25 Healthy Meals in 20 Minutes or Less

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Everyone seems to have at least one quick and healthy meal they can whip up in less than 20 minutes. It’s the meal you make when you don’t feel like cooking or just want something fast. But you still feel good about feeding it to your family because it’s nutritious and tasty.

So I asked some fellow RDs, food bloggers, and Facebook fans what their go-to healthy meals are. And I came up with 25 quick meals that I can’t wait to try. Some of the meal instructions and ingredients are general and others are more specific. Either way, I hope you find some inspiration and remember that sometimes the easiest meals are the most rewarding.

If you got one of your own quick meals to share, be sure to leave it in the comments.

1. Couscous and Vegetables “Stir Fry”

  • 1 box of any Couscous (we like the garlic and olive oil flavor)
  • 3 cups of cut-up vegetables – whatever you have lying around that you need to use up.
  • We like to use onions, green and yellow zucchini/squash, and red peppers – great color, but great flavor too!
  • 3/4 cup frozen, shelled edamame
  • 1/4 cup Pine Nuts, toasted
  • olive oil
  • 3-4 TBSP grated parmesan cheese

Lightly toast Pine Nuts in a toaster oven or in a dry skillet.

Slice up your vegetables and set aside. Prepare Couscous by bringing water to a boil WITH your frozen edamame in the pot. Add CousCous (and flavor packet if there is one) and stir. Pull off the heat and allow it to sit covered for the instructed amount of time.

Pre-heat a large skillet with about a TBSP of olive oil. Add your sliced vegetables, cover, and turn heat to low for about 5 minutes. This allows your vegetable to steam lightly. Uncover and finish stir-frying the vegetables on medium heat. Uncover and stir your Couscous and place into a large serving bowl. Top with your stir-fried veggies, toasted pine nuts, and grated parmesan cheese.

**This is also a wonderful dish served cold, as a picnic dish or a side salad to the main dish. It can be made “vegan” by leaving out the parmesan cheese. You could also substitute the Couscous with wonderful, healthy Quinoa, or even a wheat pasta if you don’t keep Couscous in the pantry!

Melissa Michael at The Sassy Apron

2. Tofu Stir-Fry in 10

Heat pre-pressed and seasoned tofu, frozen veggies, and your favorite stir-fry sauce in a pan. Pour over Trader Joe’s microwaveable brown rice. Enjoy!

Marci E. Anderson MS, RD

3. Veggie Scramble

Sauté frozen mixed vegetables in olive oil and then add eggs and scramble. Mix together until done.

Renée J. Bordeaux, RD, CD-N, CPT

4. Have-It-Your-Way Tacos 

By using my own seasonings — cumin, chili powder, and garlic powder — I avoid the super-salty taco seasoning packets often called for in recipes. My boys ask for this dish often, which makes Mom very happy!

  • 1 pound lean ground beef (90% lean or higher)
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and shredded (about 1 cup)
  • 12 all-natural taco shells
  • One 15 1/2-ounce can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 ½ cups shredded reduced-fat Cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup salsa (mild, medium, or hot … it’s your choice)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
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Optional Toppings: Diced avocado, diced tomato, shredded lettuce, reduced-fat sour cream, sliced black olives

Heat the oven to 350°F. Place a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the meat and carrot and cook, breaking up the large pieces, until the meat is no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Drain excess fat.

While the meat is cooking, bake the taco shells according to package directions. When the meat is done, add the beans, cheese, salsa, cumin, chili powder, and garlic powder and stir to combine. Cook until the cheese melts and the mixture is heated through, about 2 minutes. Serve in the taco shells with optional toppings.

Tip: Use a soft flour tortilla if your children find hard taco shells difficult to bite into.

Liz Weiss, MS, RD at Liz’s Healthy Table

5. Healthy Tuna Salad

One small can of water-packed tuna, 2 tbsp hummus and a teaspoon low-fat mayo. Use wasa crackers as the base and there you have the easiest “healthy” tuna salad.

Sandy Sfikas, RD, LDN at Food, Fit & Fun

6. Broccoli & Rice

Sauté frozen broccoli in 1 tsp olive oil. Add parmesan cheese and garlic powder (or garlic salt). Optional brown rice (frozen or uncle Ben’s pouch pre-cooked plain brown rice).

Gail Posner, MS, RD, Nutritionist, Coach, Speaker, and Spokesperson

5. Beans, Rice & Avocado

Trader Joe’s frozen, cooked brown rice, Trader Joe’s refrigerated (air-tight) cooked lentils or beans, shredded mozzarella cheese, avocado or guacamole, and salsa. Fast, easy, nutritious, and yummy.

Elyse Resch, MS., RD., F.A.D.A. Nutrition Therapist and Co-author of Intuitive Eating

6. Spinach Cream Gazpacho

  • 1 cup chopped tomatoes with juice
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 6 pitted dates
  • 3 cups chopped spinach leaves
  • 1 cup rice, soy or skim milk
  • 1/2 cup unsalted cashews
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and cut into cubes
  • 2 green onions, white and light green parts, sliced
  • salt and pepper

In a saucepan, combine tomatoes with juice, lemon juice and dates. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce health and simmer, stirring often, for 5 minutes or until dates are well blended into tomatoes. Add spinach and stir until wilted. Let cool.

In a blender, combine milk, cashews, cucumber and green onions. Blend until smooth. Add half of the spinach mixture to the blender and blend until smooth. Add contents of the blender to the saucepan with the remaining spinach mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Chill. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Mindy Nichols RD, CD, CDE

7. Veggie Frittata

At most basic, I always have onions, garlic and bottled roasted red peppers in my kitchen. I slice them up, sauté in a bit of olive oil, add fresh chopped herbs from my garden, add a beaten egg or two to the pan with a bit of parmesan, and cook until set. Comes together in no time.

Julie Tharalson, RD, Culinary Nutrition Consultant

8. Shane’s Fabulous Lentil Soup

Named after my son Shane. It takes 20 minutes from start to finish. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, you can use a can of lentils and add some dried thyme, fresh chopped carrots and potatoes to it and cook for 15 minutes until the flavors meld and the potatoes are cooked through. The pressure cooked version is in my cookbook The Veggie Queen: Vegetables Get the Royal Treatment.

Jill Nussinow, MS, RD, Vegetable, vegetarian, vegan and pressure cooking expert at The Veggie Queen

9. Rice Bowl Dinner

Whenever I make rice I always make 2-3 times what I need. I then freeze the remainder and when I need dinner in a pinch, I’ll pull the rice from the freezer in the morning and by dinner time all I need to do is heat a small amount of oil in a skillet and throw in whatever veggies I have on hand (I usually use carrots, red pepper, cabbage and peas).

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I sauté the veggies with some garlic, salt and pepper. Once softened I add in the rice (about one cup), some sweet soy sauce (2TBS), lime juice (1tsp)and a few eggs. I cook until the rice is heated through and crispy and the eggs are cooked.

Jan Scott, catering events coordinator, writer and mom at Family Bites

10. Olive Pasta

(Adapted from The 5 in 10 Cookbook, by Paula J. Hamilton, 1993).

  • 1 6-oz. can pitted black olives, drained
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb. angel hair pasta

Prepare angel hair according to package directions. Mince the garlic clove in the food processor. Add the olives, cheese, and olive oil to the food processor. Puree until the mixture is smooth.

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After draining the pasta, put it in a large serving bowl. Add the olive puree to the pasta in batches, mixing thoroughly. This may take a little effort and I recommend using a pasta server and a spoon to do the job (serves 6).

Kathleen Cuneo, Ph.D.

11. Simmer Sauce Pasta

A quick dinner we all love is to use a simmer sauce. I often keep frozen chopped onion in a baggie which also seems to cook quicker than raw. I cut up chicken, sauté with onion, add a jar of simmer sauce and a small can of tomato sauce and serve with leftover or frozen rice or quick rice. Yummy!

Tikka masala simmer sauce jar
Dr. Katja Rowell at The Feeding Doctor 

12. Salmon and Green Beans

Sprinkle lemon pepper seasoning on a filet of fresh salmon, grill it on a George Foreman Grill for 1 minute, and then finish cooking it in the microwave (1-2 minutes). Serve it with a side of fresh green beans steamed in the microwave (1-2 minutes). Watch the video.

Nicole Geurin, RD is a dietitian on a mission: to show the world that nutritious and delicious go hand in hand!

13. Cheese Quesadillas

Use canned fat-free refried beans and a sprinkle of cheese, along with whatever bits and dabs of things are left in the fridge such as cooked chicken, peppers and mushrooms.

Jenny in MS

14. Linguini and Clams

Boil the water for the pasta and cook 1 lb linguini. In a skillet heat 2 T olive oil and sauté 1 TBS garlic. Add just the juice from 2 cans of chopped clams, add 1/4 cup of white wine and about 1tsp of dry parsley and a sprinkle of crushed red pepper. Cook on simmer for about 5 minutes.
Add the clams to the skillet and heat through. Add the strained linguini, mix through, add a little pasta water if needed and some grated parmesan cheese.

Michelle Champigny MS, RD, LDN at Tastinutrition

15. Spaghetti with Olive oil and Anchovies

Cook spaghetti-whole wheat works really well. Add 1/4 cup olive oil in a skillet, add 1 TBS garlic and 4 anchovy fillets. Cook until anchovies fall apart. Add a little crushed red pepper. Add the strained pasta to the skillet and toss. Finish with parmesan cheese.

Michelle Champigny MS, RD, LDN at Tastinutrition

quick meal with vegetables

18. Meal Replacement Drink

Put them in a blender, puree and drink. Save extra in the refrigerator for later.

  • 1/2 cup unfiltered apple juice (cloudy in the bottle – shake it up before pouring)
  • 1/4-1/3 cup grape juice (not grape cocktail or some other sugary mix)
  • 1/4 – 1/3 cup pomegranate juice (again – pure pomegranate, not some sugared mixture)
  • Plain Greek-style yogurt – 1/3 – 1/2 cup: dieters use non-fat. If you need more calories (athletes, weight gainers), use full-fat varieties like Fage Total
  • Fresh or frozen fruit: small banana or 1/2 mango or 1 cup pineapple chunks or berries or melon or peaches or equivalent of other fresh fruit. What won’t work so well: grapefruit, orange, apples or any dried fruit.
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Donna Feldman, MS, RD

19. Couscous Bars

Couscous, frozen vegetables, whatever meat/protein was in the frig (leftover, deli meat, etc) and just a little cheese to hold it all together so they could eat it without making a mess. Dinner could be on the table 10 minutes after walking in the door.

Make the couscous (whole wheat from Trader Joe’s), warm the veggies & meat while couscous is plumping, mix together, add cheese, pop in the microwave if needed just to melt the cheese.

Maureen Conklin

20. Fish Tacos

Use any simple baked fish (we prefer a white fish vs. a salmon or tuna, etc.). Bake that up, grab a tortilla (we make our own) and add the veggie. For fish tacos it’s usually broccoli or coleslaw but sometimes just shredded lettuce, tomatoes or other veggies we have on hand. Then I usually add a dressing of some kind–sometimes just ranch (again, make ourselves from an easy spice blend I get from Penzey’s). Roll it up and eat. Yummy!

Brenda Thompson at Meal Planning Magic

21. Quinoa with Vegetables

  • 1 cup organic quinoa (we used the 365 brand from Whole Foods)
  • 1 cup cauliflower florets
  • 1 cup carrots, chopped
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped green onions
  • 2 – 3 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro (or parsley)
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • salt, pepper and soy sauce to taste
  • 2 cups of water

Rinse quinoa well. Add quinoa, cauliflower, carrots and water in a saucepan, cover and bring to a boil. Season with soy sauce, cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer about 15 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed and quinoa is opened up. When cooked, the quinoa grain appears soft and translucent. The germ ring is visible along the outside edge of the grain. Slowly fold in cilantro, green onions, vinegar and olive oil. Serve immediately.

TwinToddlersDad at Little Stomaks

22. Stir-fried Veggies

We use whatever’s fresh is in the house — must have onions, peppers, mushrooms and some type of green) over pasta. That’s so easy. But if I’m feeling really lazy then its a can of vegetarian baked beans over rice (usually leftover from a previous meal) with steamed green (broccoli, green beans, etc.) on the side.

Jeanne Kane

23. Pizza Wraps

Our go-to is a whole-wheat wrap with pizza toppings. Pop into the oven to melt the cheese and crisp the edges – dinner is served!

Jill Dunlap

24. Chicken Fried Rice

I have a rice maker so that part is simple. We always have chicken breasts, eggs, and vegetables around. I only use garlic and onion to season because I can’t have soy sauce, they can add it afterward!

Julie Beyer

25. Hummus Quesadilla

  • One whole-wheat tortilla
  • 1-2 tablespoons of your favorite hummus
  • Low-fat cheese of your choice. Just enough to cover one side of the tortilla
  • Any veggie you have in the fridge. I put whatever leftover veggies I have from a previous dinner

If there is any leftover meat, like chicken breast. I’ll shred a little in the quesadilla. Heat a skillet to medium heat. Heat the tortilla in the skillet just enough to soften it. Remove from the heat. Spread the entire tortilla with hummus. On half the tortilla, add the cheese, veggies, and chicken. I like to put a little Texas Pete in it. Fold the tortilla over in half. Place quesadilla back on the skillet. Heat for a few minutes on each side until cheese is melted. Cut in half and serve with a salad.

Estela Schnelle MS,RD at  Weekly Bite

This post was previously published on May 2010

For More Easy Meals check out The Family Dinner Solution: How to Create a Rotation of Meals Your Family Will Love

The Family Dinner Solution book cover



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