I had my first (very informal) catering job this weekend. My mission was to create a few healthy and delicious salads for a graduation party. Thankfully, I love being creative in the kitchen and chopping veggies is quite therapeutic for me.
I love looking at recipes on Pinterest or cookbooks, but I rarely follow a recipe exactly. I use a recipe as a guide, and go with the ingredients I have on hand. Many people are turned away from trying new recipes because they require unique spices or take too much time. The secret is: you don’t have to really follow the recipe. Play around in the kitchen, and make cooking an experiment.
My weekday dinners are always made in less than 30 minutes, and they are definitely not labor or time-intensive. Who has time to cook a fancy meal after work, getting your workout on, and all the errands to run?
Instead, these are the tips I rely on for quick, healthy, & delicious week-day meals.
1.) Meal Plan!
On weekends, I plan out a few meal ideas for the week. I plan out my dinners, but some people, especially families, find it helpful to plan out all meals and snacks. Meal planning will help you create a list for grocery shopping and prevent that early-evening “what’s for dinner” scramble. Browse Pinterest, recipe blogs, or cookbooks to come up with ideas. Find a few staple meals that you can rotate through every few weeks – for me, it’s a chicken curry, or a chili in the winter.
Make sure you plan balanced meals that includes high-quality protein, carbohydrate, fat, and fiber, so you stay satisfied and are getting tons of nutrients. An example would be – salmon (protein), sweet potato (carbohydrate), avocado (fat), and kale and zucchini (fiber).
Stock up on frozen vegetables, so you never have the excuse that you ran out of veggies. They are just as nutritious as fresh ones, not to mention being ridiculously convenient.
2.) Rely on leftovers.
I love leftovers. I always cook more than I plan to eat at dinner, so I can eat it for lunch the next day. During the week, I typically cook a few servings of whatever protein I’m having (salmon, chicken, etc.), and plan meals around that. That usually is the most time-intensive part of a meal, so cooking it in advance really helps cut down on time. Tonight, my dinner took 10 minutes tops to throw together. I grabbed a leftover piece of salmon, cooked up some veggies with coconut milk and curry powder, and threw a sweet potato in the microwave. Voile – 10 minutes later, I had a tasty, balanced, and nutritious meal.
You can use this idea for snacks as well. On the weekends, chop a bunch of veggies that you can pack for lunches. Make a snack bar, such as a homemade LaraBar, to have a few snacks on hand for the week. When you prepare, you’re less likely to mindlessly eat on whatever you have around the house. If you intentionally plan a prepared snack, you will stay satisfied between meals, so you won’t be starving once you get to dinner.
3.) Get creative with seasonings.
Stock up on fresh or dried spices and herbs. These can really boost the nutrient content of your meal, but most importantly, they add flavor and depth to your food. Throw in some cilantro when making your favorite Mexican dish, or some curry powder for curries.
My favorites are turmeric and curry powder, cilantro, oregano, cinnamon, and ginger. If you’ve never used spices before, try experimenting with them. Recipes typically call for exact amounts, but it’s up to you based on your preferences. If you want it super spicy (like my boyfriend’s mouth-burning salsa), then throw in lots of peppers or chili powder. If you don’t, then go easy on the spice.
4.) Have a go-to meal.
There will always be that night that you get home late from work or are way too tired to spend even 15 minutes in the kitchen. Find a few “go-to” meals that can provide you with some nutrition rather than relying on snacks or a bowl of cereal. When you go for the easy and yummy snacks like chips, it’s easy to munch down several hundred calories without feeling satisfied or filling your body with vitamins and minerals.
Eggs are quick and easy to prepare, and you can throw in some veggies for some nutrients. You could also throw leftovers and various frozen veggies in the microwave for a few minutes. If putting together a meal is too much, then just eat an intentional mini-meal or snack, such as a smoothie, sweet potato with almond butter, or yogurt and fruit.
What are your “go-to” meals?