Baked eggs with ham and tomato in muffin tin

Meals That Can Be Ready in Less than 20 Minutes

Cooking for yourself and your family can sometimes seem like a daunting task, especially at the end of a busy day. But preparing a quick, nutritious meal doesn’t have to take the whole evening. In fact, you can create a healthy meal in less than 20 minutes with a little planning and prep. The key is to keep things simple. That may sound boring, but it’s actually a tactic some of the world’s best chefs use to save time, and something you can do to make your life a little easier.

Young couple cooking a healthy meal in their kitchen
Image credit: Stratford Productions

Breakfast

Breakfast is your family’s first opportunity to consume wholesome nutrients. Start the day off right with a well-balanced meal of protein, carbs, and healthy fat. Try avocado toast with turkey bacon for a meal that is both satisfying and fun to eat. Or opt for a hearty breakfast of oatmeal topped with bananas, peanut butter, and nuts. 

Breakfast is also a great candidate for batch meals you can prep over the weekend when you have more time to spare. Egg muffins come together in about 15 minutes and can be reheated throughout the week for a quick and nutritious meal. Fill the egg batter with toppings of your choosing like chopped spinach, turkey bacon, tomatoes, and onions. You can do the same with the batter for whole-grain muffins  for a quick breakfast on the go. It feels good to give your loved ones a healthy start in the morning.

Lunch

Ideal for batching (or for using up last night’s leftovers), lunch can easily be made ahead of time. If leftovers aren’t on the menu, you can easily create a healthy meal in less than 20 minutes by prepping just a few ingredients. Try cutting up veggies, fruits, and other ingredients on Sunday to throw into the coming week’s salads and sandwiches. Include a variety of colorful produce to maximize the nutritional value, and for lasting energy, don’t forget the protein. Adding chopped turkey bacon to a salad makes it both extra hearty and extra flavorful.

For something even heartier, but just as easy, experiment with buddha bowls. Prep your base for the bowl over the weekend—quinoa and brown rice are great foundations. Top your bowl with a protein like chicken or turkey, or go vegetarian with plant-based proteins like tempeh, tofu, or beans. From there you can add just about anything, from sauteed veggies to avocado, hummus, or salsa. The options are endless, so you might even be able to save a shopping trip by using whatever you have on hand.  

Woman preparing scallops in a pan
Image credit: RODNAE Productions, Shutterstock Inc.

Dinner

When you’re hungry at the end of the day, you might be eager for a quick bite, but ordering in often times isn’t the healthiest option. The solution is to have something on hand.  You can do the prep work for dishes like casseroles when you have the time, then store them in the freezer for baking on a busy evening. For an even more efficient meal, you can use leftovers to make your casserole: turn leftover spaghetti into a pasta bake, or a roast with veggies and potatoes into shepherd’s pie. 

If you don’t have anything in the freezer, try pan searing a protein like a white fish or shrimp with a little olive oil, butter, and spices. Throw in a veggie, such as broccolini, with rice, to make a satisfying pilaf. 

One-pot cooking is another approach to getting a wholesome meal on the table. Since you won’t dirty many dishes when making these meals, they are a cinch to prepare and clean up. Adding veggies and protein to your next pasta dish to boost its nutrition. Lean proteins like turkey bacon and shrimp, and quick-cooking veggies like asparagus, peas, and broccoli,  combine with pasta to make a well-balanced meal in no time. 

Healthy Meals Can Be Quick and Easy

Even when you’re pressed for time, you can still keep your meals fresh and exciting. Stick with dishes that have fewer ingredients, and focus on the ones that are nutritionally complete. Prepare larger batches of healthy meals and reheat the leftovers for lunches at work, or repurpose them into a casserole. Use simple cooking methods, plan out your meals, and prep ingredients ahead to save time during the busy week.