Many of us have had the experience of coming home from a long day exhausted and hungry. So we might start eating from a bag of chips as we plan dinner. Before long, we have snacked ourselves full. Luckily, implementing the nutritionist tricks that follow can help us throw together fast, simple and healthy meals on even the busiest nights. Soon, using these tricks will become second nature, and the “What should I make?” dinnertime crisis will become a thing of the past.
If you like fish, stock your freezer with a little fish
The American Heart Association recommends eating at least two servings of fish per week. To make that happen, pick up fish that can go from your freezer straight to your oven, suggests Vicki Shanta Retelny, a registered dietitian nutritionist in the Chicago area. Typically, frozen fish should be thawed before cooking, but “some brands are marinated, individually wrapped, and can be cooked from frozen,” she says. (Look for phrases like “no need to thaw” or “from freezer to oven” on the package.)
Do just a little prep work
If you love getting all your veggies, proteins and grains cooked for the week ahead, more power to you. But if it’s something you dread, skip it. “It’s easy to get overwhelmed with meal prep,” says Amy Gorin, a registered dietitian nutritionist and owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition in the New York City area. Instead, she recommends taking the prep down a few notches by chopping on Sunday only the ingredients you can incorporate into meals during the week. For example, Gorin keeps sliced mushrooms and onions on hand for stir-fries or omelets; it removes some of the prep burden, and you don’t have to start dinner from scratch.
Look for creatively prepped veggies to jazz up meals, like spiralized carrots and zucchini, shredded brussels sprouts, or bagged cauliflower rice.
Make smoothie cups
What’s better than a blend-and-go smoothie when you’re running out the door? Prepack an individual container with fruit, nut butter, and any other additions (think coconut, greens, cocoa powder, chia seeds, or cashews). The next morning, dump the bowl into your blender and add your liquid of choice (milk, coconut water, kefir).
Keep these go-to foods on hand
There are days when you come home and are so starved you need to eat ASAP. Always have quick-cooking 10-minute grains on hand, like bulgur or barley, says Retelny. Toss with ready-to-eat bagged salad, and throw on a pre-seasoned package of tuna or salmon or other ready-to-go protein source. This meal comes together fast, so you can eat well no matter what.