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    You Ask, I Answer: Healthy Cooking/Dinner

    I really don’t have too much time to cook. I just grab a quick protein and vegetable to go, oatmeal for breakfast.

    I am having trouble with dinner. I had peanut butter sandwiches two days straight!

    Any suggestions?

    — Marta (last name withheld)
    Miami, FL

    One common obstacle to healthy eating for many people is including it into a busy schedule with long work hours and/or many social activities.

    After a 12-hour workday, the last thing most people want to do when they get home is break out the pots and pans and play chef for the night.

    There are two scenarios worth discussing here.

    If we are talking about situations where you get home extremely tired and hungry and the mere thought of even boiling water seems like a grating chore, let’s turn to frozen dinners.

    They should not be your daily dinner companion, but I do think busy people should have two or three in their freezer. It could very well make the difference between having a relatively healthy dinner or greasy Chinese takeout.

    Of course, not any frozen dinner will do.

    I recommend most the Kashi line. The Lemon Rosemary Chicken flavor, for example, contains 330 calories, a mere 1.5 grams of saturated fat, no trans fats, a respectable 5 grams of fiber, and just 1 gram of sugar.

    The Southwest Chicken and Lime Cilantro Shrimp flavors offer 80 less calories and an extra gram of fiber!

    The Sweet & Sour Chicken contains too much added sugar (25 grams, or 2 tablespoons’ worth) for me to fully recommend.

    Overall, you want to seek out frozen meals that contain:

    No more than 400 calories

    Four or less grams of saturated fat

    No more than 650 milligrams of sodium

    At least 5 grams of fiber

    Of course, it’s also very feasible to make very quick, healthy, delicious dinners. The key is to have your pantry and refrigerator “five-minute meal ready.”

    For example, always have small whole wheat tortilla wraps in the fridge.

    You can then throw in a cup of sauteed canned black beans and frozen corn, half an avocado, and a tablespoon of two or salsa for a healthy, delicilous burrito in a flash. Protein, plenty of fiber, and healthy fats in just minutes!

    It’s also wise to cook large amounts of healthy side dishes (i.e.: brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat pasta, whole wheat cous cous) on the weekend to keep in the fridge for situations like these. They can accompany anything from grilled chicken breasts to a soy patty.

    Although serious foodies will want to send me hate mail for the following suggestion, I am all about buying precut vegetables. If you’re pressed for time and can afford the extra cost, grab baby carrots, cubed butternut squash, broccoli florets, and pepper strips.

    If you are busy (or simply lack knife skills) you are more likely to snack on pineapple or watermelon at night if it is already cut up for you.

    Besides, as anyone who lives in a walking-centric city will agree, who wants to carry a whole watermelon from the supermarket to their apartment?

    Convenience is no longer a valid excuse for ringing up Domino’s. You are welcome to give them a call every so often, but realize that in this day and age, eating healthy can be attained by even the busiest of people.



    1. martalaura said on January 12th, 2008

      These are all excellent suggestions to become “health and meal smart”. The best part is that it is not radical off the wall. Thank you so much for sensible suggestions we can all live with.

    2. workout mommy said on January 13th, 2008

      I second the recommendation about the Kashi frozen meals. They are absolutely delicious! I love their new line of pizzas too. Check them out!

    3. Daphne said on March 7th, 2008

      Hey, do you mind sharing what you think of the nutritional profile of the Seeds of Change meals? I’m a vegetarian, and I haven’t been crazy about the Kashi vegetarian choices. Seeds of Change look awesome to me – reasonable calories, high protein and fiber – all vegetarian, and REALLY tasty, but I could be missing some things!

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