Thursday, December 19, 2013

Essential Ingredients for a Healthy Meal… Anytime!

I know I’m not the only one who’s suffering from holiday-itis. I’m exhausted. Are you exhausted? A few days off for the holidays feels long overdue. Whether you’re worn out because things have been crazy at work or school or you’re just ready for a break, there’s one thing that I find gets particularly difficult when I’m tired: eating healthy.

Have you ever noticed that when the stress levels rise, suddenly a frozen pizza or dinner at the local pub out sounds so enticing? When I’ve had a long day (or week), it’s hard to rustle up enough energy to think of a healthy meal (much less cook it). Plus, with the holidays just around the corner, delicious sugary treats like cookies and sweet breads are around in abundance.
Christmas holiday treats
This season is full of stress and sugar--but it's still important to keep eating healthy as much as possible!
Image: Shutterstock

So what’s a girl to do? Sure, sometimes I’ll give in and eat that frozen pizza (it’s okay to live sometimes!)—just don’t let it become a habit. The best advice I have is to keep healthy basic ingredients in the house, so that when you don’t have the time or energy to get creative, you still have a healthy meal to eat.

I’ve found that the following ingredients enable me to whip up a quick meal in just a few minutes—and it’s tasty to boot!

Frozen Chicken Breasts or Salmon (you can buy these fresh and freeze them yourself if you prefer)

Just defrost in the microwave or with warm water and then bake, grill, sauté, or stir-fry them as you feel fit. For chicken, I always keep lemon pepper on hand (it really livens the flavor up), and salmon goes well with a simple glaze like honey lemon.

Frozen Vegetables

Frozen veggies certainly aren’t as good as fresh produce, but they can be lifesavers. Choose a medley or particular vegetable that you enjoy, and then on those busy nights you can just steam or sautee them back to life. Add in a little garlic powder, olive oil, and pepper to give them a kick.

Whole Grains

I love wild rice. It takes a little longer to cook, but it’s not exactly work to cook rice. Pairing wild rice with a baked lemon-pepper chicken breast and veggies on the side is a fiber-and-flavor filled meal that’s super easy to boot. If you’re not a fan of wild rice, you can also try cous cous, whole grain pasta (in moderate proportions), or brown rice.


I know, eggs are typically a morning food. But, hey, there’s nothing wrong with breakfast at dinner from time to time. Whip up a quick omelet with those frozen veggies and pair it with a side of whole-wheat toast.

 Salad Fixings

I tend to think that dinner should be more complicated than a salad, but that’s not true. When I remember, I try to keep some dark leafy greens (like arugula, spinach, or kale) on hand. Mix those together with some dried cranberries, nuts, cheese, and a tiny bit of dressing and you’ve got yourself a lovely little dinner salad!

Frozen Meatballs and Marinara

I discovered this lovely combo when living with roommates. If you can find lean chicken or turkey meatballs (try Trader Joe’s), this is a super fast meal to whip up. Just cook the meatballs over the stove with some marinara sauce—no pasta necessary! Add some veggies on the side, and it’s a perfectly sized meal.

During the holidays, it can be particularly difficult to keep up a healthy eating regimen. How are you handling the extra excitement, and how do you plan on staying healthy?