What’s for dinner? That one question can be more complicated than it appears. But the health benefits of cooking instead of ordering take-out or eating in a restaurant are clear: a restaurant meal can result in double the calories of a home-cooked meal, not to mention double the salt and fat. But dinner can be both simple and healthy. Check out these five steps to creating healthy evening meals that take less than 20 minutes.
1. Go For the Grain
Whole grains cook in less than 20 minutes, making them the perfect go-to ingredient for healthy meals. Choose millet, quinoa or amaranth. While they all are gluten-free and are protein-rich, amaranth has calcium and iron. It even has three times as much fibre as you would find in wheat. There is one easy cooking method for any grain: put 1 cup with 1 1/2 cups water or chicken broth in a pot, add some salt and pepper, and stir occasionally until the grains are light and fluffy. You will be enjoying a healthy meal in 12-15 minutes. Since grains are considered a complete protein, all you need is to quickly sauté some vegetables and you’ve got yourself a dinner. But feel free to get fancy and add some toasted almonds and dried fruit.
2. Buy Packaged Salad Greens
One of the great conveniences of the modern supermarket is the boxes of tripled washed, prepared salad greens. You can find anything from spinach to a variety of lettuce to baby kale. These are a dinnertime lifesaver. Enjoy a salad with a no-cook protein such as chickpeas or canned tuna. If you can find it, buy tuna that is packed in olive oil since olive oil contains monounsaturated fatty acids that are thought to decrease your chances of heart disease. One cup of chickpeas has 15 grams of protein and only 4 grams of fat, making it a good choice as a salad topper.
3. Make a Stir-Fry
It doesn’t get much quicker than a stir-fry. While a wok is ideal, any frying pan will work as long as you get it pretty hot before starting. Every supermarket has beef or chicken that is already cut into stir-fry strips. Pick up a package along with some pre-cut vegetables; add some soy sauce and hoisin sauce and you’ve got an easy, delicious dinner. According to the American Heart Association, the suggested amount of salt that we should eat every day is below 1500 mg, so it’s a good idea to buy low-sodium soy and hosin sauce if you can.
4. Think Beyond the Beef Burger
We all love a good burger, and you can make one in less than 20 minutes with the use of your frying pan or even your oven’s broiler, but instead of beef, try turkey. Make some burger patties using ground turkey, salt and pepper. Add a chopped red pepper and some herbs if desired. Herbs not only add lots of flavour to food but have antioxidants. Enjoy your turkey burger bunless with some sliced avocado in a lettuce wrap, or add a whole-wheat pita or bun.
5. Make a Homemade (Veggie) Pizza
Take-out pizza is often a greasy affair, but you can still indulge in this comfort food with a healthy, homemade vegetarian pizza. Instead of a time-consuming crust, use a whole-wheat pita. Add tomato sauce (buy one without added salt or sugar), low-fat cheese that is already grated, broccoli, and green peppers. Bake for 10-15 minutes. You will get calcium from the cheese and Vitamin C from the broccoli.
Cooking your own healthy dinners is not only good for your health, but makes better economic sense than paying for a restaurant meal. Follow these 5 steps to making healthy meals in less than 20 minutes and your weeknights will be stress-free, delicious and benefit your health in the long and short run.