A quick weeknight dinner doesn’t have to mean grabbing drive-through eats or takeout. Consider these 4 tips and throw together your dinner in no time.
BY: LEANNE RAY, MS, RDN
One of the most common (if not the most common) barrier to folks cooking more meals at home is a lack of time. Many of us work long hours, try to squeeze in some exercise, then have to brave traffic to get home. By the time we arrive home, cooking can be the least appealing thing to do.
It sounds like too much work, and you want some food in your belly STAT.
Here are a few practical tips to help you get healthy and balanced weeknight dinners on the table faster.
1. Go Semi-Homemade
While it’s great to cook with whole ingredients, it may not always be realistic. Luckily, there is a time and a place for convenience items, so definitely take advantage of them when necessary.
Some favorites include:
- Pre-chopped butternut squash
- Pre-packaged slaws and salads
- Shredded cheese
The trade-off is that these are usually a bit pricier than their “made-from-scratch” counterparts, but keeping them on hand can get you dinner a lot faster. Think about your week and what you’ll have the time and energy to do.
2. Think Ahead & Be More Efficient
Something that can dramatically help with weeknight cooking is planning. I don’t just mean weekend prep, because not everyone has the time or desire to do it. What that means is to know what you may need for the week, and double up on your effort. For example, chop an extra onion on Monday, knowing you’ll need another one on Wednesday.
Similarly, if you need a small amount of rice, double the batch. It won’t take that much longer, but it will save you time later. Plus, rice is super versatile for other on-the-fly dishes later. If you take the time to rinse and chop some cilantro, chop the whole bunch even if you don’t need it all in that moment. You’ll be more likely to use it throughout the week since it’s already chopped any way. That means less food waste too, so this one’s a double win!
3. Try Breakfast for Dinner
For the nights where you can’t get the dinner creativity flowing or don’t want to spend more than 15 minutes cooking, breakfast for dinner can be a fun way to switch it up. Try making over-easy eggs with potatoes and veggies, or a breakfast burrito with avocado. Check what you have on hand in the kitchen, and even consider pancakes with nut butter and fruit.
The idea is to keep things balanced by including a source of carbohydrates/fiber, protein and heart-healthy fats so you won’t be raiding the kitchen for something else an hour later.
A few other quick ideas include:
- Open-face, whole grain English muffin topped with cream cheese, fried eggs, sautéed spinach or kale and tomato slices
- Avocado toast topped with an egg
- Savory oatmeal with shredded cheese, a poached egg and some chives, cilantro, green onions
- Scrambled eggs with green chili, avocado and Sriracha
4. Snack Boards for the Win
Snack boards make for great appetizers or party food, but you can also use them as a way to clean out the fridge on Friday night and make a super quick dinner that’s perfect for movie-watching. Add whatever you like, but think about a variety of textures, temperatures, and food groups to make it great. Just add fruits, veggies, hummus, and other dips and spreads in addition to the meats, cheese, and crackers.
Now, wasn’t dinner easy?
HEADER IMAGE: CAROLINE ATTWOOD
Leanne Ray, MS, RDN is a Denver-based Registered Dietitian empowering women to sustain healthy lifestyles that are practical and realistic. By helping others find happiness and joy through delicious foods that don’t involve guilt or stress, she shares how healthy eating can involve satisfaction instead of boring, low-calorie diets. Visit her site to read more from Leanne.