15 votes

What are some healthy convenience foods/recipes?

I've been making an effort to eat healthier but sometimes putting in the effort is hard--especially when tough life situations arise.

What are some foods and recipes I can have on hand that are dead simple yet nutritious?

Below are some guidelines of what I'm looking for. I'm open to any ideas, but the main feature is that it has to be EASY:

  • No prep or very low prep
    • If prep is needed, can be made in a large batch and stored as individual servings
  • Few ingredients
  • Prepackaged foods are an option (so if there's a great protein bar out there or something I'm totally open to it)
  • Instant pot is a cooking option (so if you've got any good pressure cooker dump recipes, let me have them!)

Any recommendations?

20 comments

  1. NaraVara Link
    Slow cookers are pretty clutch for this sort of thing. Lentil dishes are also cheap and very low effort once you get the staple sets of spices you'll need. Almost all the ingredients are extremely...

    Slow cookers are pretty clutch for this sort of thing.

    Lentil dishes are also cheap and very low effort once you get the staple sets of spices you'll need. Almost all the ingredients are extremely shelf-stable with the exception of the tomatoes, but you can get by with whole canned tomatoes if that's easier.

    Traditionally dal is paired with rice, but you can reduce the carbs by using a chappathi or tortilla instead.

    9 votes
  2. monarda Link
    I have several: Turkey lettuce wraps: Take three leaves of romaine, smear cream cheese on each one, and divide 5oz of turkey between them. Wrap and eat. If I'm feeling fancy I might add cucumber...

    I have several:

    Turkey lettuce wraps: Take three leaves of romaine, smear cream cheese on each one, and divide 5oz of turkey between them. Wrap and eat. If I'm feeling fancy I might add cucumber or avocado.

    Cold black bean salad: Drain cans of black beans add them to bowl, add olive oil, balsamic, cucumbers, tomatoes, and salt and pepper - stir. This can last 5 days in the fridge. When serving, I'll add feta cheese for sure, but sometimes if I am not lazy, I'll add green onions and avocado.

    Plain whole milk yogurt with fruit: I eat this a lot in the summer 'cause I like fresh fruit best - 1 cup yogurt, 1 cup sliced strawberries, 1/2 cup blueberries - or whatever fruit you like really. Sometimes I will add a teaspoon of honey.

    Curries are really good to make a lot of and eat on them over the next couple of days. I buy curry paste from amazon (my favorite being massaman). Directions are right on the container - for the massaman I use beef, coconut milk, potatoes, onions, and carrots. Super easy and might as well triple the recipe and eat curry all day every day for a while :) - If you don't like massaman curry, you can get any of the curry pastes on Amazon.

    Sometimes I'll saute some spinach in butter, and place two fried eggs over the top. If I have some leftover rice I'll put that on the plate first.

    Apples and peanut butter / apples and cheese

    Per gram of protein, I found the peanut caramel balance bars to be the cheapest - 88 cent per bar, for 14 grams of protein at amazon and target.

    As you can see there are not a lot of green veggies on here. Mostly because I do not like them, but a couple of years ago I bought an electric steamer and most nights I'll steam up fresh broccoli and frozen green beans - set timer for 12 minutes and it's all done. I dip in hot sauce to make them palatable. Fortunately 12 minutes is also how long it takes me to fry up some pork chops, a hamburger, or a steak. So if I don't have something to reheat, I'll fry something up.

    If you have a Trader Joes near you, they have some pretty good frozen meals. My personal fav is butter chicken.

    8 votes
  3. [2]
    cfabbro (edited ) Link
    RAMEN!!!! From an old comment of mine: All in all, it takes 5-10 min to make a delicious bowl. And roasting the veggies only takes 10 min prep, and 30-45 min in the oven once every month or two....

    RAMEN!!!! From an old comment of mine:

    My go-to "pimped up" instant Ramen broth recipe is using chicken broth with some red miso paste, Huy Fong chili garlic sauce, oyster sauce and sesame paste (Tahini) mixed into it, instead of the gross flavor packs it comes with. I also usually add some diced up roast vegetables as well (bell peppers, sweet potatoes/butternut squash, onions, carrots, etc..), which I roast myself then freeze in individual serving ziplocks for just this purpose.

    Everything I add to my broth is pretty dang potent, so I definitely have to be careful not to add too much. In about 3-4 cups of broth I only add a 1/2 teaspoon of red miso paste, a teaspoon of Tahini and oyster sauce, and a tablespoon of chili garlic sauce (more if I feel like having it extra spicy). Sometimes I add fish sauce too, but only a few dashes since that stuff is super super strong.

    If you're a Ramen lover like me I would definitely suggest giving the roast vegetables a try, at the very least. I roast a big batch every month or two, and having them frozen in individual serving ziplocks makes it super convenient to add them to my Ramen. They add such an amazing depth of flavor to the broth and sometimes I even roast them with a bit of tarragon or sage as well just to mix it up a bit.

    Bonus Faux-Pho "recipe" using the above Ramen broth:
    Sometimes I treat myself by adding some bean sprouts, basil and cilantro to my Ramen to try and get as close as I can to Pho, but it's just not the same. I really miss having access to legit Pho. :(

    All in all, it takes 5-10 min to make a delicious bowl. And roasting the veggies only takes 10 min prep, and 30-45 min in the oven once every month or two.

    p.s. I am super lazy when it comes to food too, and this has worked incredibly well for me. Ramen is also incredibly versatile so you can get some decent variety if you play with the format. Sometimes I throw an egg in, sometimes some Kimchi, sometimes I used veal or veg broth, sometimes I add whatever else I have floating around in the fridge that can work well in a soup! :)

    7 votes
    1. culturedleftfoot Link Parent
      Every time I start out thinking I'll take a quick 10 minutes for a ramen snack, it ends up being 30. Always worth it, though.

      Every time I start out thinking I'll take a quick 10 minutes for a ramen snack, it ends up being 30. Always worth it, though.

      3 votes
  4. patience_limited (edited ) Link
    If you have a good bakery or grocery nearby, artisan multigrain bread is an excellent food base for the super-lazy or those in climates where cooking can be an unpleasant extra helping of heat....

    If you have a good bakery or grocery nearby, artisan multigrain bread is an excellent food base for the super-lazy or those in climates where cooking can be an unpleasant extra helping of heat.

    Industrial bread has a deservedly bad reputation, but bread once was the "staff of life" for good reason. Properly made bread tastes fantastic, and can last up to a week without spoiling. It's relatively cost-effective compared to boutique cereals, bars, and supplements.

    "Artisan" multigrain bread should be the kind where you can actually see some whole grains or seeds in the cut loaf. That style of bread has a great profile of fiber, healthy fats, protein, trace elements, and a nicely slow glycemic index. You can store and freeze partial loaves if you don't expect to finish in a few days.

    My fave easy, delicious summer sandwich on this bread is open-face with blue cheese, avocado, furikake, and alfalfa sprouts. You are practically punching yourself in the face with that much umami, and it's incredibly satisfying. [Avocadoes are very easy to prep - cut in half, pull out the pit with the tip of your knife, then use a spoon to separate the fruit from the peel. For "chopped", just score the fruit before you scoop.]

    Plain fresh fruit and vegetables are about the quickest "lazy" food imaginable. If you want to get fancy, DIY pickles add some variety without too much work. They're all the rage right now because pickles appear beneficial for healthy microflora, but beware the added salt. Pickled vegetables keep for weeks and they're a tasty, nutritious addition to keep your diet interesting.

    Yes, this can be expensive, relative to cheap industrial Western grocery diets. It's much cheaper than eating out and cumulative health problems from a low-fiber, high sugar diet.

    7 votes
  5. [2]
    euphoria066 Link
    using one of these guys apples and slices of cheddar cheese (or havarti, or jarlsberg) eaten together are really good. I also like apple slices tossed with cinnamon as a change. I won't eat a...

    using one of these guys apples and slices of cheddar cheese (or havarti, or jarlsberg) eaten together are really good. I also like apple slices tossed with cinnamon as a change. I won't eat a whole apple, but if you slice it up I like it.

    Hard boiled eggs, especially from the instant pot, are great. the instant pot makes them easier to peel.

    I have used my instant pot to make chickpeas, which is quick compared to soaking and cooking, and REALLY cheap and then makes great hummus, but if you want to skip a step, hummus from canned chickpeas is easy, or you can also just buy pretty good hummus in big containers, and it freezes just fine if you want to make it in advance (though it benefits from an overnight in the fridge before freezing if you make it.) to reduce prep, I usually just eat hummus with whole carrots, buying the thinnest ones I can find loose, or if you don't hate baby carrots those are fine. mini cucumbers are also good!

    pickles are high in salt, so no good if you have hypertension I suppose, but otherwise are a pretty healthy snack.

    Microwaving a sweet potato into a baked potato and eating it isn't going to win a health award, but is probably better than fast food still.

    you can buy spinach pre-cooked and frozen in blocks, and chipping off a chunk of that and throwing it in any pasta sauce you're heating up adds a pretty good punch of healthy nutrients to an otherwise kinda garbage meal. you can buy dehydrated mushrooms and add those in at the same time to double it.

    Peas and corn are both good frozen veggies (though I don't like them together) and honestly both taste really good frozen if you REALLY want convenience.

    in my house we eat a lot of greek salad, like, one a week? Because it's just one english cucumber or two field cucumbers, two tomatoes, and a green pepper chopped, half a red onion sliced, kalamatas and feta to taste, with a generous sprinkle of oregano and salt, and some lemon juice (bottled) and olive oil mixed in. I just set up a standing grocery delivery that sends the ingredients weekly for the veg and biweekly for the cheese.

    6 votes
    1. Akir Link Parent
      It's much harder to clean, but this is the ultimate tool for slicing apples IMHO. It's also perfect for making pies with, though that is clearly not within the realm of health food.

      It's much harder to clean, but this is the ultimate tool for slicing apples IMHO.

      It's also perfect for making pies with, though that is clearly not within the realm of health food.

      1 vote
  6. aphoenix Link
    My current go-to meal is fish with rice and veggies. There's almost no preparation, and the cooking is very simple. Currently I like Basa Loins for the fish because they freeze well, and they're a...

    My current go-to meal is fish with rice and veggies. There's almost no preparation, and the cooking is very simple. Currently I like Basa Loins for the fish because they freeze well, and they're a great price at Costco. Similarly, I tend to use frozen veggies from Costco.

    Here's what I do:

    • using a rice cooker, make some rice
    • fry the fish in a pan. Add whatever you want to have it taste like (I like spice, so I go with pepper flakes / cayenne, and a bit of lemon)
    • when the fish is almost done, add some veggies
    • just before serving, add salt / pepper to taste, and maybe a bit more lemon
    • serve over rice

    This usually takes about 10 - 12 minutes. It's cheap, relatively healthy, and pretty filling. Like most white fish, Basa has a pretty good protein to calorie ratio, and it's also relatively inexpensive; where I am, you can get a bag of basa loins for $15 and that contains about 20 pieces of fish, so this meal is usually under $2.

    4 votes
  7. Staross Link
    In France people often just eat bread with whatever (cheese, bread, jam, ...), alongside a salad or a soup. You can throw almost any veggie in a salad or a soup. Sometimes you can find precooked...

    In France people often just eat bread with whatever (cheese, bread, jam, ...), alongside a salad or a soup. You can throw almost any veggie in a salad or a soup. Sometimes you can find precooked lentils, red beets, etc in grocery stores (check for additives like salt though).

    Muesli with some yogurt, fruits, etc. is also pretty easy.

    4 votes
  8. Akir Link
    For snacks, the ultimate answer is a handful of whichever kind of nuts you prefer. They are high in the good types of fat, and that means they are great at fixing hunger. For food, you can make...

    For snacks, the ultimate answer is a handful of whichever kind of nuts you prefer. They are high in the good types of fat, and that means they are great at fixing hunger.

    For food, you can make some really good curry in bulk with vegitables. The best part is that it will generally taste better the next night. I prefer Japanese style curry, which is typically bought in blocks of pre-made roux. This form also makes it easier to cook from scratch.

    While it is not really a full meal by itself, it's ultra-convenient to go buy a roasted chicken from the supermarket, a loaf of bread, and stuff to put together a salad of your choice. That only works if you're feeding a family though.

    It's not a fast meal, but I have noticed that steaming potatos in an instant pot makes it really easy for me to make real mashed potatoes. They get so tender in there I can just toss them into the ricer with the skins while the potatos are still hot and then pull the skins out of the ricer.

    Honestly, given how long it takes to heat up, I am not really sure that there is any instant pot meal I would call truely convenient. But if you are looking to store for eating later, it is nice to make some big batches of stew and or rissoto.

    4 votes
  9. Icarus Link
    Instant Pot Chili - This makes about 8 servings and easily stores in the freezer in individual tupperware. I usually make a batch every 2 weeks or so. Other things I make in the instant pot:...

    Instant Pot Chili - This makes about 8 servings and easily stores in the freezer in individual tupperware. I usually make a batch every 2 weeks or so.

    Other things I make in the instant pot:

    • Steamed veggies (my favorites are carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and brussel sprouts)
    • Hardboiled Eggs (come out perfect every time!)
    • Steamed Whole Sweet Potatoes

    This chicken noodle soup was awesome that I made last week in the Instant Pot.

    Finally, if you have the space I would recommend picking up a bread machine from a thrift store for $10 or so. I bought one at the start of this year and I think I get a loaf for around ~60 cents after the ingredients are bought in bulk. Its pretty simple, you just add the ingredients, push a button, and 4 hours later you get a fresh loaf of bread. I bought a cheap guided bread slicer, a bread knife, and a bread saver but overall I have saved a ton of money on bread so far.

    Wheat Bread

    White Bread

    4 votes
  10. ubergeek Link
    I've always been a fan of overnight oats. Rolled oat into some sort of sealable jar, cover with milk (Almond, if you swing that way, it works), slice up bananas/fruit of your choice, and let it...

    I've always been a fan of overnight oats. Rolled oat into some sort of sealable jar, cover with milk (Almond, if you swing that way, it works), slice up bananas/fruit of your choice, and let it sit in the fridge overnight.

    Boom! Breakfast. Lunch, even (Works there too).

    4 votes
  11. 0lpbm Link
    My go to breakfast for a couple of months has been yogurt with chia seeds and nuts/raisins combo. I take a small pot (125-150g) of Greek yogurt (10%+ fat), 2 spoons of chia seeds and a similar...

    My go to breakfast for a couple of months has been yogurt with chia seeds and nuts/raisins combo.

    I take a small pot (125-150g) of Greek yogurt (10%+ fat), 2 spoons of chia seeds and a similar serving of mixed nuts and raisins (I usually use trailmix). You leave it to sit for a couple of hours (let the chia seeds and the nuts hydrate a bit) and then eat.

    Sometimes I add a dried plum or two on top if I'm craving some extra sugar.

    3 votes
  12. aphoenix Link
    In addition to the fish I posted above, I'm also a fan of grabbing a big quinoa salad pack (also from Costco) and grilling some chicken breast. These two meals (paired with coffee and coke zero)...

    In addition to the fish I posted above, I'm also a fan of grabbing a big quinoa salad pack (also from Costco) and grilling some chicken breast. These two meals (paired with coffee and coke zero) get me through most weeks.

    3 votes
  13. cadadr Link
    Melon and feta cheese go very well together. IDK about the Greeks but here in Turkey the combo is often the go-to quick meze for enjoying rakı. But it is really good on its own too. If you want...

    Melon and feta cheese go very well together. IDK about the Greeks but here in Turkey the combo is often the go-to quick meze for enjoying rakı. But it is really good on its own too.

    If you want something quick and crunchy and watery, just peel a cucumber and put some salt on it. Nice snack. My mom says they used to sell it as street food, which is kinda hard to believe for me (and I've never seen it myself) but it is nice nevertheless.

    3 votes
  14. rain1 Link
    mashed banana on rice cakes

    mashed banana on rice cakes

    2 votes
  15. [4]
    cptcobalt Link
    A broccsando! (A roast broccoli sandwich, with egg and cheese.) Seriously, this is the quickest 4 minute morning meal, if you have a toaster oven and a stove. Basically, weekend, oven-roast a few...

    A broccsando! (A roast broccoli sandwich, with egg and cheese.)

    Seriously, this is the quickest 4 minute morning meal, if you have a toaster oven and a stove. Basically, weekend, oven-roast a few heads of broccoli (or even use the pre-cut broccoli from a bag), with a drizzle of olive oil and salt. Store in a container. Then, each morning:

    1. Line your toaster oven tray with foil. Take some broccoli out of the bag, and put it in the toaster oven with a split english muffin. Put a slice on one half of the english muffin.
    2. Using a single egg pan, quickly fry up the egg. With skill and a single egg pan, this takes two minutes, tops.
    3. As your egg becomes ready, take the tray out of the toaster oven, and assemble: muffin -> egg -> mayo -> broccoli -> cheese+muffin slice
    4. Wrap your broccsando up with the foil, and let it steam in foil for a minute or two, as you make your morning coffee.

    It's not easy, but it doesn't take skill, other than figuring out the sequencing. When I make this every morning, I can usually coordinate this tightly enough to also simultaneously pull two shots of espresso.

    For anyone questioning the healthiness of this—my method of (successful) dieting is by a calorie deficit. This fills me up sufficiently. And, hey, you're eating broccoli every day. Who's gonna tell you that your diet is messed up if you're eating broccoli daily.

    2 votes
    1. [3]
      PopeRigby Link Parent
      What would you suggest as a replacement if you don't like mayo?

      As your egg becomes ready, take the tray out of the toaster oven, and assemble: muffin -> egg -> mayo -> broccoli -> cheese+muffin slice

      What would you suggest as a replacement if you don't like mayo?

      1 vote
      1. Akir Link Parent
        I don't like mayo either, but I find that sriracha mayo is enjoyable and works with just about everything. But you should probably customize based on your own tastes. I can see this working with...

        I don't like mayo either, but I find that sriracha mayo is enjoyable and works with just about everything.

        But you should probably customize based on your own tastes. I can see this working with almost any sauce. Brushing on soy sauce sounds like a good addition and it takes the sandwich into a completely different flavor direction.

        2 votes
      2. cptcobalt Link Parent
        in order of preference, when i've gotten bored with my broccsando but kept with it for the diet: slice of grilled/browned onion (take a slice of onion, put it in a pan with olive oil, and brown...

        in order of preference, when i've gotten bored with my broccsando but kept with it for the diet:

        • slice of grilled/browned onion (take a slice of onion, put it in a pan with olive oil, and brown one side)
        • labne, a drained greek yogurt spread. (if you prepare this yourself, add a tiny bit a salt and lemon zest)
        • avocado (#millennial)
        • ketchup (this isn't ironic, it's not bad! works shockingly well with the grilled onion if you also add a bit of salt)

        It hasn't completely caught on yet, but it should go without saying that my mayo preference is kewpie mayo, which has a completely different taste profile from American-style (hellmans, etc.) mayo, which does make me a bit ill. Kewpie actually has flavor.