1. A Creamy AVOCADO TOAST
Avocado toast is basically the easiest thing in the world to make, and good for you thanks to avocado’s plentiful Omega-3’s. But it tastes so luxurious, you’ll feel like you’re cheating at life when you eat one. It’s also, BTW, very chic.
A simple avocado toast is just toast (stick with whole grain for more fiber and nutrients) + avocado (sliced or mashed) + sea salt + red pepper. But that’s just the beginning; you can top it with an egg, a drizzle of nice olive oil, or try this avocado + feta + pomegranate toast for a sweet and savory mix. The options are endless. Go crazy. Run free.
2. Nutritious OATMEAL
Hot oatmeal on a cold morning is a winter survival necessity. It’s also a great way to stay full until lunch and an excellent source of soluble fiber, the kind that helps keep your cholesterol levels down. You can make it on the stove, in the microwave, or in a slow-cooker. In warm weather, you can make overnight oats in the fridge without lifting a finger. Get lots more smart oatmeal tips here.
3. A Filling GREEN SALAD
If you think salads are for rabbits, you haven’t met the right one yet. A few tips: Use fresh vegetables — anything canned should be an add-on, not the main event, or you’ll end up with a soggy, sad salad. Add a little bit of protein like meat, eggs, beans, nuts, if you want the salad to be a full meal. Make sure you give yourself a good mix of crunchy ingredients, like raw cabbage, cucumber or nuts, and soft ones, like tomatoes, cooked vegetables or beans.
The most important step is to make your own delicious (and healthier) homemade dressing. A simple Dijon vinaigrette always works, but feel free to try something more adventurous, too. If you’re looking for a full recipe to get inspired, try this kale and Brussels sprout salad or this Asian chicken salad.
4. Smooth HUMMUS
Hummus, which happens to be full of protein and fiber, is basically the perfect food. You can dip carrots or celery in it when you’re looking for a healthy snack, or spread it on a sandwich instead of mayo. You can also just dip your finger in it and eat it plain.
To make it yourself, you just throw a few basic ingredients (chickpeas, tahini, garlic, lemon juice and salt) in the blender and process. Get the recipe for classic, extra-smooth hummus here, a stepped-up roasted red pepper version here, or a powerhouse protein edamame hummus recipe here.
5. A Big Pot of VEGETABLE SOUP
When it’s cold out, a big pot of hot soup is literally the most beautiful thing in the world. You can make it with just vegetables, or add in protein like chicken or beans. This recipe is mostly vegetables but uses a little bit of pancetta and a parmesan rind for flavor.
But you don’t really need a recipe. You can just chop up whatever vegetables you have around and sauté them in some olive oil in a big pot with the seasoning of your choice. (If you’re using chicken, chop it up, and sauté that first.) Add a can of rinsed beans and sauté for another minute or two. Add stock, bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer, cover, and allow to cook for about 20 minutes. If you want noodles, cook them separately and throw them in at the end. Ladle into (big) bowls and enjoy.
6. Crispy ROASTED VEGETABLES
Roasting vegetables is one of the easiest, most reliable ways to cook them. Turn your oven up to 450°F. Chop your vegetables, with the harder ones, like carrots and potatoes, cut up into smaller pieces than soft vegetables like broccoli and squash. Toss them all with some olive oil and kosher salt. Spread on a baking sheet or two – don’t crowd! – and roast for about 30-40 minutes, or until they look and taste good.
Here’s a basic recipe to get you started. Once you’ve got roasted veggies, you can toss them in some pasta, a salad, put them on a sandwich, or obvs, eat them plain.
7. Basic QUINOA
You don’t have to be a health nut to love quinoa. This little seed has tons of protein and the flavor is subtle enough that it can work in almost any dish. Make sure to rinse quinoa before you cook it to wash away any bitterness. After that, put it in a saucepan, add twice as much water or broth as you have quinoa, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the flame to medium-low, cover, and simmer for about 15-20 minutes, or until the water is absorbed. Remove from heat and give it 5 minutes to sit, covered, before you open it and give it a nice fluff. It’ll last about a week in the fridge and can be added to basically anything.
8. An Easy STIR-FRY
Stir-fry is what you make when you want something hot, healthy, and quick. It shouldn’t be complicated. Stir-fries are great with lean meats or tofu. (Tofu takes a little bit more time because you have to press out all the excess moisture, but it’s a healthy and inexpensive substitute for meat, and can be really delicious if you get it nice and crispy.) Whatever you decide to throw in, the basic idea is the same: Sear the protein, sauté the vegetables over high heat, and add sauce at the end. Serve over brown rice or by itself.
9. A Spicy BEAN CHILI
Standard chili calls for ground beef, but the truth is, you don’t need it. Beans will do the protein job just fine without bringing any saturated fat to the party. If you do want to add meat, try a recipe that calls for chicken or turkey. And definitely make extra: Chili freezes really well. Vegan bean chili recipe available here, white chicken chili recipe here.
10. A Veggie-Filled FRITTATA
Frittatas come in handy in many situations, including serving breakfast to large groups of people, using up leftover vegetables, and making a food you can eat for days. Frittatas can be made with any vegetables you have around, so use recipes for guidance more than specifics. You don’t have to use cheese (this onion and potato frittata doesn’t), but if you do, goat cheese is great because it’s much lower in calories and fat than other cheeses. Use it with mushrooms and herbs or artichokes and leeks.
11. A Healthful Bowl of PASTA
Don’t believe anyone who tells you pasta can’t be healthy. It can. And those who deny themselves the joy of pasta do not live their greatest lives. First, use whole wheat pasta because like brown rice, it has more nutrients and fiber. Second, add PLENTY of vegetables and some healthy protein. Third, limit your sources of saturated fats like cream, butter, cheese, and fatty meat.
Try this Whole Wheat Rigatoni with Roasted Vegetables and Pine Nuts, or this Linguine with Shrimp, Olives, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes. You can also tweak your favorite recipes to be healthier: Try making this fusilli with roasted broccoli and cauliflower with whole wheat noodles, half the pasta and cheese, and twice the veggies.
12. Not Boring GRILLED CHICKEN
Grilled chicken is easy to make and lean, healthy meat, but it gets a bad rap for being bland. The key is to pair the chicken with big, interesting flavors. If you have the time (and forethought), go with a marinade. You can freestyle with these handy tips or use a recipe like this Grilled Chicken in Caramelized Onion Sauce. But you can also throw together a delicious grilled chicken on the spot, like this Garlic-and-Rosemary Grilled Chicken with Scallions.
13. A Super SMOOTHIE
Smoothies are an easy and delicious way to pack in a lot of nutrition at once. Whether it’s a green detox smoothie, a seasonal fruit smoothie, or a very simple three-ingredient smoothie, the key is to make sure that you have a combination of fruits, vegetables, and protein so it’s well-balanced AND tasty.
Feel free to have fun with the liquid you add. Water is great, but so is regular milk or non-dairy milks. Just don’t bother with recipes that call for added sugar, and be wary of juices, which are often high in sugar, and protein powders, some of which have been found to have high levels of toxins like arsenic, cadmium, and lead.
14. Baked NON-POTATO CHIPS
Kale chips were all the rage for a while, but they’re hardly the only non-potato that can be baked into a delicious, crispy chip. You’re basically just putting some oil and salt on thin strips of vegetables and baking them. Not very hard, but very delicious! Get lots of veggie-heavy, less oily ways to satisfy your crunchy/salty craving here.
15. Simply Sautéed GREENS
Keeping some greens in your fridge at all times is a fail-proof way to make sure you always have an easy vegetable side dish at dinner. Greens like spinach and kale are some of the healthiest vegetables out there, packed with protein, vitamins and fiber.
Sautéing greens is as simple as heating some vegetable oil in a pan, adding chopped greens, and salting to taste. If you want to get a little fancy, start with some garlic, shallot or onion before you add the greens. You can also add lemon juice, vinegar or red pepper. This will work for spinach, kale, chard, mustard greens, or pretty much anything else you come across. Recipe here.
16. Homemade POPCORN
When you’re craving a salty snack, homemade popcorn is the perfect solution. It’s super-easy to make, can be flavored according to your whim, and it’s healthier and cheaper than the movie-theater or microwaveable kinds. In this recipe for stovetop popcorn, spritz some water on the popcorn instead of pouring melted butter over it, and then sprinkle with salt. It will still be delicious with a lot less fat. (And btw, you can also just make it in a paper bag in the microwave.)
17. An Easily Improvised GRAIN SALAD
Most of us hear “salad” and think “lettuce,” but using grains as a base can be healthy, filling, and a really good way to use up all the extra brown rice you accidentally made last night. Throw in whatever veggies, cheese, beans, or meat you have on hand and top with your favorite homemade dressing. This Curried Spelt Salad is delicious, as is this Quinoa, Lentil & Feta Summer Salad, but feel free to improvise with whatever you have in the fridge.
18. Tasty BAKED or BROILED FISH
You’ve probably heard it a hundred times: Fish is really good for you. It’s high in protein but also low in fat, making it an excellent alternative to pork or red meat. White-fleshed fish like tilapia is especially low in fat, while oily fish like salmon is extra high in Omega-3’s. However, some fish are higher in mercury than others, and a lot of species are at risk due to overfishing. The National Resources Defense Council has information here to help you make the best choice when you’re buying.
Even when choosing fish isn’t easy, cooking it can always be super-simple. One of the easiest and healthiest ways is to bake it in parchment paper, but broiling is another easy option for when you want something quick and crispy. For a quick, easy marinade, try mixing oil, soy sauce, garlic, Dijon mustard and scallions, with proportions according to taste. (The more mustard, the spicier, the more soy saucer the saltier, etc.) It will work on basically everything. Get a recipe for broiled salmon here.
19. Crispy BAKED FRIES
You can eat French fries without betraying your arteries; just bake them instead of frying. Also: Leave the skins on. There are a ton of nutrients in there. (Okay, yes, this is essentially roasted potatoes, but the skinny wedge shape really makes a difference!)
20. An Easy SLOW-COOKER STEW
One of the biggest hurdles to eating more healthy food is cooking more healthy food. Sometimes you just don’t have the time or energy, and that is why God created slow cookers. They cook things slowly, with plenty of liquid, which means you won’t need nearly as much fat to keep things delicious. You just throw all the ingredients in in the morning, press a button, and come home later to a hot, healthy meal. Try this chicken enchilada soup, a root vegetable stew, or chicken provençal.
21. A Well-Balanced FRUIT SALAD
There are tons of ways to make a great fruit salad, but it takes a little bit more thought than just throwing a bunch of fruit in a bowl and hoping for the best. First, you need good fruit. Choose what’s in season. Second, be mindful of the fruit combinations — more is not necessarily better. Third, add a simple but delicious dressing. A fail-safe dressing formula: citrus juice + fresh herb + honey or syrup. For more tips on making a perfect fruit salad, click here.
22. Low-Sugar CHOCOLATE PUDDING
Chocolate. Is. Amazing. Don’t deprive yourself, just learn to enjoy in ways that are healthier than a Snickers bar. Chocolate pudding is the perfect solution, because there are so many ways to make it (secretly) good for you. Try this chocolate avocado pudding when you don’t have a lot of time, these chocolate mousse cups if you’re looking to trick someone (or yourself) into eating tofu, or a chia seed and date chocolate pudding if you’re looking for something a little funky.
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