Stocking Up for Quick, Healthy Meals
We all have those times where we need to put together a quick meal, but then discover that we forgot to defrost the chicken, the salad greens are slimy and the milk is sour. But if you've got some veggies and a few high protein foods, you can put something together in no time.
I keep all sorts of canned beans in the house because they're a great source of iron, protein and fiber – and with so many varieties, no two dishes ever taste quite the same. Black or pinto beans can be mashed and spread on corn tortillas with some salsa and avocado slices for a healthy vegetarian entrée. White beans or garbanzos can turn a bag of pre-washed salad greens into a complete meal, and all beans with their liquid make a great start to a quick soup.
Other convenient proteins to keep around are pouches or cans of tuna, salmon, crab and chicken breast in the pantry and cooked seafood like shrimp or scallops, in the freezer. They're all good to add to salads or soups, or used as fillings for sandwiches or even tacos. Any of these can be added with some veggies to cooked whole grains, like pasta, to make a one-dish meal. Add some veggies and shrimp from your freezer to your noodles during the last few minutes of cooking - then toss the whole thing with a jar of pasta sauce and you're ready to eat.
The best veggies to keep around are the frozen loose-pack varieties. That way you can use only what you need. Zap some in the microwave and you've got a quick filling for an omelet, or add them to pre-made broth with some canned chicken breast for a healthy home-style soup. You can make a quick vegetable curry by heating canned garbanzos with a little broth and curry powder, then tossing in some steamed mixed vegetables. Or, quickly stir-fry your veggies in a little oil with some shrimp from the freezer and season with teriyaki.
Canned veggies are fine too, and tomatoes are especially versatile. Season canned tomatoes with hot pepper flakes and garlic and you've got a quick pasta sauce. Add a can of tuna, and this is my go-to dinner when I don't have anything else in the house. It's delicious. Or, try using tomatoes as the base for a seafood stew – season with bay leaves and a little Tabasco, then add veggies and cooked seafood from your freezer. You can create a pretty terrific vegetarian chili, too, by seasoning up a mixture of canned tomatoes, corn and pinto beans with some chili powder and garlic.
Rounding out your meal with some healthy whole grains doesn't require a lot of time. There are plenty of quick cooking items like quick brown rice, whole wheat pasta, buckwheat noodles, quinoa or millet. The rice would be great with your curry or stir-fry, the buckwheat noodles would be delicious in an Asian-inspired soup, and the quinoa or millet would pair well with your seafood stew. You can also keep some whole grain dinner rolls or whole wheat tortillas in the freezer to use for sandwiches or wraps.
Lastly, keep around some seasoning staples, like mustard, Tabasco, ketchup, soy, barbecue and steak sauces– all of which have long shelf lives in your frig. Keep some basic spices and herbs on hand, too, or use pre-made blends that take the guesswork out of seasoning.
Susan Bowerman is a paid consultant to Herbalife.