Dinner: Whip Up a Last Minute, Healthy Dinner (cont.)
Ward and Zelman are big fans of ready-to-eat rotisserie chickens, found in almost any grocery store. "Most of the fat has dripped off it," says Ward, "although I do pull off the skin."
"I rely a lot on rotisserie chickens," says Zelman. "One night I'll have it with a baked potato and salad. The next night, I'll pick it off the bone and make a pasta dish. I'll throw a handful of frozen peas and canned, diced tomatoes into the pasta sauce. Or I might use the leftover chicken to make a Caesar salad."
Zelman says she always keeps a few packages of pre-cooked grilled chicken strips in her freezer. "They're expensive, but fast. I stock up when they're on sale. It's a quick defrost."
Closely related to chicken is the egg, another favorite of dietitians. Omelets are a great catchall for leftovers like vegetables, chicken, and salsa, but even plain versions offer good nutrition. "If you've got eggs and low-fat cheese and milk, you have a meal," says Zelman. "Maybe serve it with some canned fruit."
"I love Weight Watchers and Lean Cuisine frozen dinners," says Zelman. "I'll add vegetables to a macaroni and cheese entree, and I always add a side salad or roll because often it's not enough to eat." She advises reading the nutrition labels: "I aim for 300 or fewer calories."
"You can have that take-out...as long as you exercise a little restraint."
She has other ways of beefing up the nutrients in prepared foods, such as adding extra vegetables to canned soup and extra beans to canned chili. And she dresses up plain salad greens with fruit and small amounts of shredded cheese and nuts.
Ward likes the Near East packaged mixes, such as tabouli and couscous. "People think of them as side dishes, but I turn them into a meal by adding chopped, leftover chicken and a lot of tomatoes and serving them on a bed of greens," she says.
Cereal is a dinner staple for many singles, and it's perfectly healthy, as long as you watch the sugar and fat content and use low-fat milk. "Breakfast cereal and fruit and skim milk, there's nothing wrong with that," says Zelman.
Ward says her family has breakfast for dinner once a week: Pancakes or waffles with a side of fruit plus milk. It's a hit with her family, and what the kids don't know is that she sometimes adds wheat germ and an extra egg to the pancake mix. "That's stealth nutrition." She keeps waffles in the freezer for nights when she's really short on time. (Of course, dieters should skip the extra butter and be sparing with the syrup. Try fruit, applesauce and/or low-fat yogurt for a healthy and delicious topping.)
Dinner for the Desperate
But what about those nights when the larder is empty and even a few minutes in the kitchen is too much? Guess what? You can have that take-out after all, as long as you exercise a little restraint. Zelman says she orders a cheese or veggie pizza: "I have one or two pieces and a side salad, and it's not a bad meal."