Five Quick and Healthy Meals with Limited Time and Money

By: Lori Walker, RD

Despite good intentions limited time and money are frequently the culprits of last-minute fast food choices. With very little planning and preparation, parents can ensure they always have a few healthy, budget-friendly options that won’t cost them any more time or money than it takes to pick up their dinner through a fast food window. Here are a few ideas to get you started. Please note that each recipe makes 2 servings:

1. 8-minute Start to Finish Stir Fry. For a complete meal in less than 10 minutes, just boil a pot of water and cook a bag of quick-cooking brown rice. While the rice is cooking cut open a bag of pre-cut mixed frozen vegetables, and/or any other fresh veggies you have on hand (about 8- 10 oz.) and saute in one tablespoon of canola or olive for about 5 minutes on medium-high heat. Once the vegetables are tender, throw in your favorite can of beans (unsalted, rinsed and drained well). Heat all ingredients for 2-3 more minutes. Add your favorite salt-free seasonings (I prefer cumin, cayenne pepper, lemon, or curry). Put 2 cups of vegetable stir fry over ½ cup brown rice for a delicious, high fiber, cholesterol free meal!

2. Homemade Veggie Burger. Sauté 2 Portobello mushrooms and 1 sliced red pepper in 1 tablespoon of olive oil for approximately 5-7 minutes. Season with ground black pepper and 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar. Serve on a toasted whole wheat bun.

3. Whole Grain Pasta Dinner. Boil a pot of water and add 4 oz of whole wheat pasta. While pasta is boiling, sauté 1 diced garlic clove and any fresh vegetables you may have available. After 1-2 minutes, pour 4 ounces of salt-free tomato sauce over vegetables. Season with your favorite seasonings (I prefer oregano, basil, ground black pepper, and cumin) Drain pasta, add to vegetable sauce mixture and enjoy!

4. Protein-Packed Potatoes. Prepare a baked potato. Add your preference of steamed vegetables, top with salsa, and low fat cheddar cheese. For an extra dose of vitamins, serve with one cup of fat-free milk.

5. High Fiber Mexican Meal. Pick up a bell pepper, avocado, and any other fresh vegetables from your local supermarket. Sauté vegetables until soft in 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add 1 can of salt-free, drained black beans and heat thoroughly. Pour mixture on 2 whole grain, warmed tortillas. Top each tortilla with ½ sliced avocado and additional lettuce, tomatoes, salsa, etc.

Still looking for additional ideas to fit your family’s needs and preferences? Seek out the help of a local Registered Dietitian to create a customized meal plan for you and your family. Dietitians can develop healthy menu plans despite any time, budget, or food restrictions your family may require. To find a dietitian in your area, please go to the American Dietetic Association’s website (


Lori Walker, RD, CDE is a Los Angeles-based Registered Dietitian. She currently serves on the Executive Board for the Los Angeles Dietetic Association and is also a member of the Junior League of Los Angeles where she volunteers to teach local families how to make healthy lifestyle choices. She is a contributing writer to