Clean Out the Fridge
Leftovers can be great even if you didn't plan ahead for them. I like to use up all the leftovers in the fridge -- veggies, meat, cheese, even fruit -- in a big salad, omelet, or pasta dish. You can buy wonderful dry sauce mixes (I love Knorr Swiss brands) and blend them with skim milk to make creamy, low-fat sauces to toss with pasta. Add a side salad from a bag of pre-washed greens, a whole-wheat roll from the freezer, and in 15 minutes, voila, a wonderful meal!
For those nights when you're short on creativity and/or supplies, it's great to have your favorite frozen entrees on hand. Check the nutrition facts panel to make sure you are buying meals that are nutritious (Lean Cuisine or Healthy Choice are a couple of good choices).
To make sure they fit into your eating plan, look for meals that are roughly 300 calories (for a "light frozen dinner") or 400 calories (for a "regular frozen dinner"). Also, keep in mind that frozen dinners tend to be high in sodium.
What to Keep on Hand
Another key to quick, nutritious meals is to keep a variety of foods in your freezer, refrigerator, and pantry. Whether you're whipping up a pasta dish, salad, pizza, soup, sandwich, stew, or omelet, a well-stocked kitchen makes preparation fast and easy. In addition to lean meat, poultry, and fish, stock these tried-and-true ingredients:
- Whole-wheat rolls
- Bags of frozen fruits and vegetables
- Pre-cooked chicken strips
- Pizza shells
- Lean meats, poultry, and seafood
- Frozen entrees
- Canned and dry beans, peas, and lentils
- Whole-grain pasta, rice, and other grains
- Pasta sauce, pesto
- Cereal (it works as lunch or dinner in a pinch)
- Dried and canned fruits
- Canned vegetables
- Nuts, seeds
- Salad dressings, oils, vinegars, and mustards
- Dry sauce mixes
- Jarred peppers, olives
- Whole-grain bread and crackers
- Canned fish in water
- Dairy foods -- yogurt; cheese; skim or low-fat milk
- Fresh fruits, vegetables
- Pre-washed salads in bags
- Light margarine
- 100% fruit juice
As you see, you don't need to spend lots of time or energy to whip up healthy meals for one or two. All you need is a plan -- and a well-stocked kitchen! Bon appetit.