Thanks to Registered Dietitian Andrea Holwegner “The Chocoholic Nutritionist” for writing today’s post
Updated January 2022.
We see many posts about meal prepping and meal planning to save time throughout the week. But we all know that life isn’t perfect or predictable and planning or executing a plan doesn’t always happen. Oftentimes, you can have an amazing meal plan but something in your work or family life is bound to happen that steals away your precious time and makes it difficult to execute the plan you had in place.
Having a few solid easy and healthy weeknight dinners are great to have in your back pocket is great for when scheduled meals fall apart. This allows some more flexibility for your work or personal family schedule to change. Lastly having a few healthy weeknight meals that anyone in your house can cook prevents imbalanced eating at home or the need to rely on take-out!
Why Meal Prep Doesn't Always Work?
You don’t always have time with what is going on at work or at home Your schedule changes unexpectedly and makes it hard to execute your meal plan Weekday stress and fatigue impacts motivation to want to make a healthy supper Getting home from school/work too hangry to take the time to execute your meal plan
Tips for Planning Healthy Weeknight Dinners:
- Look at your available options in your pantry, fridge, and freezer and select the 3 components of a balanced meal: grain/starch, vegetables, and a source of protein.
- Your meal planning doesn’t have to be fancy. Give yourself a break! Pancakes, Greek yogurt, or frozen veggies may not be gourmet but it could meet the criteria for a balanced meal.
- Let the vegetables drive dinner. To avoid food waste, start by what fresh foods need to be used up first and form your meal around those items
How to Build a Balanced Weeknight Dinner:
All of the dietitians in our practice recommend having a list of back-up meals posted in your home:
- Make a list of 3-5 backup meals you will have on standby at all times in your home
- Make sure your weekly grocery shopping list always contains the ingredients for your backup meals
- Meals prepared in under 30 minutes
- Aim for recipes that contain 3 things for balance: grains or starches, vegetables and/or fruit and a source of protein
- Ensure all cooks in the house can make these! This includes the main cook and the ‘not-so-good’ cook
Healthy Weeknight Meal Ideas
Scrambled eggs: toast (fresh or frozen bread), and carrot sticks or frozen veggies.
Quesadillas: Flour tortillas, canned black beans, grated cheese, red peppers (fresh or jars of roasted red peppers), frozen corn, and canned salsa.
Frozen shrimp: sautéed with Thai chili sauce, prewashed salad, and couscous.
Baked beans: potatoes (boiled or microwaved for speed), cabbage (shaved for coleslaw or steamed if you prefer) Thin frozen fish fillets you can dust with bread crumbs and seasoning. Serve with whole-grain garlic toast and steamed fresh/frozen veggies.
French toast: made with whole-grain toast, yogurt or cottage cheese, frozen berries/mango.
Fresh or frozen stir-fry meat: cooked with fresh/frozen veggies and tossed into a wrap or over rice. Pasta, tomato sauce, ground meat/poultry (or canned drained lentils or chickpeas)
Check out these 5 Simple Plant-Based Dinner Ideas, and 5 Simple Weeknight Dinners with Chicken
By Registered Dietitian Andrea Holwegner “The Chocoholic Nutritionist”
Andrea Holwegner is the founder and president of Health Stand Nutrition Consulting Inc. established in 2000. She leads a team of experienced dietitians within her nutrition counseling practice. Andrea is also known as the chocoholic nutritionist, believing anyone can achieve health without guilt or complexity, and that the secret to success is having fun. She is an online nutrition course creator, professional speaker, and regular guest in the media. In her spare time, she enjoys skiing, mountain biking, and sipping wine with her husband over a delicious meal. Most of all, she loves being a mom and playing in the dirt in the vegetable garden she grows with her son. www.healthstandnutrition.com Instagram, Facebook, Twitter @chocoholicRD