10 Secret Ingredients for Quick Dinners, According to a Dietitian
If you do most of your meal planning on the drive home from work (because planning ahead is easier said than done), keep these 10 ingredients on hand for quick weeknight dinners that are healthy, too.
Fully Cooked Chicken Sausage
I love chicken sausage for a few reasons: It’s available in a lot of flavors, you can buy it pre-cooked and it’s healthier than traditional pork sausage. Since it just needs to be heated through, cooked chicken sausage is perfect for kabobs on the grill since veggies like mushrooms, tomatoes and zucchini don’t take long to cook. Here are more healthy sausage dinner ideas.
Keep a stash of your family’s favorite in the freezer at all times. They’re hearty, comforting and so easy to doctor up with wholesome ingredients like sauteed veggies and pesto sauce or diced tomatoes with fresh herbs.
Try breakfast for dinner on busy nights. Scramble up a batch of cheesy eggs with bell peppers and green onions and tuck it into a whole grain pita or serve in a tortilla with salsa and sliced avocado for a fast dinner that will fill you up.
Combine lightly mashed black beans with salsa and top with cheese for a faster-than-fast taco. I also like to make a simple version of red beans and rice with onions, peppers and canned diced tomatoes served over heat-and-eat brown rice.
Seasoned Quinoa Mix
Use a healthy side dish mix as a base for an easy entree. Make the mix and stir in leftover meat and veggies. Serve in a bowl with complementary toppings and you’ve just made yourself a restaurant-style “bowl” for supper in less than 20 minutes.
Cut-up Fresh Veggies
Keeping a container of ready-to-eat fresh veggies on hand means there’s no excuse for skipping a veggie side, even when time is tight. So, even if I don’t take the time to make a veggie side dish recipe, there’s always bell pepper strips, baby carrots, sliced zucchini, broccoli florets and more just waiting to paired with ranch dip or hummus (we love this recipe) to get our veggies in. They come in handy to use in main dishes, too.
Whole Wheat Tortillas
Let me count the ways I love whole wheat tortillas: breakfast-for-dinner burritos, hummus and veggie wraps, (leftover) chicken quesadillas, tortilla pizzas, refried bean tacos, turkey club roll-ups and so much more.
Whether it’s store-bought or a homemade version kept in your freezer, it’s an essential base for super-fast soup recipes. I especially love homemade soup on Friday nights during the cold winter months. It’s an empty-the-fridge kind of combination that’s fast to put together and uses up leftovers for less food waste at the end of the week.
Canned Diced Tomatoes
I keep plain diced tomatoes and flavored diced tomatoes on hand at all times. If I use flavored for convenience, I typically include a can of plain, no-salt-added tomatoes to cut down on sodium (flavored varieties are typically high in sodium). They come in handy for easy soups, sauces, casseroles and one of my favorite quickie dinners—cozy chili recipes!
That’s right, it’s not just for college students. Who says a bowl of wholesome cereal for dinner now and then is a bad thing. Top it off with fresh berries and dinner’s done in a matter of seconds. Or, make a bowl of oatmeal with cinnamon, raisins, a spoonful of peanut butter and sprinkling of brown sugar—it’s filling for breakfast and makes a great supper, too, when time is tight.