5 Quick-n-Healthy Dinners to Devour This Summer

Even though you’ve used the hashtag #mealprepmonday in the past, meal planning doesn’t always happen every single week. You come home after a long day at work and realize you don’t have dinner planned. It’s too hot to heat up the kitchen, and you don’t want to dedicate the next hour to cooking over the stove anyway. You open the fridge because it’s cool, but also because you’re hoping to scrounge up enough leftovers to feed your family. Then you turn to that dated box of Tuna Helper in the pantry and…

... Toss it back in, because you have five go-to healthy dinners you can dish out in 30-minutes or less!

Included with each meal idea are a few options on how to replace ingredients to match your dietary goals - whether you’re low-carb, keto, low-sodium, or vegetarian!

Meal #1: Super-stuffed veggie boats

What can you stuff inside a vegetable and then grill to perfection? Turns out, a lot!

Bell peppers, zucchini, acorn squash, butternut squash, mushrooms, russet and sweet potatoes can each act as an “edible bowl” to contain mixtures of protein and toppings to match various flavor profiles. Think southwest blends, Mediterranean spice, teriyaki or even Italian! The common ingredients between each will be similar, such as lean protein and an additional vegetable, but the variety will come from the fresh herbs and spices you add. Craving Chinese? Add a dash of liquid aminos, ginger, and turmeric. Want Mexican? Spice it up with cumin and cayenne. Mediterranean? Add more cumin but also add extra cinnamon.

  • Vegetarian option: You never have to add meat to your dish to make it an entre as there are plenty of meatless options available to you year-round. Outside of your go-to black beans and tofu, try mixing your “stuffed stuff” with lentils, hummus or tempeh to add a boost of flavor and protein!
  • High-carb option: If you’re in need of a post-workout meal, add a serving of rice to your mixture. The starch will help to replenish your glycogen after a grueling boot camp or strength training session.
  • Low-carb option: By default these are naturally low-carb. If you’re afraid they won’t be filling enough, try mixing in riced veggies, like cauliflower, to add more nutrition density.

Approximate prep/cooking time = 30 minutes

Meal #2: All the tacos

Yes, you read that correctly. Tacos are often considered to be a treat meal rather than a healthy go-to dinner, but it’s all in the ingredients you choose! (Filling six shells with high-fat ground beef and a cup of shredded cheese definitely does not count as the healthy option we’re suggesting here…)

Start with a minimally processed base, such as a simple corn tortilla shell which has not been fried with a bunch of additives. Then choose a lean protein such as 93/7 grass fed ground beef, boneless/skinless chicken breast, or white fish such as cod. Finally: top it with freshness. Local tomatoes, peppers, grilled corn, and cilantro will each add a lot of flavors, while avocado will help tone down the spice. If you really want to add cheese, then try a dash of nutritional yeast! “Nooch” offers a savory, cheddar taste with minimal macros.

  • Vegetarian option: Replace your meat-of-choice with grilled portobello mushrooms or black beans - not refried.
  • Low-sodium option: Tacos can definitely be a sodium bomb. And, in the summer when we’re more prone to being dehydrated, it’s good to be mindful of your sodium intake. If you’re trying to reduce your salt intake, then soft corn tortillas tend to have much lower sodium than the fried shells.
  • Low-carb option: Opt to either make (or purchase) low-carb tortillas. Several stores in town sell lower carb options, including cauliflower shells. You could also follow a recipe to make your own zucchini shells.

Photo credit: savortonight via Pixabay

Approximate prep/cooking time = 30 minutes

Meal #3: Burgers and fries

"Wait… first tacos, now burgers?"

Burgers also tend to get a bad rap because of the “stereotypical” burger most of us think of when it comes to summer barbeques. But again, they don’t have to be unhealthy! You can combine the right ingredients to make them both nutritious and delicious!

Again, start with a leaner protein option, such as 93/7 grass fed ground beef, ground chicken breast, or ground turkey as your base. Most of us savor the taste, so don’t forget to add the right spices to pair with your protein, such as paprika, cumin, sea salt, and pepper.

Now for the fries - just make your own! Cut a couple of russet potatoes long and spritz the batch with a teaspoon of avocado or coconut oil (as both cook well at high temperatures). Give them a 10-15 minute head start on the grill before you cook your burgers, depending on how thin you slice them.

  • Vegetarian option: Burgers do not have to put together with a meat of course. You could blend together an equal combination of black beans and roasted sweet potatoes, with a pinch of fresh garlic, to form a patty which will grill just as well.
  • Low-carb option #1: Replace those hand-cut potatoes with carrots, jicama or zucchini and “fry” them on the grill all the same!
  • Low-carb option #2: You could switch out the traditional bun with portobello mushroom caps to sandwich the burger between, wrap your burger in steamed collard greens to keep the juices contained, or you could dump the bun entirely and turn your dinner into a burger salad by placing the patty on top of a bed of mixed greens.
  • Low-sodium option: Burgers and fries can definitely get salty, fortunately, if you’re making the patties and fries from scratch you have ultimate control of how much salt gets added!

Approximate prep/cooking time = 30 minutes

Meal #4: Farmer’s market fresh

The local farmer’s markets feature a variety of fresh produce, especially on Saturday’s when the majority of local growers set up a booth at The Columbia Farmers Market in Parkade Plaza. The top in-season selection includes: herbs, tomatoes, corn, zucchini and beans.

Grab a recyclable bag and cash, and shop the aisles. Think of which flavor sounds good, then pick out one protein and two veggie options you can toss on the grill. Corn-on-the-cobb and green beans are both quick to grill alongside chicken breasts. Similarly, you can buy tomatoes and basil to make your go-to parmesan (using either chicken breast or eggplant - both of which are available at the market!)

Approximate prep/cooking time = 30 minutes

Meal #5: Build-your-own-bowl (BYOB)

This version of “BYOB” is different than your collegiate definition. Often during hectic evenings when you’re running around shuttling kiddos from one activity to another, it feels easier to simply stop at a fast food joint than it does to “make” something at home. Instead of spending 10-minutes in the drive-through, spend those same 10-minutes running into a nearby grocery store with a salad bar. Each person can build their own bowl to meet their cravings while adding flavor, nutrition, as well as keeping the cost minimal.

Have you considered how you could build a salad bar “bowl,” take the ingredients home and toss them in a pan to heat up? This can provide a simple stir-fry or southwest option if you aren’t craving raw veggies - especially since the produce is pre-chopped and the meat has already been cooked!

  • High protein option: There is often a wide variety of high-protein options at most salad bars including chicken, tofu, turkey, bacon, pepperoni and (at some locations) even black beans!
  • Vegetarian option: Many store salad bars now include tofu in their lineup of protein options! Whatever style of the bowl you’re building, know that you can switch out the meat for tofu instead.
  • Low-carb option: Make yourself the most decadent salad using a spinach blend as your base, then top it with protein and healthy fats (like grilled chicken and raw nuts) to make it more satiating!
  • Low-sodium option: While most of the ingredients provided on the salad bar are fresh, some of them can be slightly processed with higher amounts of sodium added to preserve them while they sit out. Of course, pepperoni and cheese will be higher in sodium, but so are the olives, artichoke hearts and grilled meats - even chicken!

Approximate prep/cooking time = 15 minutes

Dessert bonus: Fresh grilled fruit

Next time your grill is hot-and-ready, try skewering strawberries, peaches, banana and/or watermelon on a kabob and grilling it for a few minutes! You’ll find the heat caramelizes the natural sugars and brings out a subtle flavor you may not have experienced before.

Approximate prep/cooking time = 10 minutes

Which meal are you going to try first?

We want to hear from you! Please share your experience Instagram-style with a photo of the recipes you tried, how fast it was to make, and anything you may have changed to make it match your family’s taste!

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