Healthy food ingredients to keep in the pantry for weeknight cooking
With some key healthy ingredients on hand, its easy to put together meals when you get home from work. These ideas are so easy, even a busy bachelor can do it! I created these meal ideas along with grocery lists and a few recipes for a male client who doesn’t know how to cook and was very intimidated with the thought of putting together healthy meals. He loves it and not eating out every night or relying on frozen pizza is helping him reach his health goals.
Below are idea combinations, but feel free to mix and match. Scroll down and I give you a grocery list, a Trader Joe’s Grocery list, a list of my favorite whole grain cereals, best-tasting low-cal salad dressing and a few simple recipes.
In addition here are some more ideas to help you make quick and healthy meals.
- Bowls: grain, meat and veggies
- Casseroles, these can be made ahead and leftovers reheated
- Soups: these can be made ahead and leftovers reheated
- Make ahead salads
- Keep cooked protein on hand (Costco chicken, cut and frozen), cooked frozen shrimp, grill chicken to use later in the week
- Breakfast for dinner: scrambled eggs + Veg; pancakes
- Quesadillas: easy to have items on hand to make
- Crockpot or instapot: you can even do freezer to crockpot meals. Do a google search.
- Meal prep ahead: Spend a couple hours a couple times a week to prepare soups, salads, vegetables, casseroles, meat for later in the week.
- Pantry staples list: having a list makes shopping easier.
- Shopping lists: have master lists for frequently shopped stores
- Shopping area in kitchen: have a designated area with pen, paper, coupons and store sale flyers
- Favorite recipe cookbook: put all the healthy recipes you have tried and like in one notebook.
- Section of easy peasy meals, no recipe ideas in you family favorite cookbook notebook
- Create a file with “to try” recipes
- Enlist help: kids can help! Here is a list of age appropriate tasks for kids in the kitchen. This will help you teach your kid how to cook by age.
Easy Meal Ideas
Grain Bowls: lots of recipes online!
Rotisserie Chicken + Salad or Cooked Vegetables (Broccoli, Greens, Asparagus, Zucchini) + Cooked Whole Grains
Chicken Caesar Salad + 2 Tbs reduced fat Caesar Dressing + 2 Tbs Parmesan
Canned Turkey Chili + Brown Rice + Reduced Fat Sharp Cheddar + Reduced Fat Sour Cream
Chicken Saute + Trader Joe’s Masala Sauce + Cooked Whole Grains
Tuscany Chicken – see recipe
Sandwich + Raw Vegetables + 2 Tbs Low-fat Ranch
Shrimp Sauté or Fish (Trader Joe’s frozen) or Chicken + Cooked Vegetables (Broccoli, Greens, Asparagus, Zucchini) + Cooked Whole Grains
Salad greens + tomato + lean meat or fish or canned albacore tuna + 2 Tbs low-fat dressing + 2 Tbs pumpkin seeds
2 eggs + 1 egg white Scrambled Eggs + Mushrooms or other veggie + 2 Tbs reduced fat cheese + 1 slice Dave’s Killer Bread + 1 tsp Brummel and Brown
Trader Joe’s Quinoa Melange + Cooked Vegetables (Broccoli, Greens, Asparagus, Zucchini) or Salad
Trader Joe’s Vegetable Lasagna + Salad OR Cooked Vegetables
Oatmeal + Skim Milk + 2 Tbs Walnuts + 1 cup Fruit
Scrambled Eggs or omelet, Dave’s Toast, Fruit
Wrap with a spread of light cream cheese, leftover meat or lunchmeat and veggies
Red sauce and pasta and meat and steamed green beans
Cheese Quesadillas with Black beans and bell pepper, salsa and reduced fat sour cream
Chili with reduced fat cheese and salsa and reduced fat sour cream
Taco Bowls: Brown rice, black beans or chili, tomatoes, chopped spinach, cheese, sour cream, salsa
Oven baked salmon with roasted vegetables (butternut squash, broccoli, carrots, and cauliflower)
Wrap using tortilla, light cream cheese, reduced fat may, mustard, pesto, sliced tomato, greens, leftover chicken, or natural lunchmeat
Sandwich with Dave’s Bread, reduced fat mayo, lunch meat and veggies (spinach, tomatoes, olives, onion)
BBQ Chicken Breasts and roasted cauliflower
Baked Potato with Beans and Cheese + Salad OR Cooked Vegetable OR Fruit
Trader Joe’s Masala Sauce + Trader Joe’s Organic Firm Tofu + Black Beans served on brown rice
Trader Joe’s Masala Sauce + Trader Joe’s Organic Firm Tofu + Chopped Fresh Spinach served with steamed green beans
Cottage cheese stuffed baked potatoes. Scoop out the inside of a baked potato, and mix those tater guts with one cup of cottage cheese
Salads, See Salad Inspiration Ideas
Cold Cereal or Oatmeal, Milk and Frozen organic blueberries or cherries + flaxseed meal
Rotisserie chicken from the deli + Salad or Cooked Vegetables Or Fruit
Shrimp sautéed in olive oil and garlic + Roasted Veggies or Salad + Healthy Harvest Pasta or Brown Rice
Peanut Butter Sandwiches on Dave’s Bread or Whole Wheat Tortilla + Skim Milk + Fruit
Also consider Trader Joe’s grocery list items for meal ideas. (Frozen entrees, grains sides dishes and frozen meats)
Grocery List of Foods to Keep in Your Pantry
2% Reduced Fat Cheddar Shredded
Any ingredients you need to make the salads below.
Bran Flakes, TOTAL, Frosted Mini-Wheats original Kellogg’s, Kashi Autumn Wheat, Kashi GoLean Crisp! Multigrain Cluster Cereal, Kashi’s Heart to Heart
Brummel and Brown Spread for toast
Canned Albacore Tuna packed in water
Canned TURKEY Chili, Fat-Free Chili with Beans, canned
Cottage Cheese, 2%
Dave’s Killer Bread 21
Deli Turkey or Chicken no preservatives, without nitrate or nitrite, also called natural. Boars Head a good brand.
Frozen organic blueberries or cherries
Fruit (apple, berries, banana, orange)
Healthy Harvest Pasta
Nonfat or Skim Milk
Olive Oil, extra virgin
Reduced Fat Cream Cheese
Reduced fat mayo
Reduced Fat Sharp Cheddar Cheese
Reduced Fat Sour Cream
Rotisserie Chicken from the deli
Salad Dressing, see list of choices
Shrimp (fresh or bagged frozen)
Vegetables Broccoli, Cauliflower, Greens, Asparagus, Zucchini, Tomato, Onion, Mushrooms, Tomatoes, Spinach, Salad Greens, Salad Toppings, Green Beans, Russet Potatoes, Bell Pepper, Butternut Squash
Whole Wheat Tortillas, Mission, Burrito size
Also See Trader Joe’s Grocery List
Trader Joe’s List
Organic Extra Firm Tofu
Vegetables (Precut butternut squash, spinach, precut cauliflower, green beans, tomatoes, greens, Healthy 8 tub of chopped vegetables, avocadoes)
10 minute farro or barley
Deli turkey or chicken, no preservatives
Roasted Broccoli You can use this method for cauliflower, butternut squash, or carrots. Time to cook will be different.
• 1 pound broccoli, rinsed and trimmed and dried
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
• 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan or sharp reduced fat Cheddar, optional
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Cut the broccoli florets into bite size pieces. Cut the stalk into 1/8-inch thick, round slices. Place the broccoli into a mixing bowl and toss with the olive oil, salt and pepper and set aside.
Put broccoli on a foil lined baking sheet and place in the oven and roast just until the broccoli is tender, 8 to 10 more minutes. Remove from the oven, toss in the cheese and serve immediately.
Steamed Green Beans
Prepare 1 1/2 to 2 pounds of fresh green beans by snapping them or cutting them to approximately 1 inch in length and rinsing them.
Place 1 inch salted water in a large pot. Add green beans, cover, and bring to a boil. Cook until green beans are tender to the bite about 15-20 minutes (depending on how crisp you like your cooked green beans). Drain into a colander.
Baked Potato with Beans and Cheese
Wash and poke a couple holes in a baker (russet) potato. Microwave until soft. Cut in half and top with 3/4 cup canned, drained black beans or chili. Top with 3 Tbs 2% reduced fat sharp cheddar, put back in the microwave to heat the beans and melt the cheese. Top with salsa.
Brown 4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts cut into cubes and 1 small chopped onion, in an oiled skillet over medium. 1 can Italian style stewed tomatoes. Cover and simmer 5-7 minutes. Serve over cooked whole grains.
-5 eggs, remove 3 yolks
-2 tablespoons water
-1/4 cup shredded reduced fat cheddar
-Sautéed veggies: Choose from a combination of cooked asparagus, cooked broccoli, cooked onions or red pepper fresh mushrooms, cooked tomatoes, spinach
In a bowl, separate the eggs discarding 3 of the yolks. Beat eggs, water, salt, and pepper until frothy.
In a small sauté pan, cook vegetables.
Wipe oil onto the bottom of a large nonstick skillet. Pour in eggs and cook covered, over medium heat, 6 to 7 minutes until bottom is lightly browned and top is set. Spoon hot sautéed veggies over half the omelet, and then gently slide it out of skillet onto platter, folding the half without filling over bottom half. Sprinkle top with cheese.
Black Bean Wrap
On 1 8-inch whole-wheat tortilla, mash ¼ cup drained and rinsed black beans with a fork. Sprinkle with a pinch of cumin, a pinch of paprika, and 1 tbsp. cheddar cheese. Roll up and microwave for 30 seconds. Serve with 2 tbsp. salsa.
Honey Soy Salmon
Preheat the broiler and combine ½ tbsp. honey with ½ tsp. soy sauce. Season 1 5-oz. salmon filet with salt and pepper and broil for five minutes. Drizzle with honey-soy sauce and broil an additional 2-5 minutes.
Chopped Pecans, Chopped Apple, Feta Cheese Crumbles, Pomegranate Seeds, on a bed of fresh greens served with a low-fat Vinaigrette Salad Dressing.
Barbecue Chicken Chopped Salad
Grilled Chicken Breast, Bbq Sauce, Chopped Romaine Lettuce, Black Beans, Cubed Jicama, Pumpkin Seeds Corn, Diced Tomatoes and Red Onion. Serve With Lowfat Or Reduced Fat Ranch Dressing or Cilantro Dressing.
Grilled Chicken, Shrimp or Flank Steak, Chopped Romaine Lettuce, Sliced Black Olives, Black Beans, Red Bell Pepper, Chopped Fresh Cilantro, Reduced Fat Sharp Cheddar Cheese, Cubed Jicama, Corn, Pumpkin seeds, Diced Tomatoes and Red or Green Onion and Tortilla Chip Strips. Serve With Lowfat Or Reduced Fat Ranch Dressing mixed with some Chipotle in Adobe or Cilantro Dressing.
Shrimp, Berry and Goat Cheese Salad
Warm Sautéed Shrimp on a Mound Of Crisp Mixed Greens, Sliced Strawberries, Raspberries And Blueberry With A Crumble Of Goat Cheese.
Chicken Fajita Salad
Sautéed Chicken Breast, Sautéed Onions, Garlic And Red Pepper Strips Served Atop A Generous Mound Of Crisp Mixed Greens, Reduced Fat Sharp Cheddar, Black Olives, Salsa, Reduced Fat Or Fat Free Sour Cream And Avocado Cubes.
Crisp Mixed Greens (Your Choice Of Spinach, Romaine, Red Leaf) Carrots, Red Cabbage, Tomato, Cucumber And Thinly Sliced Red Onions. Add Cooked Shrimp, Chicken Or Salmon. Serve With A Reduced Fat Balsamic Vinaigrette.
Fresh Crisp Chopped Romaine Lettuce Tossed With Reduced Fat Caesar Dressing And Shredded Parmesan Cheese. Top with Grilled Chicken, Shrimp Or Salmon.
Grilled Chicken Breast, Berries (Blueberry, Blackberry, Raspberry Or Strawberry), Low Fat Feta Crumbles, Toasted Chopped Walnuts Served Atop A Generous Mound Of Mixed Greens. Serve With A Reduced Fat Balsamic Vinaigrette Or Raspberry Vinaigrette.
Crisp Mixed Greens, Small Cooked Shrimp Or Chopped Cooked Chicken, Chopped Hard Cooked Egg, Avocado, Tomatoes, Black Olive Slices And Chopped Red Onion, Chives Or Green Onion, A Smidge Of Crumbled Roquefort Or Blue Cheese With A Dijon Red Wine Vinaigrette.
Spinach Salad with Mandarin Oranges
Spinach, Sliced Mushrooms, Mandarin Oranges, Toasted slivered almond, red onion rings tossed with a sweet vinaigrette.
Here are my favorite bottle salad dressings.
Annie’s Goddess Light
Bernstein’s Cheese Fantastico
Bolthouse Farms Reduced fat Blue Cheese
Girard’s Light Caesar
Girard’s Light Champagne
Hidden Valley Ranch Light
Hidden Valley Ranch Light
Ken’s Steakhouse Lite Raspberry
Lite Northern Italian w/ Basil & Romano
Newman’s Own Lighten Up! Light Balsamic Vinaigrette
Newman’s Own Lighten Up! Lowfat Sesame Ginger
Oppa Caesar (refrigerated)
Trader Joe’s Reduced Fat Cilantro Salad Dressing
Wishbone Just 2 Good! Ranch, French or Blue Cheese
Wishbone Raspberry Hazelnut Vinaigrette
Wishbone Red Wine
Wishbone Taste of Life Garden Italian or Honey; Catalina
Healthy Whole Grain Cereals
Nature’s Path Optimum 1 cup has 190 calories, 10 whopping grams of fiber, half the sodium as Wheaties, 16 grams sugar, 200 mg sodium.
A kid friendly cereal is Barbara’s Puffins which has flavors from cinnamon to peanut butter, and is rich in whole-grains and fiber, low in salt and added sugar and free of artificial flavor and color enhancers.
Uncle Sam has 237 calories, 11 grams of fiber, 6 grams of fat, 1 gram of sugar for a large 55 g serving.
Kashi’s Heart to Heart in a ¾ cup has 110 calories, 5 grams of fiber, 5 grams sugar, and only 90 mg sodium.
Kashi GoLean Crisp! Multigrain Cluster Cereal
Erewhon Crispy Brown Rice is gluten free (for those who have celiac disease), 110 calories, half a gram of fat and 1 gram of sugar for a 30 gram serving.
Bob’s Red Mill Meusli is gluten free (for those who have celiac disease), 110 calories, 3 grams of fat, 2 grams of fiber and 5 grams of sugar in a 29 gram serving.
Kashi Autumn Wheat has 180 calories, 1 gram of fat, 6 grams of fiber and 7 grams of sugar for 29 biscuits.
Kashi Simply Maize corn cereal contains 100 calories, 1 gram of fat, 2 grams of fiber and 6 grams of sugar for ¾ cup.
Whole Grain TOTAL contains only 97 calories, 1g of fat and 5g of sugars per 30g serving.
Frosted Mini-Wheats original Kellogg’s. A 30g serving of the original kind contains only 102 calories, less than 1g of fat, 3g of fiber, 6g of sugar, and 3mg of sodium.
Cheerios. A 30g serving of plain Cheerios contains 111 calories, 2g of fat, 4g of fiber, and 2g of sugar. The only snag is that they are slightly high in sodium with 213mg of sodium.
Post Grape-Nuts Flakes. A 30g serving of flakes has 106 calories, 1g of fat, 3g of fiber, 5g of sugar, and 140mg of sodium.
Kellogg’s Complete Wheat Bran Flakes have 92 calories, 6 grams of fat, 5 grams of fiber and 5 grams of sugar in a 29 gram serving.