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7 Things to Make for Dinner in Less than 30 Minutes

Posted 12/5/2016 by UHBlog

From relationship building to a good night's sleep, dinner is important to your mental and physical health. Talk to us about eating a healthy diet that sets you up for success.

7 Things to Make for Dinner in Less than 30 Minutes

Does your schedule allow for a good nutritious dinner? If not, your health might suffer. Studies show that families who regularly eat meals together build stronger relationships. Similarly, the combination of foods eaten at dinner – primarily proteins and carbohydrates – affect your blood sugar level, which has an impact on how well you feel.

Dinner often gets the short shrift, however, because of the planning it requires and the interruptions you may face in the evening, such as personal obligations and family activities.

“In our fast-paced world, it can be challenging to eat healthy dinners because they do take time to prepare,” says registered dietitian nutritionist Heather Butscher, MS, RDN, LD. “Many people have commitments in the evening and only have 30 minutes or so to get dinner ready before they leave again. Or, by the time they get home after work, they’re hungry and want to eat quickly. They might turn to less healthy options, like fast food or packaged dinners.”

If you want to eat healthy foods and have dinners that take 30 minutes or less to prepare, you have to have a strategy and plan in place, Butscher says.

“I recommend that people take a day or two a week where they do the prep and cook in bulk,” she says.

Some of Butscher's go-to's include:

  • Dried beans, which you've soaked and cooked in advance. Beans, such as chickpeas, can be tossed into salads, used to make hummus and/or added to chili or a homemade soup.
  • Rice that is prepared earlier so that it can easily be used in a stir-fry with a lean meat or tofu and vegetables.
  • Extra firm tofu that you cut into cubes then fried. The tofu can be tossed with a balsalmic glaze or other seasonings and used in tacos or other dishes during the week.
  • Green and red peppers that are sliced and fried in olive oil. Add onions, if you'd like. These can be added to any dish to ensure you're getting vegetables.
  • Chicken breasts, which can be either baked or pan fried in olive oil.

Along with these cooked and ready-to-go foods in your fridge, make sure you have ingredients such as garlic, onion and olive oil on hand, as well as dried products, including rice and pasta. Additionally, be sure to have some canned tuna and canned beans in the cabinet and a few packages of frozen vegetables in the freezer.

Now how do you pull it all together? Butscher recommends eating the meal as two courses: start off with cooked or raw vegetables to take the edge off, followed by a meal consisting of a protein and carbohydrate.

“The cornerstone of the dinner has to be the vegetables,” she says. “Eat the vegetables first because most of us don't get enough vegetables in our diets.”

Almost all the vegetables you serve can be microwaved and prepared quickly. Some ideas are green beans cooked in the microwave or chopped yams or sweet potatoes that have a little oil and seasonings added before microwaving.

For dinners that can be made in less than 30 minutes, Butscher recommends choosing one of these six choices:

  1. Grilled cheese sandwich on a whole grain bread. While she prefers a hard cheese, kids tend to like soft cheeses in this sandwich. Just go with the least processed option.
  2. A salad consisting of lettuce, vegetables, cheese, dried cranberries, cooked chickpeas and croutons with an olive oil-vinaigrette dressing.
  3. Tofu or chicken in a tortilla wrap, with the peppers and onions. Or use them as part of a stir-fry.
  4. A slow cooker meal made in the crock pot that includes a vegetable, carbohydrate and protein. One example is a dish consisting of chicken, vegetables and potatoes.
  5. Cooked or sautéed chicken breast to accompany a microwaved sweet potato dish.
  6. Tuna fish melts which are made by frying canned tuna and cheese in a skillet with a little oil. Once they are heated, add the ingredients on toasted bread or pita and put them back on the skillet to melt thoroughly.
  7. A homemade soup with vegetables, chicken and beans

Along with the meal, be sure to serve milk or water.

Heather Butscher, MS, RDN, LD is a registered dietitian nutritionist at University Hospitals Connor Integrative Health Network. You can request an appointment with Butscher or any other health care professional online.

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