Cooking healthy doesn’t need to be complicated or expensive — and once you get the hang of making your own wholesome meals, you’ll discover new favorite go-to dishes and also become more comfortable getting creative in the kitchen.
Here at Feeding Westchester, there are a number of basic food items that we either receive from food donors or purchase ourselves to feed hungry families across the county. These include healthy, easy-to-use foods such as beans and pasta as well as canned fruits and veggies. There are endless possibilities for how to prepare, cook and bake with these types of basic foods as your star ingredients.
Looking for some simple, healthy meal ideas? Check out these eight yummy meals that focus on the basics.
8 Easy, Nutritious Meal Ideas
1. Rice and beans
Rice and beans is a staple dish made in many cultures around the world, and there are no strict guidelines for how to whip it up yourself. One way is to mix any kind of cooked rice with any kind of beans — such as black, kidney or pinto beans — and a can of Mexican-style diced tomatoes with chiles for a quick dinner.
Bonus: Make your meal more nutritious by using brown rice, which contains filling complex carbohydrates and more fiber than white-rice varieties.
2. Peanut butter-apple sandwiches
If you’re at a loss for what to feed your kids for a snack — or what to snack on yourself when afternoon hunger strikes — try making these easy peanut butter-apple sandwiches:
- Core and slice an apple.
- Spread peanut butter on each slice.
- Sprinkle some cinnamon on the apple slices and top them with dried fruit, such as cranberries, along with a handful of granola or cereal.
3. Creamed spinach with pasta
There’s a reason why Popeye was famous for eating his spinach: The leafy green veggie is packed with vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, C and K1; folic acid; iron; and calcium. Whether you have canned, frozen or fresh spinach on hand, it’s a healthy veggie to add to any meal. One spinach recipe idea is to mix your cooked spinach with cream cheese, and then add it to some pasta.
4. Whole-wheat banana pancakes
Pancakes are a crowd-pleasing breakfast favorite, and it’s easy to make your own batter at home.
To make three whole-wheat banana pancakes (one serving), you’ll need:
- ½ ripe banana.
- ½ cup milk.
- ¼ cup flour, preferably whole wheat.
- ¼ teaspoon baking powder.
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon.
- Pinch of salt.
- Optional: pinch of whatever sweetener you have on hand — such as honey, maple syrup or sugar.
- Mash the banana, and then stir it in with all of the other ingredients in a bowl.
- Coat a griddle with cooking spray and warm it over medium heat. Form 3 pancakes on the griddle, and cook until they’re lightly browned on each side.
- Optional: Add any kind of fruit or nuts into the batter or on top of the cooked pancakes, such as blueberries in the batter or diced strawberries on top.
Make dinner in 10 minutes flat by whipping up quesadillas. They’re highly customizable, and all you need is corn or flour tortillas and cheese. Then it’s up to you to add in whatever other ingredients you have on hand. Some popular quesadilla fillers include:
- Canned meat.
- Diced tomato.
6. Tuna salad sandwiches
Turn a can of tuna into an easy lunch or dinner by combining it with:
- 2 tablespoons mayo or plain Greek yogurt.
- 2 tablespoons chopped celery.
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped red onion.
- Salt and pepper to taste.
Serve the tuna salad on bread, with crackers, on a roll or with a salad.
7. Easy Mexican quinoa
Get your fill of a nutritious ancient grain by cooking an easy Mexican quinoa dish for dinner. Follow our recipe for Mexican quinoa, and serve it with tortilla chips for dipping!
8. Apple and peanut butter oatmeal
Spice up your breakfast routine by adding apple and peanut butter into a bowl of fiber-packed, nutrient-rich oatmeal. To make a serving of this comforting breakfast, add half of a chopped apple and a sprinkle of cinnamon to half a cup of oats, and cook as you normally would on the stovetop or in the microwave. Once the oats are cooked and the apple is tender, swirl in a spoonful of peanut butter and a drizzle of honey.
Cooking at home tends to save money right off the bat versus eating out — particularly if you’re purchasing in-season produce and buying items on sale and in bulk when it makes sense for you and your family. Making your own meals also puts you in better control of your portion sizes and the ingredients you’re consuming.
Are you curious about which fruits and veggies tend to be the most budget-friendly? Check out our list of the most affordable types of produce.
Feeding Westchester is dedicated to providing fresh food to the food-insecure individuals and families of Westchester. In fact, 40% of the food we distribute consists of fruits and vegetables — equal to more than 3 million pounds of produce per year. Learn more about Feeding Westchester’s fresh food programs here.