How to Overcome the Conundrum of “Tastes Good” and “Healthy”

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Today’s blog is a special contributor post, from blogger Dawne Richards. Enjoy!

image1Photo by Markus Spiske

I know, I know. Before you say it – yes, of course there are a ton of dishes that both taste good and are healthy. I know there are, because a quick search for “healthy meals that taste good” returns an astonishing 358 million results.

I’m pretty sure that I tried about 500 of these recipes in all my years as a parent. Of those, there were probably a dozen that met my two main criteria:

1. Fewer than 25 ingredients (I’m exaggerating, but not by much). One of the things that I’ve always noticed about many of the “healthy dinner tonight!” recipes is that they contain a plethora of items, very few of which I have on hand. On top of that, they sometimes include items that are difficult to find at the grocery store. I’ve got enough to do without embarking on a scavenger hunt, thank you!

2. Less than 30 minutes to prepare really, my heart sinks when I see “prep time: 45 minutes.” Because not only do I not have 45 minutes, but if it took the author 45 minutes, it will take me at least 60, if I’m lucky. Forget it!

Given that I didn’t have a pantry full of exotic foods, herbs and spices, and my culinary talents won’t win me any awards, I had to find other ways to feed my kids without resorting to either incredibly expensive meal delivery kits or dining out five times a week (which they might have loved, but then we’d have had to live in our car).

My solution, which worked well once we got in the groove, was to cook nearly everything on Sunday. And I do mean nearly everything. I’m sure you’ve read this advice before, but it bears repeating: two hours on Sunday changes your whole week.

Just imagine:

  • No cooking during the week but you’re still eating great meals. (I cooked on Sundays even before we had kids, and it felt so indulgent to come home, pour myself a glass of wine, and just wait while dinner baked for 30 minutes. Fabulous!)
  • No pots or pans to clean up Monday-Saturday. (Mostly. You might have to soak the Hot Chicken Salad baking dish once you’re done with it but relatively speaking, you spend almost no time on cleanup outside of Sunday.)

Important alert: Read the entire recipe! Then you won’t do what I once did, which was get to the last step at 11:30 pm on a Wednesday (why Wednesday and not Sunday? I must have gotten a burst of energy) and see the last step: “Simmer for two hours.” Really, I almost threw the whole dish in the trash. But I recovered, set the alarm for 1:30 am, and when the alarm went off, I put the dish in the fridge, half-asleep. And that was the last time I didn’t read the recipe from start to finish.

photo-1514986888952-8cd320577b68Photo credit: Alyson McPhee

Here are just a couple of our favorite make-ahead meals:

  1.  Hot chicken salad – I could live on this, really. Here’s a great recipe for it at We first had it years ago at an office potluck. The original recipe includes mayonnaise and potato chips, but you could probably sub avocado mayonnaise, Greek yogurt, or hummus for the mayo, and sub veggie chips for the potato chips to further up the nutrition quotient. Plus, it has water chestnuts, onions, celery, and mushrooms, so it’s a great way to get some veggies in. This dish is beyond delicious hot or cold.
  2.  Pretty much anything in an Instant Pot. It’s a remarkable timesaver. I recommend this great recipe for roast beef and potatoes, and the best part is the beef goes in frozen. You can sub yogurt for the sour cream and skip the gravy.
  3.  Healthier pasta salad: this dish is mouthwateringly good. There are lots of variations on this recipe but this one works well; note that you can sub, for example, canned diced tomatoes for the fresh cherry tomatoes, or low-fat pepperoni for the turkey pepperoni if you’d like. And I use very little cheese, maybe a couple of tablespoons (and often buy it shredded, because, time!).

Here are a few “just-in-time” meal ideas for busy weeknights:

  1. My favorite is Lazy Lasagna, with one exception: “1 to 2 doonks Pure Stevia Extract Powder.” I’m not sure what a “doonk” is, and please – we are not a household with any pure stevia extract powder lying around. Pro tip: Just use sugar. I’m assuming a “doonk” isn’t much; maybe it’s like a pinch? And a pinch of sugar – in a dish that feeds 6-8 people – will not turn anyone into a raving sugarholic. Also, if you’ve got a smaller family, you can freeze half of it and serve it another time – so it’s both a “busy weeknight” and “make-ahead” meal. #winning.
  2. Sesame Street (yes!) has a few great healthy eating ideas, including a set of printable recipes that includes a shopping list and meal planner. I’m partial to the veggie pizza snack, but all the recipes are pretty simple and will please the whole family:
  3. Breakfast for dinner: I love, love, love breakfast for dinner. We’ll whip up a couple of omelets, with some toast (we’re huge fans of Ezekiel bread:, and maybe some bacon (use turkey bacon if you’d like). Easy, quick and yummy. You can also make these great “use up the fruit” pancakes; use any fruit you’ve got on hand. Softer fruits like peaches and berries work best, and I’d skip the powdered sugar – the fruit adds plenty of sweetness.

Bon Appétit!

About the author: Dawne, a mother of three children who survived her parenting, blogs at Follow her for warnings and advice, mostly based on her own poor choices.


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