Between long work days and keeping up with your family’s busy schedules (or even just your own) the idea of cooking healthy meals can feel daunting. Not to mention all the dishes that come with it…
But here’s a secret – you don’t have to let lack of time hold you back from making balanced, healthy food choices. Here are some easy strategies for how to eat healthy without cooking (really! Zero!) and are actually healthy!
Hi there, I’m Jamie – a Registered Dietitian of over 8 years! I help women heal their relationships with food, improve body image, and develop healthy habits that become a normal part of daily life.
Let’s talk about how you can develop some of those habits and make healthy eating a breeze!
Keep it simple
First things first, there’s no need to make fancy meals. Healthy, balanced meals don’t have to require tons of prep. (Trust me, I’m an RD!)
As promised, I’m not going to ask you to cook a thing – today I’m helping you find shortcuts that make eating healthy easier! Remember, you’re not being lazy, you’re being strategic.
3 Steps to a no-cook dinner
Ready to dive in? Keep that stove off and enjoy my easy, 3-step method for making a dinner that tastes great, supports your health goals, and – most importantly – is super quick to prepare.
Let’s dive in with our first step: protein!
1. Start with Protein
Instead of racing home to thaw that chicken you forgot to take out, let someone else do the cooking tonight.
When you build your meal it’s important to prioritize protein to keep your stomach from rumbling by the time you crawl into bed (1). Here are some great go-to’s for getting that protein fix without turning on the oven or stove.
- Rotisserie chicken – A rotisserie chicken is an inexpensive, high-protein food that’s tasty, healthy, and can easily transform into different quick dinners. Rotisserie chicken can be the star of the show in a chicken taco or a crisp green chicken salad.
- Deli meat – Adding cold cuts like ham, turkey, and roast beef to a sandwich or a delicious Grinder salad are great ways to up your protein. And they can be mixed and matched to your liking!
- Canned tuna, salmon, or chicken (packets work, too) – Canned meats are full of lean protein and don’t take up any room in the freezer. A quick way to enjoy your tuna is on a softshell taco. Just add lettuce, cheese, a tuna packet, and your favorite taco topping!
- Store-bought hard boiled eggs – Eggs are a nourishing protein for any time of the day! Slice up your hard-boiled eggs and toss them on a salad, whip up some egg salad, or simply enjoy them whole for breakfast.
- Greek yogurt – I have a tasty breakfast recipe for this here! But Greek yogurt isn’t just reserved for breakfast. You can use plain greek yogurt to whip up tzatziki to put on Gyros, crackers, or pita bread.
- Canned beans – Canned beans are inexpensive, are a vegan-friendly protein option, and provide fiber and protein, too. Remember those chicken tacos? Make that meal last longer by combining the rotisserie chicken and black beans and you’ll have enough protein for two dinners – win!
- Cheese – Sprinkle a little cheese on your salad, add a slice to a sandwich, or enjoy a plain cheese stick to get more protein in your diet.
- Cooked shrimp – This one’s for you seafood lovers! Cooked shrimp can be folded into a softshell taco, complete a seafood bowl, or wrapped up in sushi.
Now that you have your protein picked out, our next meal component is a carb. Onward to step two!
2. Choose a Carb
Carbohydrates give your body essential energy. Ideally, we’re focusing on complex carbs that are digested slowly (like oats) more often than simple carbs that are digested quickly (like cookies).
While we definitely don’t need to be perfect here, choosing complex carbs more often provides your body with fiber that promotes healthy digestion and more of the essential vitamins and minerals that your body needs.
Here are my favorite no-cook carbs.
- Frozen microwave rice – I did say no cooking, but you will need a microwave for this one. Brown rice has more fiber than white, but both make a great addition to your protein pick.
- Bags of steamable potatoes – You don’t have to overthink this one when you’re deciding which to buy. Did you know yellow, red, purple, and even sweet potatoes have similar amounts of carbs?
- Tortilla chips – Tortilla chips pair well with that rotisserie chicken we mentioned above and make a great base for no-bake nachos when you’re in the mood.
- Bread – Breads with a lot of nutrients are sprouted, sourdough, 100% whole wheat, and oat bread. These ones are unrefined and packed with fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Whole grain toast and hard-boiled eggs are a super fast meal for any time of the day.
- Granola or cereal – Sprinkling granola in your Greek yogurt, or enjoying a bowl of cereal can give you a carb boost to kick off your day.
- Canned beans – You may have noticed I mentioned beans twice. Why? They’re worth mentioning twice since they give you both carbs and protein!
Steer your shopping cart to the produce section, ladies! It’s time to grab fruits and veggies to complete our nutritious meals.
3. Add Some Color to Your Plate
Just like decorating your home makes you feel better, decorating your plate with colorful fruits and veggies makes your body feel better too. We should do this more often. Why? Only 1 in 10 people get enough fruits and veggies. Yikes! Let’s make sure you’re that “1 out of every 10.”
There are plenty of ways to get enough fruit and veggies without touching the stove! Here are a few ideas to try.
- Fresh fruit – This one might just be the most obvious, but it’s overlooked. Toss some fresh berries in your morning yogurt, or add an orange to your lunch – plus you’ll get a dose of Vitamin C with that citrus.
- Frozen fruit – Fresh isn’t necessarily best. Fruit has more nutrients right when it’s picked versus after sitting on the shelf for a few days. Frozen fruit is preserved right after picking, so you’ll actually get more nutrients from some frozen varieties.
- Fresh veggies with dip – I love Greek yogurt mixed with a ranch packet! If you’re not feeling ranch, pop the top on some hummus or creamy avocado dip to go with carrots or celery.
- Microwave frozen veggie bags – Just like frozen fruit, frozen veggies can have more nutrients than non-frozen! Plus, they’re pre-chopped and you can get a mix of so many types in one bag.
- Pre-washed lettuce – Lettuce that’s ready to eat right out of the bag makes whipping up a salad, or dressing up a wrap even easier and gives you some of the greens you need for the day.
- Coleslaw mix – I love mixing pre-washed and prepped lettuce with coleslaw mix for a super quick salad.
6 No-cook Meal Ideas
Let’s make a meal!
Here are six ideas for how to use the 3-step method to plan a meal.
- Turkey & cheese sandwich on whole grain bread with a side of sliced cucumbers & dip
- Greek yogurt with crunchy granola and fresh (or frozen) berries
- Rotisserie chicken with microwave rice & a side salad
- Charcuterie plate (aka adult lunchables) with whole grain crackers, deli meat and cheese, fresh grapes, and baby bell peppers
- Cooked shrimp tossed into a bowl of microwaveable cilantro lime rice, topped with canned corn, black beans, and a drizzle of chipotle ranch
- Whole wheat toast topped with fresh green avocado and strips of smoked salmon
“Healthy” doesn’t mean “boring!” You can use fun dressings, dips, and condiments to add some pizzazz to a no-cook meal, like drizzling sriracha on a chicken & rice bowl.
Eating Healthy Doesn’t Have to be Perfect
So many women don’t prioritize healthy meals because they feel like they need to wait until their life is perfect and they suddenly have all the time in the world to cook picture-perfect meals. But real life just doesn’t work that way.
When you’re in the mood you can absolutely make some more elaborate and fun recipes. But having a list of easy, no-cook meals in your back pocket is so helpful when real life happens.
If you’re ready for some help filling your belly (and your family’s) with healthy meals when you’re busy, I’m ready! I can show you how to find balance with food using a realistic, flexible approach!