We’ve all had those nights: You’re home late from work. Picking up the kids from various activities has thrown your schedule way back.
Or maybe you’re just all cooped up and you’re looking for a simple, creative meal that everyone will love.
Your stomach is growling. The kids are hangry.
The temptation is strong to swing by a fast food drive-through for a quick fix.
But deep inside, you know that’s not the best nutritional solution—and you’ll regret your decision as soon as the soda gurgles at the bottom of that paper cup.
While I generally encourage home-cooked meals, I understand the reality that our busy lives sometimes make this ideal difficult to achieve.
Here are some handy recipes you can throw together in a pinch to get a healthful meal on the table in no time.
My nine favorites:
1. Black bean quesadillas
Simply add a can of no-salt-added black beans to a whole grain tortilla with shredded cheese and a handful of baby spinach, then cook on a heated pan until the cheese is melted.
If your kids are food detectives, mash up white beans and spread in a thin layer on the tortilla before adding toppings. That adds some hidden nutrition.
2. Chicken or tofu stir-fry
As time does not allow for much produce prep on these evenings, I opt for frozen stir-fry vegetables and a quick homemade teriyaki sauce of honey and tamari or soy sauce.
Serve alongside brown rice—keep some ready to go in the freezer, refrigerator, or opt for a bag of microwavable rice. If you’re lucky, you may even have leftover chicken on hand that you can slice up. If not, quickly squeeze the moisture from firm tofu, dice and stir-fry away!
3. Tortellini pasta
I try to keep a well-stocked kitchen, complete with pantry staples for Plan B nights. A few of the staples? Whole grain tortellini, spinach and marinara sauce.
When you get home, begin simmering the marinara in a medium saucepan on the stove. In a separate skillet over medium, toss your fresh spinach or slowly heat your frozen spinach. Add the cooked tortellini to the spinach—or keep separated for little ones still learning to enjoy these flavors together—and top with the marinara. If you have any leftover chicken, turkey or beef, you could certainly serve this in or alongside this dish.
4. Corny salmon cakes
These are amazing and perfect finger foods for little ones. You can find the recipe here from the Meal Makeover Moms.
5. Black bean burgers
I often make my own and freeze an extra six or so, however you can also stock up on your favorite veggie burger as a quick and easy backup. My favorite recipe can be found here from the Six O’Clock Scramble.
6. Egg sandwiches
All you need is whole grain bread, eggs, cheese and, if you prefer, fresh spinach leaves and sliced tomatoes. If you want to take things up a notch, add sliced avocado.
Serve sunny-side up alongside a dish of fresh fruit for a complete—and completely simple—supper.
Think pizza on a tortilla. In all honesty, we have even made these using whole grain bread or portabella mushrooms. All you need is mozzarella, tomato sauce and the toppings of your choice.
8. Super sloppy joes
Another winner is this healthy sloppy Joe recipe made from ground meat (consider lean turkey), whole grain buns and the veggies of your choice. Done and done.
9. Taco or wrap night
This meal can be served in a variety of ways. Whether you choose to go with traditional beef or bean tacos in a hard corn tortilla, or you choose to mix things up, the goal is to have a self-serve meal to save a bit of effort on your end.
My family loves these fish tacos from Real Mom Nutrition.