Have you ever been so busy that you literally feel like you can hardly catch your breath (let alone prepare a healthy, balanced meal)? Your days are so jam-packed you feel like a ping-pong ball jumping from one thing to the next only to crash late every night, wake up, and repeat?
This is more or less how I have felt for the past few years of my life...lol! Besides running my business, I juggle teaching part-time and working a “regular” job as well. I’m also moving this month so my days are generally spent rushing from one place to the next while squeezing in packing as I go. This may be TMI, but the most relaxing parts of my day are often quick washroom breaks which allow me a minute or two to zone out and “relax”...lol.
Can you relate??
In addition, food these days is basically a chore. At times, I find myself shovelling the easiest, most accessible food available in my mouth as I’m working, packing, or driving. While this constant state of survival mode may not be ideal, it does provide me the opportunity to push my skills to the limit when it comes to preparing quick-and-easy, healthy meals. As a dietitian and glass-is-always-half-full type of person, I figure the craziness I call life (as I’m sure many people can relate to) is the perfect chance to share my quick-fix meals that keep me going when time is the last thing there seems to be enough of.
If you think a dietitian only eats homemade, super healthy, whole foods, some of my ideas may surprise you! The truth is that I strive for balance, not perfection when it comes to healthy eating. This means following the Plate Model (50% veggies/fruit, 25% grains/starches, 25% protein). So, even if each component on my plate is not necessarily the most nutritious option I could select, it is the best option that I can realistically prepare given how busy life is these days. Because my schedule is so go-go, I can’t risk having low energy, so eating well is still a top priority for me, as I hope it is for you, too!
If anything, please remember this:
Healthy eating is not black and white or about foods being “good” or “bad”. Healthy eating is about finding a balance of nourishing foods you enjoy that is realistic and sustainable for you.
So here you go - my Top 15 Quick-Fix Meals that have been tried, tested and perfected!
Chicken a la King
1 can cream of chicken soup
3 cups frozen mixed veg (i.e. carrots, corn, peas, green beans, lima beans, broccoli, etc.)
1.5 cups cooked chopped chicken
Stir all the ingredients together in a casserole dish (maybe add a bit of water or milk but not too much or it will become runny), cover with a lid, and bake at 350 for 40 minutes. Serve with baked/microwaved or mashed potatoes.
2. Ready-made Casserole (e.g. Lasagna/Shepherd’s Pie/Cabbage Rolls) & Ready-made salad
Look for local farmer’s markets or delicatessens that may offer homemade frozen casseroles. If no options exist, it’s OK to purchase from your local grocery store, just look for lower salt/fat options.
For example, PC sells a line of Blue Menu products in the Loblaw stores that offer a healthier version (i.e. lower in sodium and unhealthy fats) of common meals. Add to that a side of ready-made vegetable salad, and you’re good to go!
3. Loaded Veggie Nachos + Side Salad
Leftover roasted chicken (or canned black beans if going plant-based)
Diced bell pepper
Shredded cheese (I buy it already shredded to save time)
Layer all the ingredients on a cooking sheet starting with the nacho chips. Bake in oven at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes (or until cheese melts and chips begin to brown).
For the side salad it’s simply sliced purple cabbage, sliced yellow pepper, and pomegranate seeds with a garlic vinaigrette. Delicious!
My roomie and fellow foodie/dietitian, Cindy Bekkedam gets the credit for this crave-worthy quick-fix meal after a long day of cleaning our new house and packing. It was ready in no time, fits the Plate Model, and had me craving more it was so delicious. You can find Cindy on Instagram @cindyeatsthat
4. Frozen Fish, Fries & Boiled or Steamed Veggies
This is one of my favourite go-to quick-fix meals! I love fish & chips! Who doesn’t?
Of course, buying this meal at a restaurant tends to come with way too many fries, overly greasy fish, and lacks veggies (which is totally OK from time to time). But for a more regular meal quick-fix, I bake 1-2 frozen breaded fish fillets (Jane’s is my favourite brand), a handful of frozen fries in the oven for about 15-20 minutes.
While it’s cooking, I pull out some frozen veggies and boil them in a saucepan making sure about half my plate contains them. Voila! And yes, I do add some tartar sauce and ketchup on my plate.
5. Snupper Plate
A snupper plate (derived from combining the words supper + snack) is my favourite go-to when I am not in the mood to cook anything. I basically grab a variety of foods in my fridge (e.g. raw veggies, cheese, leftover meat or edamame pods, fruit, crackers, hummus, etc) and load it up on a plate.
Of course, a glass of pinot grigio pairs excellent with this. :-)
6. Loaded Baked potatoes
Simply microwave the potatoes (way quicker than baking them!) and then gather various ingredients to “load” them with! My go-tos are a can of corn, canned/rinsed chickpeas or black beans, some leftover chicken, shredded cheese, sour cream, diced green onions...
If you have a family to feed, make it a buffet style so everyone can choose their own fixing.
7. Grilled cheese and tomato soup
If you happen to have a bit more time (or foresee a busy spell coming up), try making our homemade tomato soup and freeze individual servings until you’re ready to eat.
8. Quick cook Frittata or Omelette
Check out how quick this complete meal comes together:
Crack a few eggs,
Chop in whatever veggies and leftovers (e.g. baked potatoes) you have in the fridge,
Shred in some cheese, and put in a pie plate and cook for about 20-30 minutes at 350 degrees. Have with a whole grain bun or toast.
You can also purchase a ready-made frittata or quiche from many local bakeries.
If you prefer an omelette variation, heat up a bit of canola oil in a pan, add your fixings then top with egg mixture (just eggs whipped up with a whisk), heat until cooked through, flip, and sprinkle with cheese. Yes, it’s that easy!
9. Tasty Tuna Melt
For days when you don’t feel like using the stove, this tuna melt can be created in a toaster oven and only requires a few ingredients that you probably already have in your pantry.
Check out our tasty tuna melt recipe and modify to your preference.
10. Savoury Pesto Shrimp
This quick-fix meal is perfect for busy nights and takes less than 15-20-minutes to prepare. Shrimp boast an excellent source of protein, selenium, and zinc and cooks up super quick…or you can purchase pre-cooked shrimp and cheat that step! Our recipe shows how it’s done.
11. Tikka Masala with White Fish & Chickpeas
Tikka Masala is a traditional blend of spices used in Indian cooking. It typically involves chicken in a creamy spiced tomato-based sauce. However, our version offers a nice twist using white fish and chickpeas for some plant-based protein power! This recipe comes together in 10 minutes!
12. Lentil Soup (from the can!) with Shredded Cheese + Avocado Toast
There are lots of healthy soup brands available such as Amy’s and PC Blue Menu. There’s nothing easier than cracking one open and heating in a small saucepan while quickly dressing up a whole grain bun with mashed avocado (instead of butter) for a hearty dose of heart healthy monounsaturated fats, fibre, and folate.
13. Roasted Red Pepper Hummus Sandwich with Crudité
Busy days call for a quick lunch! Look no further than this simple yet delicious roasted red pepper hummus sandwich! It sure sounds fancy when you pair it with an assortment of fresh and crunchy veggies and dip (also known as crudite).
14. Homemade Pizza
Homemade pizzas are a fun and definitely easy way to use up left over ingredients! Use a ready-made whole grain crust, your base sauce of choice (tomato or pesto) and layer your preferred combo of ingredients for a quick and health twist on this classic take out favourite.
15. Quick-Fix Salmon + Ready-cooked rice and Fresh Broccoli florets (steamed in the microwave)
I make this quick-fix nutrient-rich meal probably more than any others because I find myself craving it often.
It’s super simple to get the recommended 2 servings of omega-3 rich fish into your diet.
Several brands including PC offer ready-seasoned frozen fillets of salmon or trout (or check out your favourite grocery store seafood department for fresh marinade options). Pairing it with ready-cooked rice and veggies completes the meal. One mouth-watering recipe – The Bekkedam’s Sesame Ginger Salmon - also comes from Cindy @cindyeatsthat and has turned many fish haters into fish lovers (including yours truly) – it’s THAT good!
It takes about 15-minutes to create the marinade (which you then freeze individual portions). Then 15-minutes to bake in the oven (so the idea is to make them in advance and pull out of the freezer either the morning of or right after a long busy day to thaw (they thaw very quickly) and microwave your rice and broccoli florets while your salmon is baking.
WHAT'S THE BOTTOM LINE?
Busy times call for quick-fix meals! As you can see from these 15 meal ideas, you don’t have to sacrifice nutrition when pulling together a an easy meal in less than 15 minutes! Remember not to be too hard on yourself during these busy times and that nourishment over perfection is the way to go.