Have you ever had one of those nights where you are too exhausted to cook a meal, but you need to feed yourself or others at home? When the option of suggesting “go pour yourself a bowl of cereal” is out, it’s nice to have a few quick and easy meals you can throw together that are still healthy and well balanced. I like to keep the Green Mountain Plate Model in mind when concocting my quick and easy (but healthy) meals. Once you get comfortable with identifying where foods fit in the Plate Model, you can easily come up with meal ideas that require limited prep time but still keep you feeling satisfied. Below are a few ideas I use often:
Quesadilla – Whole wheat tortilla, canned vegetarian refried beans, shredded cheese & salsa, serve with a side salad and a piece of fruit
Entrée Salad – Mixed greens, pre-grated carrots, grape tomatoes, dried fruit, nuts/seeds, Garbanzo beans, shredded cheese, & 1 cup whole grain croutons
One Pot Meal – At the tail end of cooking whole grain pasta, add frozen vegetables and a pre-cooked protein (chicken, shrimp, beans) to the boiling water, cook a few more minutes to heat veggies and protein, strain, then return to pot – add pre-made sauce or vinaigrette, cook a few minutes more to warm sauce.
Finger Foods – Grapes, whole grain crackers, hard cheese, cut veggies and dip
Chips & Dip – Organic corn chips served with a dip made of mashed/pureed black beans and salsa; serve with a side salad and fruit.
Sandwiches – If I could only pick one food to eat for the rest of my life, it would be sandwiches. Granted this may warrant using 2 slices of bread, which would be 1 more starch serving than we use in the Green Mountain Plate Model, but you may not need fruit on the side, hence keeping the overall carbohydrate content of the meal in a similar range. Also, small wraps or ½ a pita are often the equivalent of 1 starch serving. Any of these ideas below would work well in a sandwich, wrap, or pita. Keep in mind that I mainly eat vegetarian, should you notice the obvious lack of meat below, but these are a few sandwich combinations I love:
- Kale, cheddar, and mayo or honey mustard
- Tempeh, coleslaw, Swiss cheese, and Russian dressing
- “Sausage,” peppers, & onions – vegetarian sausage with sautéed peppers and onions; this is good open faced on half a roll
- Turkey, grated carrots tossed with oil and vinegar, arugula, raisins/Craisins
- Hummus, lettuce, tomato, sprouts (occasionally cheese with this as well)
What simple, fast, healthy ideas do you have for a balanced meal?