Easy hacks for quick, healthy meals

A grain bowl containing quinoa, roasted cauliflower, sweet potatoes, chickpeas, avocado slices, and a creamy white dressing. Contains Illinois Extension wordmark and orange I block logo.
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With school in full swing and the kids’ activities encroaching on mealtime, it can be hard to find the time to prepare a healthy family dinner. Sometimes made-from-scratch meals just aren’t happening. However, a little bit of time to cook is better than no time, and using pre-packaged and previously cooked foods is better than constantly running through the drive-thru. So, take a deep breath and use some of these hacks to get quick, healthy meals on the table!

Pizza: Making your own personal pizza can take as little as 10 minutes. Using whole grain flour tortillas or English muffins, spread it with jarred pizza sauce, shredded mozzarella and your favorite toppings (if using sausage, buy pre-cooked turkey sausage crumbles) and bake it in a 425°F oven for 5 minutes. Or buy a cheese frozen pizza and top it with fresh tomatoes; bake it according to directions, top it with fresh basil and drizzle with a balsamic glaze for an easy caprese pizza!

Tuna Noodle Casserole: Give a boost to boxed macaroni and cheese by stirring in a can of tuna (packed in water and drained) and cooked peas. Sprinkle panko breadcrumbs on top and voila! Tuna noodle casserole has never been so easy. Not a tuna fan? Add precooked shredded chicken and cooked broccoli for a quick cheesy chicken casserole.

Grain Bowls: Bowls are extremely popular right now and there are so many variations to choose from to make this a quick meal. Choose the precooked microwave quinoa, add prepackaged hummus, roasted red peppers in a jar, bagged spinach, cherry tomatoes, and feta cheese crumbles. Or go for a buffalo chicken bowl with precooked microwave brown rice, pre-cooked grilled chicken breast strips, hot sauce, celery, shredded cheese, and blue cheese crumbles. There’s not much to do but assemble!

Peanut Butter Roll-Ups: PB&Js are easy but take it up a notch by spreading peanut butter on a whole wheat tortilla, add apple slices, granola for a crunch, and a dash of cinnamon. The kids will no longer ask for a PB&J!

Most of these shortcuts offer a combination of food groups, but for the food groups you might be missing, round them out with a side of fresh fruit or unsweetened applesauce, extra veggies and/or low-fat yogurt or milk. These time-savers will get you where you need to be with a satisfied belly of good-for-you food.

 

PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by Caroline Green on Unsplash

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jenna Smith is a Nutrition and Wellness Educator with University of Illinois Extension, serving Livingston, McLean, and Woodford Counties. Smith uses her experience as a registered dietitian nutritionist to deliver impactful information and cutting-edge programs to Livingston, McLean, and Woodford Counties and beyond.