, for a primitive but tasty hummus), or heat them up with a little olive oil, herbs, and spices as a side (or top the greens to make warm salad).
2. Make leftovers
Make a big batch of quinoa. Then, slice and dice a few of your fave veggies. Stretch this batch of quinoa as your meal base over a couple of nights. The night you first make it, serve it hot with the veggies mixed in like a stir-fry and top with simple grilled chicken (or pass on the chicken altogether and just add half a can of beans). The next night, you can skip cooking and serve it cold with the same veggies, raw and diced, like an Italian pasta salad. Add beans or leftover cold chicken. Both make great next day lunch options, too.
If you know it’s going to be a difficult week (what week isn’t?), rotate hot and cold options (like the quinoa above) and make extras for leftovers on a nightly basis or every time you cook and prep your lunch for the next day as you do your dishes.
The same goes for meat if you’re feeling carnivorous. Cook a big batch of ground turkey all at once. The night you make it, serve it hot in a burrito bowl, and the next night skip cooking altogether and use it as the base for cold lettuce wraps.
Making big batches of food helps you slim down, not overeat, if done properly. Add a little of that grilled chicken or steamed shrimp to a big green salad with two teaspoons olive oil and vinegar. Put it in a Tupperware and bring it to work for a perfectly portioned nutritious lunch. You can also do this when you dine out. Before you even dive into your dinner, ask the waiter to put half in a doggie bag.
3. Eat breakfast for lunch and dinner
Feeling a little bored of your veggies and protein for dinner? Try having a healthy breakfast for lunch and dinner. Make a three-egg omelet with whatever odds and ends are floating around. Throw in some veggies for a little color, flavor, and nutrition. Top with almost any herb or spice. And protein it up a bit by adding in leftover chicken or turkey. Feeling adventurous? Try your hand at a frittata. Either way, this a perfect way to have a “clean” and easy dinner at home.
If eggs aren’t your thing, make a big batch of “veggie pancakes” on the weekend. Use your normal pancake mix but add some shredded carrots or zucchini for a little veggie power and sprinkle in some flax or chia for a little fat. You can freeze them and pull a couple out in the morning to defrost in the fridge while you’re at work. Popping them in the microwave for 30 seconds is faster than opening and closing the fridge 10 times and complaining there’s nothing to eat.
4. Don’t overstock the fridge
If you’re lacking fridge space or have a fear of buying fresh foods because you worry they’ll go bad, then don’t keep your fridge stocked. Instead, make friends with your freezer. Organic frozen vegetables and whole grains can go right from freezer to microwave. No chopping, prepping, or clean-up. Match these babies with some lean protein (pick up a piece of salmon on your way home, squeeze some lemon on it, top with whatever spices you have in your cabinet, and pop it in your toaster oven), and you’ve got dinner in 10 minutes.