We all have those nights when the last thing we want to do is search the fridge for some dinner inspiration. Even busting out the Instant Pot can feel like a chore.
Fortunately, there are plenty of meal-prep hacks, non-perishable staples and convenience food options to help make a half-scratch meal feel comforting.
In fact, many healthy frozen foods, meal delivery services and pantry items out there make it incredibly easy to set full plates out by dinnertime. And there’s no shame in combining some packaged foods to make a meal feel whole if you make nutritious choices.
To help make dinner less of a struggle, dietitians offer up tips on what they do when they just don’t have the time, energy and motivation to put together a balanced and tasty meal …
Fall Back on Healthy Frozen Foods
When you’re crunched for time and aren’t stocked up with enough fresh ingredients to prep a meal, look no further than your freezer. Frozen meals used to get a bad rap for being sneaky sources of sodium, unhealthy fats and processed ingredients, but a new wave of freezer-friendly dishes actually use high-quality, nutritious foods.
“I love already prepared frozen meals that are a one-and-done kind of thing,” says Shapiro, who’s Daily Harvest’s nutrition partner. “Daily Harvest is my go-to favorite because their harvest bowls and soups take the prep work out of healthy eating. Full of vegetables, grains, beans, nuts and seeds and flavor, they satisfy my hunger and meet my nutrition needs.”
To make it a heartier meal, Shapiro will add a fried egg, can of tuna, leftover grilled chicken or half an avocado to her Daily Harvest dish. If you’re craving pizza, she recommends Daily Harvest’s flatbreads. Low-carb and gluten-free, these plant-based pies pack antioxidant-rich veggies, such as arugula, sweet potato and mushrooms. Plus, they cook up fast and bake in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes.
On the meatier side, Shapiro suggests Applegate Farms’ Well Carved line of organic beef and turkey burgers and meatballs. Their burgers, for instance, are made with 100 percent grass-fed beef that’s mixed with cauliflower, spinach, lentils and butternut squash.
“I defrost them and serve with a salad if I have fresh produce. What I love about frozen food is if your plans change, nothing goes bad. It’s there waiting for you the next time you are in a crunch or just hungry,” Shapiro says.