Dinners in a Dash: Healthy Meals in Less Than 30 Minutes
By Joan Salge Blake, EdD, MS, RDN, FAND
September is #FamilyMealsMonth and as the saying goes, what’s old is new and this applies to the lure of dining out regularly. According to the latest survey from the Hartman Group and the Food Marketing Institute, nearly all families (97 percent) with children see meals together as somewhat important, and over 75 percent of them see breaking bread together as extremely or very important. Here’s the more interesting findings in this survey: about 50 percent of Millennials and Gen Zs are striving to cook more meals at home.
This is good news as the latest USDA research suggests that food eaten away from home contains fewer fruits and vegetables but serve up more calories than foods prepared at home. Not surprisingly, dining out regularly is also associated with obesity.
Flash back to 1965 when adults, on average, spent 65 minutes in preparing and cleaning up dinner. We are now spending a mere 37 minutes in the kitchen, from beginning to end, according to research. This makes sense. We need to frequently check our social media, and let’s face it, there’s only so many hours in the day.
To help the time impaired get a quick, healthy dinner on the table, I asked my registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) colleagues to give me their best dinner idea that can be delivered in a dash. Here are their delicious results:
Breakfast All Day
According to Jackie Newgent, RDN, culinary nutritionist and author of the upcoming The Clean & Simple Diabetes Cookbook, one of her favorite quick meals is an all-day breakfast salad. She tosses baby arugula, avocado slices, and grape tomatoes with a lemony vinaigrette and then tops it with a fried organic egg or two. “It’s a tasty way to punch up your veggie intake while getting plenty of protein. The only thing you need to cook is the egg, which takes just a couple minutes,” says Newgent.
Ridiculous Easy Stir-Fries
The go-to weeknight dinner for Toby Amidor, the award winning nutrition expert and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook, is a stir fry. She marinates chicken, beef, or tofu in the refrigerator before she heads to work, and then at the end of her day, stir fries it in a tablespoon of oil in a wok along with store-bought diced vegetables (canned or frozen vegetables). She serves it over quinoa which takes minutes to make. This quick and easy meal includes three food groups: vegetables, protein, and whole grains. Enjoy an orange for dessert, and you’ll have 4 food groups. “The more food groups you have, the more nutrients you will take in during a meal,” says Amidor.
Michelle Dudash, RDN, Cordon Bleu-certified chef and author of Clean Eating for Busy Families whips together abuckwheat (Soba) noodle and veggies with edamame to get a stir fry on the table in record time. The noodles take only minutes to cook in boiling water, and she throws in the frozen edamame at the end for a quick heat. She then sautés any vegetables laying around in her refrigerator, such as sliced onions, scallions, mushrooms, and red bell pepper strips in oil and then adds them to the drained noodles and edamame. Season with reduced sodium soy sauce, ground ginger, and garlic powder for a powerful punch. It’s a high fiber dinner that is low on dinner prep time.
Zoodle Your Way to Dinner
Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition reaches for frozen or fresh veggie zoodles (veggies, such as carrots and zucchini, which are cut into thin noodles) for the basis of a quick meal. She sautés the zoodles with a little low-sodium vegetable broth in a skillet until they are partially cooked and adds halved grape tomatoes, tomato sauce, drained and rinsed canned beans, such as chickpeas or white beans, and tops it off with a quartered hardboiled egg for extra protein. This meal is jam-packed with fiber and protein, which will help you stay full for hours.
Don’t Skimp On the Shrimp Dinner
Ellie Krieger, host of Ellie’s Real Good Food on Public Television and award winning cookbook author, is the queen of quick healthy cuisine as she wrote an entire cookbook, Weeknight Wonder, on how to get a healthy dinner on the table in minutes. She uses only one skillet (less clean up) to make these Spanish tapas by first sautéing chopped garlic in oil until tender and placing these phytochemical-rich flavor enhancers on a clean plate. She then sautés raw, peeled, deveined shrimp with smoked paprika, pepper, and a tad of salt in the same pan. Once cooked, she adds back the cooked garlic along with fresh spinach and sautés everything until the greens are wilted. This simple meal is big on flavor, fiber, protein, and veggies. Add some whole grain bread to complete the meal.
Easy Lentil, Artichoke, and Spinach Dinner
Keri Gans, registered dietitian nutritionist, author of The Small Change Diet reaches for
store-bought lentil soup to make the perfect pasta sauce. While the pasta is cooking, she combines the soup along with drained, canned artichoke hearts (sliced in quarters), and bagged spinach in one sauce pan. Once heated, she spoons the sauce on top of a half cup of cooked, drained pasta and sprinkles some parmesan on top for a fast, high fiber, plant-based dinner.
Roasted Corn and Tomato Pasta Salad
Don’t let the word “roasted” scare you into thinking this is a time consuming dinner. It’s not. Jessica Levinson, MS, RDN, CDN, New York-based culinary nutrition expert and author of 52-Week Meal Planner, recommends this hearty meal as there’s very little hands-on prep. She combines halved tomatoes, fresh corn cut off the cob, minced garlic, and olive oil and then roasts these babies on a foil pan sheet at 400 degrees F for 10 to 15 minutes. While the veggies are roasting, she boils whole grain pasta. She then tosses the drained pasta with the veggies and adds part-skim mozzarella balls or ricotta cheese. It’s an all-in-one balanced meal with grains, protein, veggies, and healthy fats.
Greek Yogurt Salad Maya Feller, a Brooklyn based private practice, loves this one bowl Greek Yogurt Salad because it provides a hearty amount of fiber, protein, and satisfaction with very little clean up. She tosses together lemon juice, a finely chopped, small, red onion, 2% plain Greek yogurt, chopped garlic, crumbled feta cheese, sliced cucumbers, grape tomatoes, avocado slices, cooked chickpeas, chopped parsley, and a sprinkle of cumin. She then heaps a mound of this healthy salad on fresh greens for a meal with a boatload of good nutrition.
Joan Salge Blake, EdD, MS, RDN, FAND is a nutrition professor at Boston University and the host of the hit health and wellness podcast, SpotOn!, which is available on all major podcast platforms including Apple, Spotify, and Stitcher. This article originally appeared on US News & World Repot.
Simple Peach Salsa
- 2 cups peaches (diced)
- ¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves (chopped)
- ¼ cup red onion (finely chopped)
- 1 jalapeno pepper (minced)
- Juice from 2 limes
- Place diced peaches, red onion, jalapeno and cilantro in medium bowl. Toss with lime juice.
- Serve 2 tablespoons of salsa as “condiment” atop poultry, fish, or taco.
- Homemade fruit salsa is an excellent nutritious topping for any fish/chicken/tofu dish in place of commercial condiments which commonly have excess amounts of added sugar and sodium (salt)
Nicolette Maggiolo is the Registered Dietitian for Home Base, a Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital Program, where she provides individual and group nutrition counseling to veterans and their families. Originally from New York, Nicolette brings her love of cooking, fitness and an integrative approach as she supports patients with individualized nutrition plans.
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