5 Healthy Make-Ahead Meal Ideas for Weeknight Dinners

Get a jump start on the week with some healthy dishes you can cook on Sunday and then transform into a couple of weeknight meals.

In the fall, people are always talking about what a busy time of the year it is. And it is! There are the endless school activities. And then there are all the other obligations that have to be jammed into the weeks before holiday madness sets in. It's easy to feel you have too much to do and too little time for wholesome, home-cooked meals. The answer is a few deep breaths and some good planning. 

Whether you need a little inspiration to get back into your old healthy routine — or need help kick-starting a new one, we’ve put together some of our favorite filling-yet-not-fattening meals. These are dishes you can make ahead on Sunday for a week’s worth of delicious dinner options that will keep you from eating ice cream straight out of the carton when you get home and have to face the prospect of starting to cook.

 

Soup

This time of year, nothing is better than a big bowl of a hot soup to warm you up — and fill you up. When choosing what soup to make (or buy), avoid those with creamy or bisque in the title. Instead, look for vegetable-laden, broth-based soups. If you want a creamy pureed soup, without the cream, invest in an immersion blender to make any vegetable soup deceptively rich and velvety.

 

Curried Red Lentil Soup with Jalapeño, Lemon and Ham

From The Daily Meal

A hearty and healthy soup that is full of flavor.

 

 

Roasted Vegetables

One of the easiest ways to get your vegetables — and a carb-fix, without the subsequent crash you would get from eating refined carbohydrates — is to roast up a couple of trays of root vegetables at the beginning of the week that you can then use in a variety of dishes.

Toss an array of parsnip, butternut squash, carrot, and pumpkin with chicken broth, simmer until tender, and then puree for a delicious vegetable soup. Or, try tossing the roasted vegetables with your favorite cooked pasta; garnish with a dollop of part-skim ricotta, and you have yourself a satisfying (and easy) healthy meal. And if you’re feeling really lazy, toss the roasted vegetables with your favorite salad greens, a dash of oil and vinegar, and serve over two slices of prosciutto for a quick late-night dinner that will satisfy your hunger, but won’t keep you up all night.

 

Easy Roasted Root Vegetables

From The Daily Meal

A basic recipe for roasted vegetables. Once you master the technique, experiment with different vegetables and seasonings for a different mix of flavors and colors.

 

 

Roast Chicken

During the winter, the smell of roast chicken wafting through the house is a comforting scent that reminds some people of home — often a memory triggered when thinking about winter comfort meals.

Roasting a chicken at home is really quite easy; all you need is some salt and pepper, and a baking pan with at least 1½-inch sides. For a more flavorful option, you can also roast the chicken on a bed of carrots and onions, or stuff it with apples and lemons — the choice is yours, as the chef. The best part? After eating the meat warm, fresh out of the oven, on the first night, you can then use the rest of the meat and carcass for a variety of other dishes. I love making chicken salad with leftover meat, and then using the carcass to make homemade chicken broth for easy chicken noodle soup. You can also toss the cooked chicken into pasta sauces, salads, even in sandwiches or quesadillas.

 

Easy Roast Chicken

From The Daily Meal

A basic recipe for roasting chicken. No brining, basting, or flipping needed for nearly perfect results.

 

 

Lasagna

When it comes to lasagna, many think of their grandmother’s béchamel and ground beef-laden specialty that weighs a ton — but it doesn’t have to be that rich. Instead of a béchamel, opt for layers of part-skim ricotta and flavorful Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. You can also substitute pasta sheets for thin slices of zucchini or eggplant, one of my favorite tricks. Lasagna is essentially different layers of ingredients, interspersed with a moist filling, which is then gently baked until bubbly and tender.

This Italian classic is perfect for serving a crowd, or for making in advance and stashing in the freezer. For a comforting meal that is easy to prepare for a Sunday night dinner, pair a simple lasagna with a salad and a hunk of bread; you can then save the leftovers (or make a second lasagna) and keep it for additional meals throughout the week.

 

Spinach Lasagna

A healthy lasagna full of vegetables and some hearty sausage for flavor. A balanced dish in itself, this lasagna is perfect to have for lunch during the week.

 

 

Rice and Beans

Now, we’re not talking about the slightly orange-tinged combination that accompanies your burrito at a Mexican restaurant here. Instead, we’re talking about slowly simmered black beans, started dry and soaked overnight to make them, well… More tolerable to eat. The soaked beans are then cooked along with a variety of with herbs and seasonings. Served over a serving of perfectly cooked brown rice and your pick of colorful fruit or vegetable garnish (try a fruit-based salsa or steamed vegetables for added nutrients and color), this is a fiber-rich and easy meal that you can make ahead and serve in different ways each night of the week.

 

Frijoles Negros

A basic black bean dish that can be served on its own, over rice, or mashed to make a black bean spread or soup for another meal.

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