Making healthy, quick or inexpensive meals can be fairly easy. Doing all three at once is more of a challenge. To create these types of menus, you'll want to use more nutritious ingredients, reduce fats, lower your protein costs and limit the amount of ingredients and cooking techniques you use.
Start by lowering your protein costs. Use less expensive cuts of beef such as sirloin, cube and flank steak, which also contain less saturated fat than more expensive cuts. Marinate them overnight and broil them to reduce your cooking time—broiled meats only need to be turned once. Chicken drumsticks are inexpensive, meaty and easy to prepare. Remove the skin to reduce the fat and cholesterol and season with a little salt and pepper or herbs or spices. Fish like salmon are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids that help fight cholesterol and coronary heart disease, according to the the Reader's Digest. To add this healthy, but often pricey source of protein to your meals, add it to a main course salad to add flavor, rather than making it the centerpiece. You can cook the salmon in less than 10 minutes in the broiler.
Decrease the amount of trans and saturated fats you eat by moving away from packaged foods, especially baked goods. Cook meals with monunsaturated fats and use non-stick cookware that lets you use less oil. A wok cooks food faster with less oil and cleans quickly.
Pre-packaged foods often contain trans fats, additives and preservatives. If you need to use them because of your busy schedule, use several techniques to make them healthier.
If rice dishes call for butter or oil, try making them without to see if the flavor or consistency is acceptable to you. If you wish to add oil, use healthy monounsaturated oils, such as olive or canola. Add baby carrots to a box of rice and beans or onions and peppers to Spanish rice as a meat substitute and to add nutrition. You can make an easy, complete, one-pot entrée by adding chicken tenderloins or breast to the rice when you start the cooking process.
Washing, peeling, cutting and seeding vegetables adds time and effort to your dinner preparation. Look in your grocery store's produce section for pre-cut and pre-packaged vegetable medleys. Many stores offer combos, such as summer squash and zucchini, fajita mixes of onion, red and green peppers, the "trinity" of green peppers, celery and onions, or broccoli and cauliflower mixes. Add these veggies to stir fries, pastas or cheese pizzas for quick nutrition. While these convenience vegetables are more expensive than buying the same items and preparing them yourself, they are still cheaper than frozen foods or large portions of proteins served in lieu of a bounty of vegetables at lunch or dinner.
You can make a variety of one-pot meals using fresh vegetables as your base. Make soups, stews, chilis, stir fries or other dishes by starting with a small amount of inexpensive beef or chicken. After the meat is half-cooked, add plenty of fresh vegetables, then season in ways that let you create a curry, Tex-Mex, Cajun dish or Asian creation. Add lime and cilantro for a Latin flavor. Chili powder, thyme and allspice start a Creole dish; finish with some spaghetti sauce. Add garlic, honey, orange juice, soy sauce or ginger to chicken or pork, and add sesame seeds for an Asian dish.
It's easy to open a can of soup, and grocery stores offer a wide variety of low-fat, low-calorie, low-sodium and whole-food options. Add a salad with plenty of cucumbers, tomatoes, celery, carrots and onions, and serve with a crusty bread and low-fat dressing. Nuts and seeds add flavor, crunch and nutrition
- Delicious roasted chicken drumsticks with baked vegetables. image by Brett Mulcahy from Fotolia.com
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.