Simple, Healthy Meals You Can Make at Home — Even When You Don’t Have Many Ingredients

They’re quick, simple, and don’t require a daily trip to the store.

AT Production/ Shutterstock
AT Production/ Shutterstock

As we all experience heightened anxiety around the coronavirus pandemic, opting for healthier eating choices can feel more challenging now than ever. Plus, there are added obstacles to cooking nutritious meals during this time of social distancing, such as limited groceries and fresh produce in the house, or the time crunch of working remotely while parenting and homeschooling. Still, fueling our bodies with nutritious foods will make us healthier, and help us feel better in the long run. 

We asked our Thrive community to share the healthy, minimal-ingredient recipes they’ve been making and enjoying at home. Which of these will you try?

Sautéed lemony brussels sprouts

“A welcome addition to my meals during this quarantine has been Trader Joe’s shaved brussels sprouts. I simply toss the whole package in a skillet, and add some olive oil, lemon juice, parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper. I’m not the greatest chef, so I mostly eyeball the measurements. I keep the heat at a medium level and leave on for about ten minutes. The finished product is so delicious!”

—Eliza W., client engagement, New York, NY

Mushroom spaghetti squash

“My go-to dish is a super simple, four-ingredient, gluten-free, plant-based recipe. It’s a spaghetti squash dish with coconut milk, sliced mushrooms, and spinach.  I love the combination of all these ingredients in one pan. Add a little bit of salt and pepper, and enjoy.” 

—Lennis Perez, chemical engineer and wellness consultant, Austin TX

Oatmeal protein pancakes

“My go-to quarantine breakfast is a protein pancake made from just three ingredients: cottage cheese, eggs, and oats. Topped with yogurt and fresh fruit, it is a fantastic start to the day. It’s delicious, and keeps me full and energetic until lunch. It also feels like a little bit of a treat, which is why I think I’m addicted to it now. Celebrating the mornings feels important during this time. My pancakes help me feel grateful for the day, whatever it brings.”

—Nancy Jackson, philanthropic consultant, Lawrence, KS

Healthy chicken parmesan

“At the beginning of the week, I grill about five whole chicken breasts and separate them into packages big enough for the two of us. One week, I made a healthy chicken parmesan by putting jarred marinara sauce and shredded cheese in the oven to heat up, and served it with a side salad. Another night, we’ll slice up pieces for fajitas, or we can shred the meat for chicken tacos, chicken enchiladas, chicken quesadillas, or even our own grilled chicken salad.  This cuts prep time down and still gives us a variety of meals.  We don’t eat chicken every night, but this gives us several choices over a couple of weeks.”

—Michelle Williams, litigation specialist, New Mexico

Sautéed broccoli and garlic potatoes 

“Our favorite healthy meal for a comfort dinner is cooked broccoli and potatoes, sautéed with a bit of olive oil and garlic. It is cheap, simple, and fast. You just need to boil the potatoes about ten minutes before they are ready, add the broccoli florets, drain them, and leave them in the colander. Then, drizzle some olive oil with smashed garlic into the sauce pan and sauté for a minute, moving the garlic around until it becomes light brown.  Add the potatoes and broccoli to that sauce pan, and continue mixing before serving. You can also add a little salt and pepper.”

—M.P., art liaison, Santiago, Chile

Chicken zucchini soup

“Right now, I’m craving comfort food, but I’m also trying to eat healthy to boost my immune system. This chicken zucchini soup lets me do both. I take one large onion, a tablespoon of olive oil, a large zucchini, half a teaspoon of garlic salt, two cans of cream of chicken soup — reduced fat when available — two cans of reduced-sodium chicken broth, a cup of water, and a fourth of a teaspoon of fresh ground pepper. In a large pot, I sauté the onions over medium heat with the olive oil. Then, I add in the other ingredients, bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and let it cook until tender while stirring every few minutes. I then use an immersion blender to blend it, and serve it warm.”

—Cindy J., nonprofit executive search and HR consultant, Boston, MA

Fried eggs over leftovers

“My favorite lunch in quarantine is whatever vegetables or rice we have left over from last night, with a couple of fried eggs on top.  Sometimes, I’ll add some hot sauce. This is a great way to use up leftovers in a different way. Plus, it’s packed with protein and reduces food waste.”

—Alexis Haselberger, time management and productivity coach, San Francisco, CA

Cherry and chia seed jam

“I ran out of jam this week, so I took a leap and made my own. I pulled out the fresh cherries that I froze last summer and I pulsed them quickly in my mini chopper. I added a half a bag of frozen strawberries, chia seeds, and lemon juice. The exact measurements are two cups of frozen berries, three tablespoons chia seeds, one teaspoon lemon juice, and one tablespoon honey, maple syrup, or agave. Heat the fruit in a saucepan on medium heat until warmed. Then, mash the fruit, stir in the chia seeds and lemon juice, and remove from heat to let it cool. Pour into a jar and store in the refrigerator for up to a week. You can spread it onto your toast, add a few spoons to cottage cheese, or simply stir a little into your oatmeal. My kids gave me a big thumbs up even though I didn’t add any sugar. The natural sweetness of the cherries and berries was perfect as is!”

—Bonnie Taub-Dix, nutrition consultant and media trainer, New York, NY

Three-ingredient ginger lemon water

“I find that starting your morning with a healthy drink right when you wake up encourages your body to choose healthier options throughout the day. I like to drink a cup of warm water with lemon juice and a few slices of fresh ginger. It is a wonderful way to kickstart your day. You can also add a bit of cayenne pepper.”

—Heidi Hauer, holistic health coach, Zurich, Switzerland

One-pot zucchini spaghetti 

As I try to stay healthy during this time while also wanting to enjoy the food we’re eating, I’ve been making a one-pot zucchini ‘spaghetti’ dish with chicken sausage, garlic, onions, lots of basil, and tomatoes. If I have mushrooms, leeks, spinach, or asparagus, I’ll toss that in, too. You’ll need three tablespoons of olive oil, half a large onion, three thinly-sliced garlic cloves, minced sweet Italian chicken sausage, six finely chopped plum tomatoes, a third of a cup of diced basil, three or four peeled zucchinis, freshly grated parmesan, and salt and pepper to taste. Heat the oil in a large skillet, add the onion, and sauté until golden. Add the garlic and sausage, cook for five minutes, then stir in the tomatoes and basil. Season it with salt and pepper. Finally, place the zucchini over the top, cover, reduce heat to low, and cook until zucchini is tender. Toss to combine, and serve with parmesan!”

—Cindie Flannigan, food stylist and recipe developer, Venice, CA

Stir-fried chicken and vegetables

“All of my dishes are quick to prepare, have minimal ingredients, and taste delicious! My go-to ingredients are brown rice, frozen veggies, and chicken. We can make a variety of recipes with these three simple core ingredients. One of my favorites is a teriyaki chicken stir-fry. All you need are vegetables, chicken, rice, and then salt, pepper, and garlic powder for flavor. You can get a premade teriyaki sauce to pour over the top, or use an Asian toasted sesame dressing.”

—Brie LaPrell, accountant, Buffalo, NY 

Turkey bolognese zucchini boats

“I’ve been making turkey bolognese zucchini boats. They’re easy, delicious, and healthy. To make the ‘boats,’ you simply slice each zucchini in half and scoop out the flesh. Lightly season it with sea salt and garlic powder, and then add Trader Joe’s Turkey Bolognese. Afterward, you can add fresh mozzarella cheese, fresh basil, and shredded parmesan if you’d like. Just preheat the oven to 400 degrees, cover the zucchini boats in foil for 30 minutes, remove the foil, and cook for another ten minutes.”

—Christine Norwitch, health and wellness coach and trainer, Miami, FL

Which recipes have you been making and enjoying at home? Share them with us in the comments! 

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