Even if you don’t have much time (or desire) to cook, it’s still a good idea to do a little meal planning — since planning ahead is a must if you want to eat healthy! But your version of meal planning can be simple and quick thanks to the many convenience foods that are now on the market. There are plenty of meals you can plan for and make that require minimal cooking. Here are some examples of healthy foods you can keep on hand to build no-cook or barely-cook meals:
- Pre-cut, pre-washed vegetables (Trader Joe’s has these for very reasonable prices) for snacking & meals.
- Prepared frozen stir-fry, pasta, or fajitas – make sure to look at the Nutrition Facts Label for the prepared sauces so you know how much you should add. Add extra fresh or frozen veggies to make these dishes more filling and lower in calories.
- Jars of marinara sauce – add a can of diced tomatoes and/or bag of frozen spinach leaves for extra veggies
- Whole wheat couscous (cooks in 5 minutes) or quinoa (cooks in 10 minutes)
- Microwavable packets of brown rice
- Frozen low-fat burritos – open them up after microwaving to add chopped tomatoes, salsa, and/or avocado
- Shredded reduced-fat cheese, string cheese, or Laughing Cow Light cheese wedges
- Low-fat salad dressings and dips. Better yet, get dry dip mixes that you can mix with plain yogurt (try nonfat Greek yogurt, which is thick and similar to sour cream but lower in fat and calories) as needed.
- White meat turkey burgers (like these) — keep in freezer along with whole wheat buns so they’re ready anytime.
- Chunky and smooth salsas – not just for dipping – can be used as sauces for meats, pastas, or salads. Or, mix with canned beans and put in a whole wheat tortilla with shredded cheese and chopped tomatoes for a quick burrito.
- Canned black & white beans, to use in salads, pastas, wraps, and Mexican-style dinners.
- Frozen meal entrees, like Kashi frozen meals, Lean Cuisine with extra veggies, or these frozen options. This is an especially good thing to have around if you live by yourself or have trouble sticking to moderate portion sizes.
- Frozen berries – good for smoothies, on yogurt with granola, or on top of desserts like pudding and light vanilla ice cream.