Make Cooking Tonight a Bit Easier With These 9 Healthy, 5-Ingredient Recipes Dietitians Love
Cooking at home—especially when you’re sheltering in place due to a global pandemic—can certainly get repetitive. But that doesn’t mean you have let your meals get boring! The best part of trying new recipes while you’re cooped up: Finding a few delicious go-tos that you can whip up whenever you’re hungry that don't require a ton of time or lots of complicated ingredients to make.
On a quest for some healthy, 5-ingredient recipes, we turned to the nutrition pros to dish out some of their favorite meals, made with a kitchen staple or two you’ve likely stocked up on for the quarantine. These easy meals check off all of boxes you want when you’re playing chef at home—super easy, quick, tasty, and definitely nutritious.
Keep reading for 9 healthy, 5-ingredient recipes that are stupid-easy to make:
1. Vegetable stir-fry
Need a way to eat lots of veggies, but sick of salads? Turn to this stir-fry, which is a favorite of Nora Minno, RD, an NYC-based dietitian and trainer for Daily Burn. “You really can’t go wrong—just use whatever veggies you have on hand, whether they’re fresh, frozen, canned, or left over from another meal,” she says. You’ll also love that you only have to dirty one pan for this recipe, so less dishes to do afterward.
4 cups of chopped veggies (fresh, canned, or frozen and thawed)
2 Tbsp of oil (sesame or vegetable oil)
14 oz. tofu
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1 tsp of garlic powder and/or 1 tsp ground ginger
Optional: Sriracha, ½ tbsp lemon juice
*Note: If using frozen veggies, thaw them in the microwave ahead of time and pour off any excess water.
1. Place block of tofu on plate with plate or cutting board on top. Place a heavy object on top (like box of rice or water bottle) and let sit for 5-10 minutes until water drains out. Pour water off and chop tofu into 1/2 inch cubes.
2. Heat half of the oil in a medium to large pan over high heat. Add in tofu and sear on all sides until golden brown (about two to three minutes per side).
3. While tofu is cooking, whisk together soy sauce and spices in a small bowl. (Add lemon juice and Sriracha if using). Set aside.
4. Remove tofu from pan and set aside. Add the remaining oil to the pan, followed by the chopped vegetables.
5. Sauté veggies for two to three minutes, then slowly pour sauce over top, stirring often so sauce doesn’t burn.
6. Add in tofu and let cook for another three to five minutes.
2. Mini flatbread pizzas
Pamela Nisevich Bede, RD, nutrition consultant for Swim, Bike, Run, Eat, and author of Sweat. Eat. Repeat., enjoys these "pizzas" so much because her kids can customize their own toppings. (Plus, who doesn’t love pizza?) Go ham on the veggies to boost the amount of vitamins and minerals. “The more color, the more vitamins,” she says.
4 small piece of naan or pita bread
1/2 cup marinara or pizza sauce
1 cup whole milk shredded mozzarella
1 cup chopped fresh veggies (like bell peppers, finely chopped raw broccoli, baby spinach)
1/2 cup sausage crumbles
1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Line up ingredients on counter.
3. Spread each piece of naan with about 2 Tbsp marinara sauce and place on baking sheet.
4. Top each piece with your favorite toppings.
5. Place in preheated oven and bake until cheese is melted and begins to brown, about 10-15 minutes.
3. Pasta and meatball casserole
Who would have thought you'd just need five ingredients to make a healthy casserole? “It’s easy to get creative with shelf-stable ingredients like pasta and sauce,” says Bede. She also makes sure to chop up the veggies included very finely, so her kids don’t even realize just how many they’re eating. To up the health benefits, go for whole wheat pasta instead of white.
2 cups cooked pasta (like whole grain ziti)
1 cup marinara sauce
1 cup finely chopped veggies like broccoli, carrots, bell pepper, zucchini
2 cups frozen meatballs, thawed
1/2 cup mozzarella balls, sliced
1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. In an oven-safe dish, combine pasta, sauce, veggies, and meatballs.
3. Arrange buffalo mozzarella slices on top.
4. Place in preheated oven and bake until meatballs are cooked through and cheese has melted, about 25-30 minutes.
4. Black bean and vegetable quesadillas
“Quesadillas offer an inexpensive meal that is super customizable—add additional vegetables like spinach, squash, or peppers to boost the nutrition content,” says Kristen Smith, RDN, founder of 360 Family Nutrition and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Plus, they're delicious.
1 15-oz. can black beans
1 cup frozen or canned corn kernels
1/2 small onion, diced
2 cups shredded Mexican cheese
10 medium whole wheat quesadillas
1. Drain and rinse the can of beans.
2. Place the beans, corn, and onions in a small pan with a drizzle of olive oil. Bring to medium heat and cook for about 5-8 minutes or until onions are translucent. Take off heat.
3. Place about one-half cup of the filling on one side of each tortilla, top with about 1/4 cup of cheese, and fold in half.
4. Cook each quesadilla in a skillet on medium heat until brown and crispy and cheese has melted (usually about two to four minutes on each side).
5. Peanut butter-banana oatmeal
Healthy 5-ingredient recipes aren't just a dinnertime thing; they're perfect for breakfast, too. Smith's go-to oatmeal dish is packed with fiber and protein, as well as healthy fats from the peanut butter and chia seeds. This makes two servings, so you can portion out half for the next day, too, says Smith.
1 cup old fashioned oats
1 banana, sliced
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 cups of water
2 tablespoons peanut butter (or another nut butter)
1. In a medium saucepan, add oats, banana slices, cinnamon, salt, and water. Stir to combine.
2. Heat over medium heat for about eight to 10 minutes or until liquid is absorbed (stir periodically while cooking to ensure banana melts and oats don't clump; they should be fluffy).
3. Portion into two bowls. Add additional peanut butter and bananas as toppings.
6. Tortellini basil soup
Skip the canned soup and make your own! Just five ingredients form the base of this recipe, from Elizabeth Huggins, RDN, at Hilton Head Health, but you can always add more produce, like onions, zucchini, or celery. Just sauté them separately and throw them in when you add the canned tomatoes.
8 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 package cheese tortellini, uncooked
2 15-oz cans low-sodium cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 15-oz cans low-sodium chopped or diced tomatoes with Italian herbs
3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1. Bring chicken broth to a boil, add tortellini and cook about six to eight minutes, until tender.
2. Stir in beans, tomatoes, onion, and garlic powder. Reduce heat and simmer five to 10 minutes until thoroughly heated.
3. Remove from heat and stir in vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste. If you have it, stir in some chopped fresh basil, too.
8. Dressed-up canned soup
“This is a go-to for me when I don’t feel like making a big meal and could use something soothing,” says Jennifer Bruning, RDN, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She keeps low-sodium canned soup on hand, usually with chicken and a rice or pasta, and then adds to it to up the nutrition and satisfaction.
1 can condensed soup of your choice (try chicken with rice or pasta)
6 oz. cubed silken tofu
3-4 cloves garlic, smashed
1/2 sliced fresh ginger
2-3 small hot chilis, chopped
Optional: Carrots, cabbage, spinach, or other chopped vegetables
1. Add water to soup and heat per directions on can.
2. Add additional ingredients and heat through until garlic is tender. If using, add vegetables according to how long they take to cook (for example, carrots should go in early and spinach later).
3. Season with salt and pepper to taste, if desired.
9. Fruit compote
This healthy, 5-ingredient dessert recipe is perfect for using your fruit right before it goes bad, says Bruning. It adds a dose of healthy antioxidants to your dish. If you don’t have fresh fruit, you can also use frozen. Add it on anything like hot cereal, ice cream, yogurt, toast, or granola—the options are endless.
2 cups mixed fresh or frozen fruit such as strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, peaches, plums, or apricots
1/4 cup water or fruit juice
1-2 Tbsp sweetener like agave or maple syrup (optional)
Optional: Spices like cinnamon and cardamom; lemon zest
1. In a medium sauce pan, add fruit and water and bring to a low simmer.
2. Add sweetener and cook on low heat, stirring frequently to prevent sticking, until fruit breaks down.
3. Stir in chia seeds and spices (if using).
5. Turn off heat and allow chia to plump and thicken the mixture, then serve warm.
Looking for other awesome recipes? Check out these pantry-friendly dinners. And check out these anti-inflammatory drinks.
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