Dinner time rolls around and you shuffle to the kitchen, exhausted after a long day of work. You mosey to the fridge, poking your head in to look around. Prepping the chicken you thawed for dinner just sounds like so. much. work. So, you search the cupboards. No bueno. Back to the fridge… “there’s got to be something in there…” nope. Nada. Eventually, you resort to Google and search “what to eat when nothing sounds good.”
Hey girl, you’re not alone! We’ve all been wiped out after an energy-sucking day, left with zero motivation to cook. I get it, I’m busy and I know you are too! After making decisions all day, every day, we’re just over it.
In this blog post, we’ll talk about why your appetite might be in hiding, what to do about it, and what solutions will get a nourishing and satisfying dinner in your belly, with minimal effort (and as few dishes as possible, amiright?)
Hi, I’m Jamie, a Registered Dietitian and I’m on a mission to help women learn to create healthy, balanced habits surrounding food. Together, we work on selecting healthy food choices without the dreaded scale, and say “goodbye” to food guilt!
Let’s kick off this post with some of the reasons that nothing is sounding good or your hunger might not be that robust.
Reasons you don’t feel hungry
Can’t match Rachel Ray’s cooking energy, today? Even though you want to eat nutritious foods, you just can’t find your appetite. Where has it gone?
Sickness: the appetite thief
If you don’t feel like eating a gourmet meal when you’re cozied up on the couch feeling sick, I don’t blame you! Here are a few tips for finding the motivation to eat when you’re not feeling 100%.
- A short-term cold or flu bug – bland foods like eggs, plain chicken, or nuts. When you’re sick it’s important to eat protein so your body can fight off the bug, and stay hydrated!
- Nausea from pregnancy – did you know eating foods high in protein like bland chicken or beef may help keep the feeling of “morning sickness” at bay? Although it might not seem appealing, eating a little protein might be worth the relief.
- Chronic illness – there are many types of chronic illnesses that all need slightly different diets, but with mild appetite loss something that may help is eating with friends and family, so it feels more natural to join in.
A long day at work or even a weekend spent catching up on your To Do list can be SO tiring and drain all of your energy.
When we’re tired our bodies produce more ghrelin, the hunger hormone, and we tend to crave fatty and carb-rich foods instead of nutritious, filling ones. This can be so frustrating when you have health and wellness goals but feel drawn to a quick sugary snack like Pop-TartsⓇ or doughnuts.
When you’re all out of ideas it’s easy to push off your meal plan until you’re SO hungry you just can’t stand it anymore. But that often leads to a snap decision that brings you to a fast-food window.
I want to highlight that it’s perfectly fine to indulge sometimes, but I know how frustrating it can be when you’re trying to eat healthily! Whatever is zapping your appetite or motivation to meal prep probably won’t last forever, but for the days you need a quick go-to, I’ll share my favorite 25 balanced meal ideas!
Not in the mood to cook
Cooking takes time, and focus, and usually needs a lot of cleanup afterward. Sometimes we’re just not in the mood for all of the steps that go into it! Research has proven our motivation is controlled by the relationship between cost versus benefit, so if the meal you thought about making just doesn’t cut it, it might be time to revamp your menu and fall in love with cooking all over again.
If one of those reasons resonates with you, you’re not alone. In the next section, I’ll walk you through a quick framework for planning meals that are nourishing AND taste great…all while being ready really fast.
Then, I’ll share 25 ideas to inspire your next quick dinner.
How to plan a super quick meal
Pro tip for planning a meal? Include all three macronutrients!
All of the ideas I’m about to share are balanced with fat, protein, and a carbohydrate source – the same way I recommend building balanced snacks! This way you prioritize protein and include more than one food group, so you stay full longer.
Always remember you can substitute in your favorite ingredients and choose when you eat these meals – dinner for breakfast is A-OK with me!
What to eat when nothing sounds good: 25 balanced meal ideas
The good news is there are so many easy and balanced meal ideas that don’t take much of your energy to put together. There’s nothing wrong with grabbing frozen veggies, or chicken tenders that are ready to go. (Psssst.. want this list in a free PDF? Click here! )
- Ham or turkey & cheese sandwich with a side of fruit
- Rotisserie chicken with frozen microwaveable rice and veggies
- “Adult Lunchable”: cheese, crackers, deli meat, raw fruits or veggies with dip
- Frozen chicken tenders or nuggets on top of a salad
- BLT with a side salad
- Chickpea pasta with tomato sauce and frozen veggies
- Scrambled eggs with toast and fruit
- Fruit smoothie with yogurt and fruit
- Frozen pizza topped with shredded rotisserie chicken and drizzled with buffalo sauce
- Bell pepper-loaded nachos
- Egg and cheese sandwich on an English muffin with sliced apples
- Tuna sandwich with chips and baby carrots
- Chicken & cheese quesadilla with peppers
- Avocado toast with a fried egg
- Greek yogurt with frozen berries and granola
- High protein waffles with PB and fruit
- Chicken nuggets and veggies with high protein ranch dip (Greek yogurt + ranch seasoning)
- Macaroni and cheese with ground turkey and frozen broccoli mixed in
- Sliced chicken sausage sauteed with frozen peppers & served with microwave rice
- Grilled cheese (or ham and cheese) with tomato soup
- High protein pasta salad: chickpea pasta, mozzarella cheese, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, and red onion with Italian vinaigrette
- Cereal with higher protein milk and fruit
- Ground turkey sauteed with rice & veggies
- Salmon bowls with cucumber, rice, avocado, and spicy mayo
- Sheet pan chicken sausage with green beans and potatoes
Other places to find meal ideas
Something I like to do is browse Pinterest and save a board of tasty meal ideas. Or you can save favorite recipes you find scrolling through social media! Sometimes following along with a chef’s video on YouTube can be fun, too!
Pro tip: Keep easy and convenient foods stocked so that your go-to meals are a no-brainer. Foods like nuts, canned meats full of protein, beans, peanut butter, canned veggies, and your favorite protein powder are just a few ideas you can start with!
Feel free to mix and match any of the ideas above and add your own spin to them! You don’t have to color inside the lines here, and creativity is encouraged. If you need a little help developing long-lasting, healthy habits, check out the Balanced Breakthrough membership, where I work with you to ditch diets forever and learn how to make healthy, confident, and flexible food choices on your own!
These are great ideas. A lot of them are what I would consider breakfast or lunch meals, but no reason they can’t be dinner! Just need to reframe my thinking!
Question on #24: when you suggest a salmon bowl, short of cooking salmon, is there a short cut for the salmon on the bowl?
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