How to Make a Healthy Dinner Without Cooking

A nutritionist talks us through the grocery aisles for meal ideas that require zero effort in the kitchen

(Photo: iStock)

(Photo: iStock)

Work, gym, home. That pretty much sums up a day in the life of a working woman, single or not.

And making a healthy dinner at 8 p.m. after the daily gauntlet of employment, transit and exercise has been conquered just isn’t an option most are willing to consider—or at least not every night.

But don’t settle for cereal, or one of those meal replacement bars, or god forbid, a frozen entree. You need more fuel than that. Fortunately, there are nutritious pre-made dinner options (read, no effort required) at your local grocery store, says Theresa Albert, a nutritionist based in Toronto.

Make a beeline for the prepared foods section and pick up one of those pre-cooked rotisserie chickens (some stores even offer an antibiotic-free option). “I love them. They really are great,” says Albert, who says it’s their solid protein content that makes them the best in-a-pinch dinner option.

The average woman needs about 46 grams of protein a day, she says, which means you should aim to get 15 grams of protein at each meal. (Though if you work out regularly, you should double that number, says Albert.)

Chicken, generally speaking, offers 25 grams of protein per 100 gram (or three ounces) serving. Averaging around $12-$15, depending on the kind you buy, they’re economical too. “You can get three or four meals out of them,” says Albert.

The chickens are brined before they’re cooked so they are a tad higher in sodium, but eating a meal that contains appropriate protein (versus one that’s heavy on carbs, fat and sodium) is a trade-off worth the additional salt, says Albert.

For a healthy side, make your way to the deli section in search of healthy greens, grilled veggies, or veg-heavy salads that contain the colour green and a lot of it. “The darker green it is, the better it’s going to be.”

The healthiest option will contain the most veg and the least amount of added oil—if the salad appears to be floating in an oil bath then give it a pass, says Albert. Avoid the rice salads, too, as they’re starch-heavy and also contain excess oil.

Of course, you can always just grab a bagged salad in the produce section, too, and you’re good to go, says Albert.

Vegetarians can’t just pick up a chicken, but they can find decent entrees, says Albert. Look for prepared salads that contain a lot of protein, so bean-heavy salads, lentils, quinoa, and salads that contain tofu and/or tempeh. You can also snag flavoured versions of tofu and tempeh to add to your salad.