Here’s a Quick Way to Eat a Healthy Dinner

What meal do you struggle with the most when it comes to eating healthy and losing weight?

For me it’s always been late afternoon/nighttime eating. I don’t know why. I do pretty well throughout the day. I eat a healthy breakfast, snack, lunch, and then 3 or 4pm rolls around and I want to munch on candy at work. Then after dinner I get the munchies and want dessert. It’s easy to get sucked into a routine of nighttime eating if I’m not careful. Checkout some of my old posts about snacking:

Smart Snacking Tips

Nighttime Eater

Snacking is Not Bad

If you’re like me, the mindless munching and snacking is also your downfall when it comes to staying on track. So what do we do about it?

Have Healthy Options Available

It’s pretty simple: if you don’t have junk food in your house, you probably won’t eat it. If it takes too much effort to go to the store to buy some junk food, I just don’t want to bother. So it goes to reason that if you have healthy foods in your house, that’s what you will eat. Make it easy for yourself!

Frozen salmon and shrimp – we buy them at Costco and freeze them. It takes 20 minutes to defrost them and it’s usually our go-to fast dinner.

Frozen chicken – also bought at Costco. We fluctuate between chicken thighs and boneless, skinless breasts. Michael is pretty good about taking proteins out of the freezer each week and they defrost in the fridge for a quick dinner.

Canned soups – soup and salad are my go-to meals when I’m home alone or just feeling lazy. I have cans and boxes of soup on hand always and it makes it an easy dinner for not a ton of calories. I like getting the boxes of soup from Trader Joe’s; they are healthy, delicious, low in calories and usually organic.

One thing I wish I could do is something I’ve been seeing on the internet lately. People are making crockpot meals, putting them in a ziplock with instructions listed on the bag, freezing them and when it’s time to cook it they defrost it and dump it in the crockpot. It sounds like such an easy, efficient thing to do to make sure I have healthy options available for QUICK meals. Some bloggers are even doing it for an entire month! The problem? We have a tiny freezer and no room to do that. Someday I will do it, though!

Take 1 Hour to Prep

I usually go grocery shopping on Sundays and I spend about 30-60 minutes after I unpack everything to prep. It’s so much easier to just get it out of the way and have everything READY for the week. I slice celery and carrots and put them in tupperware, I wash all the fruit and sometime make pre-packaged serving sizes of snacky things (Wheat Thins, dried fruit, nuts, etc).

snacks1

Make it an Easy Formula

Long ago, Michael and I seemed to naturally fall into a simple formula for dinner:

PROTEIN + VEGETABLE + SALAD

Now make your own formula. It doesn’t have to be exactly like what we do. Maybe it’s something like this:

PROTEIN + VEGETABLE + RICE/POTATOES
PROTEIN + VEGETABLE + FRUIT
PROTEIN + SALAD + CARB 

So what are some examples? It could really be an endless list. There are so many healthy options you can choose if you just put a little time in to meal planning. 

Grilled halibut with mango salsa, a green salad and a baked potato

Blackened chicken breast with quinoa and steamed carrots

A serving of spaghetti noodles with marinara, homemade turkey meatballs and a spinach salad

Whatever works for YOU. Maybe you hate rice, try couscous. Maybe you are vegetarian, try alternatives.

salad1

The point is to figure out your formula and STICK TO IT. You can come up with a million variations and having something basic like this really does make it easy. It makes it easy to cook, it makes it easy to calculate calories, and it makes it easy to grocery shop if you’re buying pretty much the same things each week.

Recipes don’t have to be complicated. Dinners really CAN take less than 20 minutes to prepare. Meal planning doesn’t have to be boring–in fact, it makes it so much easier to go grocery shopping and stay within a budget when you have a plan.

What are your quick and healthy dinners?

27 Responses

  1. I do the reverse of the crockpot freezer meal. I make something in the crockpot and then freeze the leftovers into ziploc bags. There’s just 2 of us and we have a small freezer too. We keep talking about getting a separate freezer but then I wonder if we’ll forget about things in the back. As it is now, if the freezer starts getting full, we start eating the frozen leftovers to make room. I’ve been making big batches of brown rice and freezing it too.
    Christi in MA recently posted..Ten on Tuesday – 10 April Fool’s Pranks

    1. That’s a great idea Christi and I didn’t even think about it. I do that too. Sometimes I’ll make soups (stews, black bean soup etc) in the crockpot and it makes so much I freeze some of it for later. The hard part is REMEMBERING it’s in the freezer before it goes bad. 🙂

  2. What a great post! I am in the process of trying to find a good way to do lunches and suppers, and I have started doing “sandwich plus veggies” as my standard lunch formula, which is working out pretty well so far. I plan to occasionally switch it out for soup plus veggies or a hearty salad, such as a grilled chicken salad or taco salad, if I get bored with sandwiches. Now I just need to find an good supper formula that works for both me and my husband.

    I really like your idea of prepping veggies and other items right when you get home from the store. I am definitely going to put this idea into practice. It will sure save me time in meal prep later, and I think I’ll waste less produce that I’ve procrastinated on prepping and using.

    Thanks for the fantastic tips and ideas!
    Elaine recently posted..April: Challenging Myself

    1. It sounds like you have a good plan already. Grilled chicken salad sounds great. I’ve been doing something similar–taking a big green salad to work with whatever leftover protein I had.

      Prepping the veggies right after the store works well for me because I won’t procrastinate. If I don’t do it right away, I’ll never do it and I was finding I had to throw a lot of veggies away because they went bad.

  3. Stirfy – I spend the extra $ and buy my meat precut into stirfry strips. Then it only takes a couple of minutes to chop some veggies while the meat cooks, add everything in and stir a packet of sauce through
    Spag bol – It only takes 20 minutes from start to finish!
    Meat with steamed veggies – My go to meal most nights
    Crockpot – I prep the night before and put the pot in the fridge. I take it out and put it on before going to work and come home to a yummy dinner!

    1. These are GREAT tips Jess! I agree, the precut meat makes it super easy for stirfies.

      We have a lot of pasta and pasta sauce on hand in the pantry. Of course, now that Michael is gluten-free that poses a challenge but…

  4. One of the easiest meals is turkey or chicken tenderloins in the slow cooker with a jar of salsa – that’s it! I actually had some frozen and pulled it out for dinner last night – even better than when we had it originally.

  5. As you know, I typically am protein/veggie/fruit for meals. My problem with working at home is that food is always available – even healthy stuff can be over eaten (hello dates and nut butter!). My problem foods (ie chocolate chips and granola) go up on top of the cupboards where I have to drag a chair over to get at them. Not that I don’t do that sometimes, but it really helps getting them out of the pantry where I can just grab a handful.

    I do pretty good except for evenings when cooking dinner. I get really snacky and can easily eat several hundred calories of chips or crackers or nuts while waiting for dinner to cook because I am hungry. I try to eat either fruit or have a mint or two. Doesn’t always work, though. Depends on the time of the month LOL
    Lori recently posted..The Great Veggie Experiment – Rutabaga!

    1. ME TOO! I get super snacky when I’m fixing dinner. Standing in front of the fridge I can probably eat an extra 300 calories in cheese, olives, crackers, pickles…you name it. 🙁

  6. Portioning your boxed and bagged snack items and crackers is a great idea! Do you just put the portions in snack bags or do you use some other container that can be reused??

    1. Usually I use tupperware. I have a bunch of really small portion sized ones that I use for things like hummus, peanut butter and yogurt. I had some homemade Chex mix with my soup for lunch today and I put the Chex Mix in a tiny tupperware–if I had to guess I’d say it was about a 1/4 of a cup.

  7. My formula is lean protein + whole grain + veggies.

    I agree, having a formula makes it so much easier. My favorite fast whole grains are polenta and the 10 minute farro from Trader Joe’s. They both take on a lot of flavor when cooked with chicken broth. I am also currently obsessed with carrot puree. I steam carrots and then use an immersion blender to puree them with some butter and salt. It’s healthier than mashed potatoes but scratches the same itch.

  8. Right on with that formula! Protein + Vegetable + Salad, that’s a good one to follow for staying healthy. Like you I seem to struggle with the night-time eating, but going to bed relatively early sure does help with that. That then leads on to the burst of morning productivity, win-win situation! Enjoy a brilliant day, sun is gleaming over here!
    Nick Goodall recently posted..Blueprint vs Reality

  9. protein+veggies+healthy fat+ small amounts of fruit = weight maintenance and good health!

    Protein: I batch cook, use the crock pot, and re-heat many of my protein servings for dinner- Slow Cooker Chicken Curry, Pre-cooked at home portions of fish- salmon, shell fish, chili, chicken- then re-heated in the microwave.

    Veggies: While I’m reheating in the microwave I saute my greens ( kale, Brussels sprouts, chard, shredded cabbage, broccoli slaw in a little bit of coconut oil)., or I cut up bell peppers or make a salad.

    Fruit- usually berries. Sometimes half an in season fruit. Cinnamon is usually involved. 🙂

    Healthy fats- yes! Some at every meal. Examples Avocado slices, olive oil for dressing, small amounts of nuts, some coconut oil for sauteeing. I don’t miss grains at all when I include these at every meal. Smooth hair, less acne, keeps my weight in check, way -WAY less night time snacking.

    I have a 2 hour commute, full time job, and I’m a single parent. Every excuse in the world to eat out or eat crap for dinner. Once I made cooking at home a priority- it became much easier. Excuses left at the curb. We just eat real food now. Great topic. Love using the crock pot.
    Karen P recently posted..Why I weigh in daily- rule 3, steps 1 and 2 from Refuse to Regain

    1. GREAT reminder on the healthy fats. I can’t believe I didn’t add that. We buy a bag of avocados from Costco about once a week or every other week. Yes avocados are high in fat but they are so healthy and SUPER filling. Sometimes I’ll have a snack of crackers and avocado and I won’t be hungry for hours.

      For a single mother with a 2 hour commute (sounds awful) you have your shit together. Way to go!

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