The reason I am writing this post is because I repeatedly hear from patients that they don’t know what to eat for dinner. I’d suggest starting out by incorporating one or two ideas that sound good to you. Over time build on those. It’s not complicated! You’ll eventually see that it doesn’t take nearly as much time and effort as you thought to eat healthy.
I’ve blogged about meal ideas in the past as a non-meat eater. Previous pics of my food often included beans, lentils, tofu, quinoa and plenty of veggies. This past year I made some pretty huge changes to my diet. While I have kept the fruit and veggie intake up there I have replaced a lot of the legumes and grains with animal products. This works for me but if you feel better with less meat and more grains/legumes then do it. There is no right or wrong diet: It’s all about paying attention and eating in accordance to YOUR needs.
When I think about what to make for meals, I basically pick a meat/seafood plus vegetables. I count sweet potatoes with vegetables and we could argue this but let’s not. Veggies supply so many healthy nutrients for your body– fiber, antioxidants, phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals– that it’s smart to make them a significant part of your meals. All veggies are good. Get a variety. I often choose a green plus another color.
I’ve taken some shots of a few things I’ve eaten recently to give you some basic ideas. Once you are in the habit of keeping a variety of healthy foods in your house you will quickly learn how effortless it is to put things together. I go with a combo of what we have available along with what I feel my body needs.
1. First up: A meal you can make in less than 15 minutes. Actually, I think all of them are! Don’t be afraid to rely on frozen foods. Here I have a bag of frozen shrimp and a veggie medley from Trader Joe’s.
I use my folding steamer basket placed in a large pan with water. Steam a few shrimp and plenty of vegetables until done; it doesn’t take long.
Here is how it looks once cooked with no sauce:
Use dry spices or a condiment of your choice for flavor. Or melt some butter or coconut butter/oil over it. We had this Korean BBQ sauce from Whole Foods:
The final meal: YUM!
2. Not in the mood for shrimp? How about chicken thighs?
I can’t believe how much I have learned about cooking meat this year.
I went from “not interested” to soaking up everything I could.
The biggest surprise is that it is so much easier than I imagined.
To make these lovely organic chicken thighs, place them in a baking dish, season and bake for about 30 minutes at 350. I recommend using a meat thermometer to check that the internal temp has reached 165 for done-ness.
That’s the Korean BBQ sauce again but we’ve also used terriyaki as well as dry chicken seasoning spices. Pair it up with a huge green salad and you’ve got your meal.
3. Here is a light meal we ate when it was on the late side and we weren’t terribly hungry. Other nights those portions might be doubled.
King crab legs, kale and pumpkin:
King crab legs may be one of my top 5 favorite foods of all time. They are not cheap but Whole Foods had a half price sale one weekend so we took advantage. The green stuff is kale (from a frozen bag) and the orange is pumpkin with cinnamon (from a pumpkin this fall that was cooked, pureed and stored in the freezer). You could also have butternut squash. They even sell bags of frozen cubes to save you the work of peeling and chopping.
4. Ground beef with onions,mushrooms and tomatoes also makes for a fast and delicious meal. Mix and match any veggies here. We buy our ground beef from Watson Farm in Jamestown where they grass-feed and pasture raise their cows. This is how cows are supposed to live and eat, which is very different from how most of the beef in our country are raised. Seek out the little places that are doing it right. It may cost a little more but one way to look at it is you either pay now or pay later with sickness, medical bills and medications. With everything you buy, you really are placing a vote with your dollars for what you believe in.
Off the soap box and back to the meal idea! Start by cooking up some chopped onions and mushrooms in a little olive oil or coconut oil in a large pan:
Cook for a few minutes. I have no exact time but I’d estimate until the onions begin to soften and are a little more than halfway cooked. There is no need to get stressed about exactness with cooking. Just relax and have fun in the kitchen– I have no clue what I am doing either but you learn by doing and you won’t learn by dialing up Dominoes or microwaving a frozen dinner.
Next add in your ground beef:
Break it up with a utensil and incorporate it with the hot onions and mushrooms.
Stir around until the beef browns and is thoroughly cooked. Getting there….
Now add tomato sauce. I think I used about half the jar, but there is no right or wrong answer here. Sometimes I use canned diced tomatoes:
Stir in the tomato sauce until warm and you’re done:
That was so easy, only one pan to clean, hardly took up any time and made plenty so there will be leftovers for the next day!
Don’t forget to serve with a bunch of veggies and not a bunch of pasta! You could make a salad or steam spinach, kale, collards or swiss chard. It’s great over spaghetti squash too. One of my tricks is to place a couple of huge handfuls of mixed salad greens into a bowl and then add on top whatever other food I made.
Bags of salad greens can be pricey but these large bins are more economical and last longer:
I like it like this but if you find it too weird, then just eat your salad separately! I happen to like fresh greens with each bite of beef but that’s just me. Not to mention, one-dish meals means only one dish to wash!
5. This last meal involves a frozen seafood medley of scallops, shrimp and calamari with a coconut red curry sauce, a reheated sweet potato and a steamed portobello mushroom cap with guacamole:
Tip: Bake a few sweet potatoes at a time to store in the fridge so that you can just pop a leftover one into the toaster oven while you get the rest of your food ready.
This is the seafood medley from Trader Joe’s:
I add a little bacon grease or coconut oil to a frying pan and stir the seafood around until thoroughly cooked. The coconut curry sauce is simply canned coconut milk with red curry paste. Add that in with your cooked seafood and heat– easy and delicious!
In addition to your vegetables and protein, one other meal component to think about is fat. Fat does some amazing things in our bodies– and as with all foods, go for the REAL thing and none of those fake I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter spreads. Avocado is a delicious food to incorporate into your life. I love whole avocados but we almost always have mini packs of guacamole in the fridge to add instant fat and deliciousness to a meal. Another way I often have fat at a meal is in the form of dessert! Dark chocolate or cookies/balls made with nut butters, coconut butter or almond flour can balance out an otherwise low-fat meal like the shrimp and veggies pictured above.
Do you now understand how easy meals can be? You have to trust me that once you start cooking and doing it, it will become second-nature. Yes, even I get into ruts where I don’t know what I feel like having so I end up making a big bowl of popcorn and eating an apple with almond butter or something. It’s okay to not eat a “protein/vegetable” meal every night. But you know what– I feel better when I eat this way and I am pretty certain that most people do too.
One final thought: Use your intuition when deciding what to eat. Ask yourself what sounds good to your taste buds but will also nourish your body. Check in with yourself and try to figure out what your body needs and what is going to leave you feeling satisfied. Real, wholesome foods will do this while processed foods stripped of their nutrition won’t. Instead of looking externally for the answer to the “what should I eat?” question, practice searching inside yourself.
I hope you found some ideas here that maybe you had not thought of before. If right now you don’t make any decent meals, start with whatever is realistic to you, even if it’s just 1-2 nights per week. These ideas don’t have to apply only to dinners— use them for lunches or snacks too. Get out of the sandwich, pizza, pasta rut and eat more REAL foods. Any progress, no matter how small, is a great thing. Happy cooking!