24 December 2013 Fast Dinners for Busy Dieters

Supermarket Guru Phil Lempert has a list of Top 10 trends for 2014. One of which is “Indie Women”. Nothing to do with indie films or women from India. This trend is about 20-something single career women, with no children, living alone and too busy to plan meals. Why is this a supermarket trend? Because supermarkets and food companies can create premade meals to help these busy young women eat dinner.

Young indie women aren’t the only busy people. Plenty of other women and men are frequently too busy to prepare evening meals. If this sounds like you, pre-made dinners might sound like a better plan than chips and dip or a bowl of ice cream. But if your store doesn’t carry take out food or frozen dinners, you aren’t doomed to eat junk food. With just a little planning you can put together a quick meal for one or more people.

Quick meals are great, but dieters have some other requirements: low calorie, high protein, high fiber and satisfying. A pre-made meal won’t be very helpful if you’re hungry an hour later. Here are 7 ideas for quick evening meals for busy dieters:

1. Smoked salmon* with sautéed vegetables

This is not about lox, which is typically sliced very thin and used on bagels. You can buy fillets of flakey smoked salmon in most grocery stores now. It’s ready to eat and delicious. Portion out 3 to 4 oz, depending on what you need for calories. Use pre-cut bagged vegetables like broccoli, snow peas, cauliflower, sweet peppers, string beans or summer squash. Brush a pan with peanut oil (or oil of your choice) and sauté 1-2 cups of veggies. *alternative to smoked salmon: canned salmon or tuna, pre-cooked shrimp Calories: 400-500 depending on how much salmon you use and how much oil for your vegetable sauté.

2. Vegetable omelet with tossed salad

Scramble 2 eggs and cook your omelet in a pan brushed with olive oil (or oil of your choice). Fill the omelet with chopped onion, mushrooms, sweet peppers, chopped tomatoes, or minced broccoli. Sprinkle 1 TB of grated parmesan cheese over the vegetables before folding the omelet over. Serve with a salad of dark tossed leafy greens with a dash of olive oil vinaigrette. Calories: around 400, depending on how much vinaigrette dressing you use.

3. Burger patty with sautéed greens and mushrooms

Grill or pan fry 4 oz of ground meat of choice: low fat beef, bison, turkey. Rinse a bunch of greens (chard, kale, fresh spinach, beet greens), trim off stems and slice into large pieces. Slice 4-5 mushrooms. Saute the greens and mushrooms in a pan brushed with oil of your choice. Season with soy sauce, or just salt and pepper. Serve your burger with condiments like ketchup, mustard, BBQ sauce, chopped tomatoes, sliced onion, or sautéed mushrooms and peppers. Calories: depending on what meat and condiments you choose, from 400-500 calories.

4. Soup and sides

Use a quality (low sodium/no MSG) soup, preferably vegetable or minestrone. To boost satiety, throw some extra frozen vegetables to the soup, such as cut green beans, peas, lima beans, edamame, chopped spinach or carrots, or 1/4 cup of canned beans like kidney or pinto. Portion out 2 oz of a high protein food of your choice: cheese, cottage cheese, hard boiled eggs, deli turkey, leftover cooked chicken or canned tuna. You can add the protein food to a green side salad or to the soup, for a one pot meal. Calories: around 400, depending on your portion size.

5. Yogurt and Fruit

This option works well for hot summer evenings, especially when fresh fruit is in season. Nonfat Greek style yogurt will boost the protein content of the meal while keeping calories low. Dish up 8 oz of yogurt and either mix fruit chunks or berries in, or make a small fruit salad. Calories: around 400 depending on how the yogurt is sweetened and how much fruit you use.

6. Grilled chicken breast and frisée salad

Grill a chicken breast, either boned or bone-in (takes longer to cook), brushed with a tiny amount of olive oil. Make a quick frisée salad with packaged pre-shredded vegetables: cabbage, Brussels sprouts, carrots, radishes, red onion and sweet peppers are great choices. Dress the salad with vinegar (cider vinegar works well), salt and pepper. Add a tiny pinch of dried dill or caraway seeds for extra flavor. Flavor the chicken with a condiment of your choice, such as salsa, mustard, BBQ sauce or an Asian-style sauce. Calories: 300-500 depending on the size of the chicken breast and which condiments are used.

7. Tossed salad

A big tossed salad, with a big variety of vegetables, is a satisfying evening meal that doesn’t need to break the calorie bank. The key is to use a bare minimum of oil-based dressing and definitely add a high protein food like leftover cooked chicken or turkey, grated cheese, feta cheese, cooked fish like salmon, shrimp or tuna, chunks of tofu, or some combination of these. One flavorful combination is 3 oz cooked turkey plus 1 TB grated Parmesan. Use a low calorie dressing if you like. Using 1 TB of olive oil plus vinegar, salt and pepper boosts your intake of healthy fats. Calories: 400-500, depending on which protein foods you choose and how large your salad is in general.

Again the key word is planning. You can throw together one of these lightning fast meals if you’ve got the right foods in your pantry or refrigerator, so the first step is to make a shopping list. Here are some suggestions:

  • Smoked salmon
  • Pre-cooked shrimp
  • Canned fish of your choice
  • Cheese
  • Cottage cheese
  • Ground meat patties (freeze if you don’t use the up quickly)
  • Pre-cooked chicken or turkey breast meat
  • Eggs
  • Oil: olive, peanut, canola or other oil of choice
  • Frozen vegetables: green beans, peas, carrots, broccoli, edamame, chopped spinach
  • Fresh pre-cut vegetables: snow peas, broccoli, sweet peppers, mushrooms, carrots, cauliflower, shredded cabbage, etc.
  • Pre-washed, ready-to-use salad greens
  • Whole vegetables: peppers, mushrooms, onions, tomatoes
  • Soups: canned or self-stable packaging, varieties that emphasize vegetables rather than noodles, rice or meat.

Prepared sauces can perk up the flavors in simple meals. While sauces do add some calories, but flavorful sauces and condiments have a big flavor impact in small portions. Here are some ideas for sauces:

  • Korean
  • Japanese
  • Chinese
  • Thai or Indian curry and chili pastes
  • Hot sauce and Sriracha
  • BBQ sauces
  • Salsas
  • Mustards
  • Soy sauce
  • Balsamic vinegar

Some sauces must be diluted with water or broth, so check the directions on the label. Most should be refrigerated after opening.

Donna P. Feldman MS RDN

Nutrition journalist at Radio Nutrition

Co-host: Walk Talk Nutrition podcast.

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Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.

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Meal Planning & Diets/Dinner

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