If the first thing you do after getting home from work is check out what’s happening on Uber Eats, then it’s likely that whipping up a meal is the last thing on your mind. However, falling into the trap of ordering takeaway night after night will not only impact your budget, but also your health. So, to help make it easier, here are a few nutritionist-approved tips on how to get dinner on the table quicker than it takes to get Thai delivered.
Map out your week
Look at your calendar and see how many nights you are going to be home during the week. This will allow you to figure out exactly how many meals you need to plan and cook.
Lyndi Cohen, AKA The Nude Nutritionist, says she likes to allocate a certain “theme” to each night. “Monday is for fresh fish (as it’s closest to the grocery shop). Tuesday is meat-free, so I’m sure to buy wholegrains and legumes. On Wednesday, I buy chicken, and Thursday is another vegetarian option as I often eat red meat on Friday.”
Prep on weekends
If you want to buy yourself more time for Netflix and less time in front of the stove, then there’s no getting around weekend food prep.
Nutritionist and naturopath Amanda Harasym says it’s a good idea to set aside one or two hours on Saturday or Sunday getting ready for the week. She suggests tackling tasks such as washing and chopping your vegies or boiling quinoa to use as an ingredient in meals during the week.
Also, ensure that your pantry is well stocked with staples such as tinned legumes, tinned tuna and salmon, and different spices.
Don’t be afraid of “convenience” health foods
Lyndi says that “convenience” health foods are often a lifesaver when it comes to weeknight meal prep.
“In my pantry, you’ll always find a few tetra packs of healthy soups, such as La Zupa, for those nights when I’m ravenous but still want a healthy option,” she says. “On busy weeks, I’ll buy the pre-cut pumpkin, ready-to-go fresh stir-fry vegetables and pre-washed vegetables. These are simple time-saving foods.”
She says also consider things like microwaveable pre-cooked whole grains, such as quinoa and brown rice, as they only take minutes to cook but make a healthy addition to a meal.
Sometimes you just need to take the easy way out, but you still want to eat something that wouldn’t be mistaken for cardboard. Nutritionist and author of The Healthy Hormone Diet, Michele Chevalley Hedge has a shortcut for making any protein a lot more gourmet: “Find a spice you love, add that to 1 cup of olive oil and 1/2 cup of lemon or lime juice. Shake and pour over your favourite protein, such as chicken, fish or tofu. Or just rub the spice on the protein before you leave for work.” All that’s left for you to do is decide whether you’re going to pop it in the oven, fry it up or throw it on the barbecue.
Use your microwave
Nutritionist Skye Swaney is a fan of putting the good ol’ microwave to work to whip up an easy meal. “To steam vegies quickly, place them in a bowl, add a quarter of a cup of water, place a plate on top and microwave on high for 2-3 minutes,” she says. “[Also you can] bake potatoes and sweet potatoes in the microwave instead of in the oven. Just prick with a fork and microwave on high for 4-5 minutes.”
Have easy go-to meals
Half the battle of making dinner is actually figuring out what to make for dinner, so it’s important to make it a stress-free experience with a little forward planning.
“Work on developing a repertoire of five to 10 different meals that you know how to cook off the top of your head, so you don’t have to think about it too much,” says Skye. “You can also keep a list of meal ideas on your fridge or keep it in your phone and add to it when you get inspiration. Then you’ll have a list of options all ready to go when you need to plan your meals for the week.”
Have an emergency plan
Having a few ready-to-go meals in the freezer are a lifesaver when you’re seconds away from ordering pizza. When making dinner try and cook double and freeze the rest, says Michele. “This is especially easy as we come into cooler months with food like casseroles and soups.”
What nutritionists cook when they need a quick and healthy dinner
“Hardboiled eggs! I toss rocket with leftover vegies (often roasted sweet potato), add my eggs and top with a pesto or salsa and sprinkle on some flaxseeds.” – Michele Chevalley Hedge
“I’ll often make a Mediterranean bowl with chickpeas, tuna, a handful of leaves, some olives and chopped up tomatoes and onion.” – Lyndi Cohen
“Baked potatoes with baked beans, tuna pasta or eggs on toast.” – Skye Swaney