- Protein, fiber, & healthy fat
- 1. Easy breakfast foods & meal ideas
- 2. Easy lunch & dinner with protein and carbs
- 3. Buy ready-to-eat & frozen veggies
- 4. Stock up on healthy snacks
- 5. Easily flavor foods with dried herb & spice blends
- 6. Cook once & eat twice
- 7. Keep convenience meals on hand
- 8. Outsource the grocery shopping
- 9. Outsource the meal prepping
- 10. Hire a personal chef
This list of 10 tips on how to eat healthy if you hate to cook will save you time, money, and sanity whether you’re a busy parent or a working professional or if cooking sounds like a daunting task to you.
You need to eat to survive but you hate to cook. Thanks to the restaurant industry and your ability to reheat take-out, you’ve survived just fine thus far. But now you’d like to take more control of your meal prep and eat healthier at home. What to do?
Okay, maybe hate is a strong word. Perhaps you actually do cook but mentally push through the drudgery. Or you’re in a meal rut and have no time. Or you actually do hate cooking.
Before we get to our top 10 tips, keep the following basic nutrition points in mind when you’re starting on your healthy eating journey.
The key to balanced healthy eating: protein, fiber, & healthy fat
Protein is needed for our bodies to stay healthy. It is found in every part of our body, from organs to tissues to muscles, bones, hair, and skin. It also helps fuel the body with energy and carry oxygen throughout the body.
Protein food sources come from animals, animal products such as milk and eggs, and plants such as beans, lentils, tofu, nuts, and seeds.
Fiber is found in plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains. Also known as roughage, fiber is well-known for its role in preventing or relieving constipation.
Fiber provides other health benefits as well, such as lowering the risk for chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers, and helping with weight maintenance.
Dietary fat plays an important role in our health by helping with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, increasing satiety, and reducing blood sugar spikes. Research shows that the type of fat we consume, not the amount of fat, has more of an impact on our health.
Choosing healthier fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats) can help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, according to the American Heart Association. Common healthy fat food sources include avocado, fatty fish, olive oil, nuts, and seeds.
Eat healthy at home even if you hate to cook
The following tips start with ideas for people who don’t mind easy meal prep with minimal to no-cooking suggestions and end with advice for those who have zero time or hate to cook.
1. STOCK UP ON EASY BREAKFAST FOODS
Start the day right with a healthy breakfast. Breakfast can help boost your energy levels and keep you focused. When you add breakfast to your morning routine, you’re less likely to grab sugar-laden convenience food at the gas station or in the office break room.
Make it a habit to stock up on these easy breakfast foods packed with nutrients so you’ve got something healthy to reach for sans cooking before you head out the door. These foods can also be eaten as snacks and easy lunch or dinner options.
Easy and healthy breakfast foods
- Yogurt – Check the label and pick higher protein yogurts with little or no added sugar. Greek yogurt has the highest amount of protein at about 16 grams per serving, double to triple the amount compared to other yogurts.
- Milk – Cow’s milk and certain plant-based kinds of milk such as soy have the highest amount of protein. Look for milk that is fortified with calcium and vitamin D to support bone health.
- Cottage cheese – 1 cup contains 28 grams of protein.
- Cooked and peeled hard-boiled eggs – Eggs are packed with protein and other nutrients. They contain choline, essential for fetal and newborn brain development, and may help with memory function as we age. Eggs also contain the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin which support eye health.
- Low sugar cold cereal – The Cleveland Clinic advises choosing a cereal that is less than 6 grams of sugar and avoiding those with sugar listed in the top 3 ingredients.
- No-cook starches – Bread and tortillas to pair with protein.
- Instant oatmeal – Look for lower-sugar options with at least 3 grams of fiber.
- Old-fashioned oats – No cooking is required to make overnight oats.
- Easy-to-eat fruits and frozen fruits – Go for fruits that don’t require any cutting such as apples, bananas, berries, grapes, and pears. Add variety with pre-cut pineapples, melons, and cantaloupe. If fresh fruits aren’t your thing, consider frozen fruits that you can add to a smoothie.
- Peanuts, nuts, peanut butter, and nut butter – Look for minimally processed kinds with little to no added sugar.
- Seeds and seed butter – Look for minimally processed kinds with little to no added sugar.
- Flax and chia seed – Nutrient-rich and can be sprinkled on different foods.
Quick breakfast meal ideas
Eat these no-fuss breakfast combinations with a piece of fruit or take your fruit along for a mid-morning snack. If you’re tired of the same ole same ole, try different combinations or food brands.
- Yogurt, cereal, or instant oatmeal mixed with nuts and flax or chia seeds.
- Overnight oats with milk, yogurt, and flax or chia seeds. Top with nuts or fruits.
- Cottage cheese with fruit
- Toast with smashed avocado, hard-boiled egg, peanut or nut butter, or cottage cheese.
- Tortilla rolled up with smashed avocado and chopped hardboiled egg. Add pre-made salsa or hot sauce for spice.
- Egg salad seasoned and made with plain yogurt or avocado on toast or as a sandwich.
- A smoothie made with milk and fresh or frozen fruit. Add peanut butter, nut butter, or seeds for a boost in protein and healthy fat.
2. MEALS WITH PROTEINS & CARBS THAT REQUIRE MINIMAL TO NO COOKING
The following nutrient-dense foods not only make for a healthy no-cook meal but are great to have on hand during emergencies when you need something satisfying in a pinch.
Easy and healthy lunch and dinner foods
- Rotisserie chicken
- Fully cooked and grilled chicken in strips or shredded – Cook in a skillet until warm.
- Canned beans and chickpeas – Fiber-rich plant proteins with antioxidants.
- Canned tuna and salmon – Proteins packed with vitamin D and heart-healthy fat.
- Whole cuts – Less processed versions of cold cuts that are sliced from a whole ham, pot toast, and turkey. Or look for packaged cold cuts with fewer ingredients.
- Tofu – Requires time to drain since it’s packed in water but is a good option if you want to eat more non-animal protein. Pan-frying is the least fussy way to cook.
- Protein options from the above breakfast list: peanut or nut butter, ready-to-eat hard-boiled eggs
- Instant grains – Look for minimally processed options and add fiber-rich whole grain versions such as brown rice, and quinoa, to the mix.
- Pasta – Take minutes to cook but you can find fully cooked al dente pasta that takes 60 seconds to cook.
Quick meal ideas for lunch and dinner
- Sandwich or tortilla wrap with protein, pre-washed salad greens or coleslaw, avocado slices, and olive oil and vinegar or dressing. You could also season plain yogurt with a bit of salt and pepper and use that as your condiment.
- A veggie wrap made with canned beans, chickpeas, or tofu.
- Canned tuna or salmon or egg salad for a sandwich or wrap filling. Use plain seasoned yogurt and/or avocado for a healthy, creamy texture.
- Peanut or nut butter sandwich
- Buddha bowl with instant grain, protein, pre-washed greens, pre-cut ready-to-eat vegetables, avocado slices, and pre-made salsa or dressing.
- Fully cooked pasta with protein, drizzled with olive oil, and topped with fresh parmesan cheese and seasoning.
- Pasta salad with protein, cherry or grape tomatoes, greens, grated cheese or fresh mozzarella balls, and torn fresh basil.
3. BUY READY-TO-EAT & FROZEN VEGGIES
Save time on slicing and dicing and opt for these convenient vegetables:
- Salad in a bowl or bag
- Salad kits with a protein
- Ready-to-eat chopped/sliced vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, baby or pre-cut carrots, bell peppers, pre-cut celery, cucumbers, onions, and snap peas.
- Frozen veggies
Easy ways to add vegetables to your diet
- Up the filling factor of a bagged salad or salad kit by adding other pre-cut vegetables along with no-cook protein: canned beans, chopped hard-boiled eggs, tuna, shredded rotisserie chicken, or chopped nuts.
- Add pre-cut veggies to a Buddha bowl or pasta salad.
- Add a handful of leafy greens to a smoothie.
- Whisk together equal parts vinegar and olive oil to coat a bag of coleslaw mix. Add some plain yogurt if you’d like a creamy texture. Use this coleslaw mix as a side or for wrap and sandwich fillings.
- Pair pre-cut vegetables with healthy dips such as guacamole, hummus, salsa, and Tzatziki.
- Chicken fajitas using pre-cooked chicken strips and pre-cut fajita veggies.
- Stove-top sauté frozen vegetables with cooking oil and seasonings of your choice.
4. STOCK UP ON HEALTHY SNACKS
Going back to protein, fiber, and healthy fat for the basis of nutritious and satiating meals, apply this to snacks, too. Stocking up on nutritious snacks is not only healthier but you get more nutrition bang for your buck compared to snacks made of empty calories.
Keep these grab-and-go foods on hand to snack on between meals or pack them to-go for your lunch bag.
- Cheese sticks
- Cottage cheese cups
- Lower sugar yogurt cups
- Plain or lightly salted peanuts or nuts
- Snacks bars that are minimally processed (short ingredient list) and lower in sugar
- Popcorn kernels – Flavor this whole grain with your seasonings to control the number of ingredients added. A little olive oil and salt may be all you need.
- Lightly salted crackers or chips with 3 grams or more of fiber
- Condiments for dipping such as guacamole, hummus, peanut or nut butter, salsa, and Tzatziki.
- Pre-cut dip-friendly vegetables
- Fruits to eat or to add to a smoothie
5. EASILY FLAVOR FOODS WITH DRIED HERB & SPICE BLENDS
Take a simple approach to adding flavor to your foods with the use of dried herbs and spice blends. You do not need a whole shelf with bottles and bottles of different seasonings. Reduce meal prep time and select blends that will do the heavy lifting of seasoning your food in one or two steps.
Give the salt shaker a rest and try these classic spice blends. Try these simple ideas as well to add a savory twist to your foods.
- Cajun spice – A blend of peppers, paprika, garlic, and other spices and dried herbs.
- Sprinkle over plain popcorn
- Mix with olive oil and brush over fish, then grill
- Mix with plain yogurt for a dip
- Chinese 5 spice – A blend of star anise, cinnamon, cloves, fennel seeds, and Sichuan peppers.
- Add to plain rice, noodles, and pasta for flavor
- Season meats and vegetables for roasting
- Mix with sandwich and wrap fillings
- Italian seasoning – A blend of basil, garlic, oregano, red pepper, rosemary, and thyme.
- Add to pasta dishes
- Sprinkle on eggs and sauteed vegetables
- Mix with olive oil for an easy salad dressing
- Taco seasoning – A blend of chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, paprika, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper.
- Add to snack foods such as popcorn, roasted chickpeas, and plain roasted nuts.
- Season quesadillas and chicken fajitas
- Dry rub for grilled meats
- Everything bagel seasoning – A blend of black sesame seeds, dried minced garlic, dried minced onion, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, and sea salt flakes.
- Sprinkle it on meals, snacks, dips, cottage cheese, salads, and just about everything else.
6. COOK ONCE & EAT TWICE
Double or triple your meal prep to have leftovers on hand for the next day or two. When you need something quick, it’s much faster to reach for leftovers than to meal prep from scratch, wait for delivery, or eat out.
Eating leftovers also offers the following benefits:
- Less cooking and time in the kitchen
- No skipping meals
- Reduced food waste
- Reduced grocery bill
- Savings from dining out expenses
Many dishes store well in the fridge with the exception of recipes that call for leafy greens. Nobody wants a sad-looking, wilted salad. If you’re doing a make-ahead meal such as a pasta salad or grain bowl, omit the leafy greens and add them right before you eat.
Reduce food waste and make use of your freezer space if you can’t eat leftovers within 3 days. The following foods keep well in the freezer:
- Cooked meats and seafood
- Cooked pasta, rice, and grains
- Cooked vegetables
- Pancakes and waffles
- Tomato sauce
7. KEEP CONVENIENCE FOODS ON HAND
Convenience foods are a big time-saver when you have zero time and mental bandwidth to do any kind of meal prepping. They’re a lifesaver for a busy parent who needs to quickly feed a hangry family in under 15 minutes.
Advantages of convenience foods include savings from having to spend at eateries, little clean-up, and less waste.
When you’re shopping for convenience foods with health in mind, comparison shop and read the ingredients list and Nutrition Facts label. Harvard Health Publishing recommends looking out for the following:
- Look for fewer ingredients and select meals that have real foods on the ingredient list
- Calories – 600 or less per serving
- Fiber – 5 grams or more
- Sodium – 500 milligrams or less
- Trans fat – 0 grams
- Saturated fat – 5 grams or less
- Sugar – 0 grams
8. OUTSOURCE THE GROCERY SHOPPING
Perhaps the part you hate most about meal prepping is grocery shopping. By eliminating this chore and outsourcing it, you’ll not only have a stocked kitchen to help you eat healthily but perhaps less of an aversion to cooking.
Easily get your grocery shopping done without having to set foot inside the store.
- Ask for help. Train your older kids or partner to grocery shop or pay someone else to shop for you.
- Shop your grocery store online and do curbside pick-up. You’ll be notified when your groceries are ready for pick-up, and they’ll be delivered to your vehicle.
- Check online if your grocery store does delivery to your door.
- Online shop your favorite store through Instacart or Shipt for grocery delivery. Both offer same-day delivery from thousands of big and small grocery retailers including convenience and drug stores. You can even shop warehouse clubs such as Costco and Sam’s Club without a club membership.
- Meal planning apps – Personalized meal planning is simple with the help of apps that have a vast selection of customizable recipes to choose from. The recipes you choose become your grocery list and you can even have your groceries delivered to your door.
9. OUTSOURCE THE MEAL PREPPING
Using a meal delivery service is a great option for busy individuals, couples, or families who want a fresh, home-cooked meal with minimal effort. By outsourcing the shopping and meal prep to someone else, you’ll be less stressed and have more time to do other activities that benefit your overall health, like spending time with family, exercising, and self-care.
In addition to freeing up your time, the benefits of meal delivery services include:
- Portion control
- Customizable eating plans if you’re following a certain diet or have dietary restrictions
- Keep track of nutritional data – meal delivery services typically list nutritional information on their food labels
Search online for “meal kit delivery services” and choose the one that best meets your needs. These subscription-based services allow you to select from a variety of menu options and how many meals you’d like delivered each week. The meals are either sold as kits or pre-made.
- Meal kit services deliver fresh foods and all the ingredients and directions you need to make a meal in less than 30 minutes.
- Pre-made meal services deliver chef-crafted cooked meals that require 2-3 minutes of heating time.
10. HIRE A PERSONAL CHEF
The last option on this list may not be the most feasible for people on a budget. But it deserves a mention for folks who have the means to hire ongoing or temporary help with cooking.
A personal chef is ideal if your budget allows, and you have absolutely no time or desire to cook.
According to wikiHow’s article on how to hire a personal chef, a chef can help with the following:
- Menu planning
- Grocery shopping
- After-meal clean-up
- Leaving instructions for reheating and serving
- Some chefs offer assistance with dinner parties and special date nights
You’ll want to determine your culinary and dietary needs first and how often you’d like a personal chef service. Use an online directory of services such as Angie’s List or Care.com to search for local chefs or ask your friends and neighbors for recommendations. Then interview candidates to find the best chef who fits your lifestyle.
These tips on healthy eating at home when you hate to cook are just a few suggestions to help you get started on adding both balance and convenience to your diet. You might find something here works for you now and something else will work for you later. Life changes and as long as you have a flexible game plan that aligns with your health goals and lifestyle, you’ll be set. Bon appetite and cheers to easy cooking…or no cooking!