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!
First, your base. Choose one to go on your plate:
- For warm meals, one huge handful of fresh baby spinach — pop it in the microwave for 1 minute on high to wilt it.
- For cold meals, one huge handful of fresh salad greens, any kind.
Second, 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
Now 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! Alternately, 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)
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
Top with a little fat (choose one or have both):
- 1 to 2 tablespoons of cheese (cheddar, feta, goat, etc.)
- ¼ of an avocado
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 dressings 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 you add some form of protein — either beans or a lean meat/seafood.