No time to cook a heart-healthy dinner? Think again – and try these time-saving tips.
On a busy weekdays it can be tempting to reach for ready-made dinner options, but they may not be the healthiest choices.
It is possible to get fresh, nutritious meals on the table in the same amount of time it takes to prepare a box of processed macaroni and cheese. These five tips will help you make it happen.
- Find your go-to meal. It’s the end of the day and you’ve left only 15 minutes to prepare dinner for your family. That’s when you call on your “go-to meal” – the easy-prep dinner that takes minutes to make and is enjoyed by everyone in the family. My go-to is tuna sandwiches with bagged salad – faster than take-out and the ingredients are always on hand! Other examples are vegetable omelettes, pasta with chickpeas and tomato sauce, and “snack plates” with veggies, hummus, crackers, nuts and cheese. What’s your go-to meal?
- Try a swap. Supper sharing, cooking co-ops or dinner swaps – the name may change but the concept is the same. Instead of cooking every night, you team up with another family or group such as neighbours or co-workers. On the agreed schedule, everyone prepares a meal with enough to share, then you swap and take home portions for your family. Sure you’re batch cooking one day, but you’ve got other days covered. Dinner swapping is trending in New York, and there are even apps and websites to help you find partners who share your tastes.
- Buy rapid-cook ingredients. Sure it would be lovely to arrive home with time to roast a whole chicken or prepare brown rice. But when you’re rushed, save time with these shortcut helpers:
- Choose whole grains that cook in under 20 minutes. Try parboiled brown rice, quinoa, whole grain pasta, bulgur, millet or buckwheat. Or try whole grain bread and crackers – no cooking required!
- Skip time-consuming washing and chopping of vegetables by using frozen options instead. Simply steam or stir-fry and you’re ready to eat. Try broccoli, peppers, peas, leafy greens and mixed stir-fry blends.
- Thinly cut meat, fish and poultry cooks in a fraction of the time of thicker cuts. Buy “stir-fry ready” pre-cut strips of steak, chicken or salmon, which can sauté in minutes.
- Try quick-to-cook shrimp, scallops and sole if you are craving fish or seafood. Used canned tuna or salmon for ultimate convenience.
- Use unsalted canned legumes such as chickpeas, lentils and kidney beans, or quickly boil frozen edamame (green soybeans) in five minutes.
- Have breakfast for dinner. Breakfast is likely the fastest meal of the day. So ignore the clock and enjoy breakfast foods at suppertime. Try scrambled eggs on toast with sliced tomato; pancakes with peanut butter and banana; or oatmeal with Greek yogurt, fruit and nuts.
- Set it and forget it. Many busy households rely on a slow cooker to simmer supper all day so it’s ready by dinnertime. From hearty soups and stews to affordable cuts of meat that become fork-tender, the slow cooker is great if have time in the morning to assemble ingredients and get the cooking started. You can even begin the prep the night before by cutting vegetables.
Yes, these meal ideas take a little bit of planning. But with practice, you’ll become adept at getting dinner on the table in 20 minutes. Plus you’ll reap the health rewards that come along with home cooking.
- Browse our heart-healthy recipes for quick and easy weeknight dinners.