If you’ve ever eaten healthfully all day only for it to fall apart at dinner time, you know how important easy, satisfying weeknight dinner ideas are. Most people don’t have the time or energy after a long workday to spend hours (or even AN hour) cooking an elaborate meal. At the same time, a salad or smoothie just doesn’t have the same satisfaction factor as a hot, nourishing meal… and the less you look forward to something, the less you’re likely to stick to even the best-laid plans.
Fortunately, I’ve mastered quick, easy weeknight dinners because it’s how I get my nutrition in — while keeping my sanity — during the workweek. 😉 Below are a few of my favorite tricks and combos to ensure your evenings can be full of healthy, delicious food and time for friends, errands, exercise and/or relaxation after the workday.
STIR & SIZZLE: SKILLET DINNERS
I have become a BIG FAN lately of what I like to call skillet dinners. That is, one skillet full of veggies, and one skillet full of protein. You simply cook everything in olive oil (or coconut oil, grass-fed butter or ghee depending on your tastes). Then season generously with sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, and anything else that sounds good to you. A few of my favorite dinner ideas include:
- Broccoli in one skillet // grass-fed beef in the other // everything drizzled in coconut aminos
- Riced cauliflower + veggies in one skillet // scrambled eggs in the other // (more coconut aminos)
- Bell peppers + red onions in one skillet // shredded chicken in taco seasoning in the other
- Cherry tomatoes + garlic + basil + white wine in one skillet // cod in the other
- Green beans + white onions + hoisin in one skillet // tofu in the other
- Peppers + onions + tomatoes in one skillet // beans in the other (combined for a quick veggie chili)
- Mixed veggies and/or protein in one skillet // curry sauce of some sort in the other
ONE-DISH WONDERS: TRAY BAKE DINNERS
This is basically a baked version of the option above. The benefit of it is that, instead of having to keep an eye on the skillets and stir everything occasionally, you can basically toss everything in the oven for 20 minutes and then go about your business — check emails, get in a quick workout, take a shower, return a call, etc. What you do for these is lay foil on a sheet pan (this will save an extra step with cleanup) and then lay protein on one side and vegetables on the other, and drizzle everything in olive oil, sea salt, freshly ground pepper and any other spices that suit you. Most things can bake at around 400 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes, and come out of the oven hot, satisfying, and ready to dish up. A few of my favorite dinner ideas are:
- Salmon + asparagus (add almonds, garlic, parmesan and/or lemon for some extra crunch + flavor)
- Chickpeas + spiced cauliflower + carrots (cumin and paprika are delicious with this)
- Brussels sprouts + garlic + almonds (drizzle in maple syrup and/or add bacon… YUM)
- Spaghetti squash + tomatoes + spicy sausage (shred the baked squash for a pasta-like feel)
- Chicken thighs + baby potatoes + zucchini and yellow squash
- Wild prawns + red potatoes + zucchini + garlic
- Grass-fed steak strips + bell peppers + onions (eat on their own or scoop into almond-flour tortillas)
A FEW MORE TRICKS
Don’t underestimate the power of a few staples in the fridge.
At the start of the week, I like to make a batch of quinoa or brown rice, and/or buy an extra bag of arugula or mixed greens. These both serve as wonderful bases/sides for just about anything you make. The quinoa and brown rice add heartiness, fiber and satisfying carbs that complement and soak up any sauce well. And the arugula or greens make it easy to get in extra greens, since they mix well into any pretty much any bowl or dish that’s laid on top of them.
Keep it simple.
The trick with all of these dinners is to not make the process harder than it has to be. For example, I aim to buy veggies pre-chopped, shredded or washed. This works wonders for reducing the time you would have to spend peeling carrots, shredding brussels sprouts, washing lettuce, or even just dicing broccoli and cauliflower. Is it as good as growing everything in a garden and hand-washing and chopping it? Probably not, but I know I’m more likely to eat well if it’s efficient, so for me the trade-off is worth it to simply open up a bag of organic veggies and pour them into a pan.
One simple way to avoid burnout with healthy food, and instantly add flavor to whatever you’re cooking, is to rotate your spices and sauces. There are few dishes that salsa, hummus, guacamole and/or lemons can’t liven up. I also love to keep whole-food dressings and mayos in my fridge. Primal Kitchen (not an ad — just a fan) for example has paleo, clean-ingredient versions of ranch, honey mustard, green goddess, chipotle mayo, and more.