We’ve all had those busy weeknights when simply winding down can be challenging enough, let alone trying to tackle meal prep and cooking. To help, we’ve asked five busy dietitians to share their favorite fast meals that can be thrown together in a pinch — no advanced cooking skills required. Get some inspiration from their tips below!
1. Patricia Bannan, RD, author of “Eat Right When Time is Tight”
My quick and healthy go-to dinner is tuna and veggies. I’ll mix a can of albacore tuna with a bit of mayo and spicy mustard, then chop up some crisp veggies like cucumber, red onion and bell peppers. I usually enjoy this in a whole-wheat wrap or on top of a green salad with chopped tomato, avocado or any other vegetables I have on hand.
This dinner helps me reach the recommended 2–3 servings of seafood per week that is advised for optimal health. Seafood is an important source of protein, good fats and vitamins and minerals. Adding lots of veggies pumps up the fiber and nutrient density of the meal. This super nutritious dinner is ready in 15 minutes or less!
2. Rebecca Vander Sluis, RDN
One of my top meals is a stuffed sweet potato. Simply poke a sweet potato with a knife, and heat in the microwave for five minutes. Once the potato has cooled, slice it in half, scoop out the insides and transfer it to a bowl. Stir in 2 teaspoons of taco seasoning, sautéed peppers and onions, and black beans. Then, fill in the empty sweet potato skins with this mixture. For cheesy flair, sprinkle with grated cheese, and microwave for one minute till the cheese has melted. Serve with chopped cilantro, salsa and sour cream as optional toppings.
Many people fail at eating healthy because they make it too complicated. This sweet potato dish is simple and follows the ‘rule of three’ formula:
- Adequate protein: black beans
- Two servings of fruits or vegetables: peppers and onions
- A whole grain or starchy vegetable: sweet potato
3. Julieanna Hever, RD, author of “The Vegiterranean Diet”
On a busy weeknight, when I am hungry and have a famished family to feed, my go-to dinner is a Mexican fiesta. I whip up a few easy side dishes, then let everyone mix and match to their liking. Here are a few options I’ll lay out on the table:
- Basic Bean Dish: On the stove, in a medium saucepan, I throw in a can or two of oil-free refried beans, and mix in some frozen roasted corn and salsa over medium-low heat, while stirring, and it is perfect after about 5 minutes. This mixture is filled with an array of health-promoting fibers, plant protein and the perfect synergistic combination of vitamin C in the tomatoes and iron in the beans for optimal mineral absorption. It goes well over a salad, rolled into a tortilla, burrito style, or on tacos.
- Fresh Guacamole: Simply mash avocado with a bit of salt and lemon juice.
- Frozen Batch-Cooked Rice: Having frozen brown rice in the freezer makes for a super quick, substantial side dish. I often batch-cook brown, red, black or wild rice or quinoa to keep in the fridge for situations like these.
This whole food, plant-based meal is packed with health-promoting nutrients and satiating complex carbs, proteins and healthy fats — and it can be completed in under 15 minutes.
4. Jessa Nowak, MS, RD
When it’s been a rough day and my refrigerator is looking sad, my go-to meal is an egg bowl. Whip up some eggs scrambled with spinach. Then, add them to a bowl and layer with warmed black beans, cheese, diced tomatoes and black olives. Top with a dollop of sour cream and a heavy sprinkle of hot sauce. Serve with sliced fruit and a glass of milk. This meal is full of flavor, satisfying and super quick and balanced. It is high in protein and fiber and covers all food groups without adding bread or a white starch.
5. Christa Mantey, RD
We just had our first baby five months ago, so there are a lot of nights where I don’t have the time to be as creative with dinner. Being a dietitian, I always try to make it nutritious, and being Italian, I always try to make it delicious. Our go-to quick dinner has been salad in a bag from Costco, Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods complete with dressings and fixings. I love that we can get our fresh, raw, organic greens in each night without having to spend too much time in the kitchen. All the enzymes, phytonutrients, fiber and healthy fats help to keep us fueled and nourished. This is so quick — it literally requires me opening the bag and emptying the contents into a salad bowl, mixing and serving. Adding some leftover quinoa, avocado, chicken or salmon that we have in the fridge is nice to for some added protein and healthy fats.