Despite all of the flashy dishes you see on your Instagram feed and Pinterest page, you're not going to feel inspired to test out your cooking chops every night — and that's OK.
When even sheet-pan recipes and one-pot dishes feel like a lot of elbow grease, turn to combining some of your favorite snacks to make a balanced meal.
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No, we're not talking about a bag of Cheetos and a sleeve of Oreos. When you combine snacks to make a mini meal, it's important to make sure it contains protein, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates to help you curb hunger and keep you full for hours, says Amy Shapiro, RD, CDN and Daily Harvest's nutrition partner.
"I also recommend putting all of your snacks together on your plate to mimic a meal. This will help you feel satisfied instead of eating out of the snack containers to prevent you from grazing well into the night," Shapiro says.
Here are some healthy mini meal ideas recommended by dietitians to make when you're just not in the mood to cook.
1. Whole-Grain Crackers + Cottage Cheese + Chia Seeds
If you're craving something creamy and savory, try this simple snack that offers a bit of crunch.
Whole-grain crackers are high in fiber and cottage cheese is rich in protein and has some fat, Shapiro says. "The chia seeds absorb water and grow ten times their size so they fill our bellies. And they are rich in fiber so they slow digestion."
2. Greek Yogurt + Berries + Nuts
Greek yogurt is not only packed with gut-loving probiotics, but it also contains about 14 grams of protein per serving, Shapiro says.
"Pair that with the fiber in berries and the healthy fat from nuts, and you can stay full for hours." Just be sure to add at least two tablespoons of nuts to reap their satisfying healthy fats.
3. Toasted Whole-Grain Waffle + Peanut Butter + Banana Slices
Satisfy your sweet cravings with a whole-grain waffle drizzled with peanut butter and some banana slices. The banana lends a natural sweetness and fiber while peanut butter infuses a creamy, velvety texture.
"This combo will provide sustained energy with healthy carbs that include fiber for consistent energy, plus staying power from the healthy fat and protein from the peanut butter," Julie Harrington, RD and chef, says.
4. Apple Slices + Nut Butter + Whole-Grain Crackers
This classic after-school snack will be a hit with both the kids and the adults. Creamy nut butter lends satisfying healthy fats and protein while the apple and whole-grain crackers supply hunger-curbing fiber.
"Apples contain about 5 grams of fiber, so if you pair that with a heart-healthy fat like a serving of nut butter and get fiber from crackers, you'll stay full for hours," Shapiro explains.
5. Indian-Inspired Snack Platter
Sarika Shah, RD, a registered dietitian based in San Ramon, California, likes to make a snack plate with a smorgasbord of water-lily seeds (aka makhana), which are a good source of magnesium and protein, plus roasted chickpeas (aka chana) for protein plus sliced cucumbers or other veggies.
She'll also mix Greek yogurt with green mint chutney as a dip for the veggies and pair it with almonds and no-sugar-added dried mango or fresh fruit.
6. Hard-Boiled Eggs + Veggies + Hummus + Whole-Wheat Crackers
Prepping some hard-boiled eggs in advance can help you save time in the kitchen when you're in dire need of a speedy meal. If you want to cut cook time, consider picking up Peckish, which offers a flavorful seasoning with hard-boiled eggs.
"I love hard-boiled eggs as they contain protein and healthy fats. They are also portable and easy to prepare. When paired with fiber from veggies, hummus and crackers, you stay satisfied and get tons of flavors and textures. Plus, there's no mess!" Shapiro says.
7. Beef Jerky + Almonds + Dried Fruit
If you prefer a meatier snack combo, Nicole Rodriguez, RDN, NASM-CPT, likes combining beef jerky or biltong with an ounce of almonds or dry-roasted edamame and a serving of dried fruit, such as dates.
It's quick, easy and satisfying.
8. Soup + Seed Crackers
Soups are considered to be an appetizer before the entree, but in this case, it can be the main dish when paired with some whole-grain crackers, like Mary's Gone Crackers, Shapiro says.
"Soups, even if lower in calories, are high in volume, which means they contain a lot of liquid so they help to fill you up. Pair them with a satisfying crunch and added fiber, and you'll be satisfied."
9. Whole-Wheat Pita + Hummus + Cucumber + Carrots
If you're on the go, you can put together this simple mini meal in seconds and eat it one-handed, Harrington says. These delicious and filling foods provide protein, fiber, healthy fats and carbs.
You can also swap the hummus for chicken or tuna salad and add other crunchy leftover veggies, like bell peppers, broccoli and cauliflower.
10. Tuna + Avocado + Whole-Grain Crackers
Whether you have a can or packet of tuna, fish is something many people often forget is super accessible and doesn't need to be cooked. Instead of using mayo, prepare tuna salad with avocado, which provides some heart-healthy fats, and spread it over some whole-grain crackers or toast, Harrington says.
11. Oatmeal + Chia Seeds + Berries or Banana
Another great breakfast option, oatmeal provides fiber and complex carbs, which gets converted into glycogen to fuel your workouts. But eating a bowl of oats alone won't keep you satisfied, Shapiro says.
Instead, she suggests topping your oats with fresh fruit and chia seeds, which absorb water and offer healthy fats, protein and fiber. If you're in the mood for something more dinner-like, consider these savory oat recipes.
12. Low-Fat Cottage Cheese + Sun-Dried Tomato + Everything Bagel Seasoning + Extra-Virgin Olive oil
Another easy and delicious snack-meal Rodriguez suggests is low-fat cottage cheese. "Look for no-salt-added varieties to give yourself more flexibility on toppings, and aim to choose a plant-based fat and a fruit or veggie. One fun combo is sun-dried tomatoes with everything bagel seasoning and extra-virgin olive oil," she says.
Other flavor ideas Rodriguez likes are freeze-dried strawberries with tahini and sesame seeds; pickled jalapenos and melted peanut butter; and chopped figs with slivered almonds and a drizzle of pomegranate molasses. Yum!
13. Avocado Toast + Hemp Seeds
Got a ripe avocado on hand? Toast a piece of whole-grain bread and mash some avocado in a separate bowl with some fresh lemon or lime juice, a little bit of sea salt and crushed red pepper flakes.
If you're out of bread, Shapiro suggests using Lundberg's rice cakes or Wasa crackers. And if you're not a fan of avocado, go for cream cheese or nut butter.
"Again, we are pairing carbs with a healthy fat from the avocado and adding some protein and additional fat — specifically, omega-3 fatty acids from the hemp seeds. All are whole foods and all contain fiber, slowing down the digestion of the carbs," Shapiro says.
14. Gluten-Free Toast + Tomato Sauce + Cheese + Sauteed Veggies
Ella Davar, RD, CDN, a registered dietitian and holistic nutritionist, likes to focus on snacks that have a balance of all macronutrients to support metabolism and immunity. If you're gluten-free or limiting gluten, she recommends Simple Kneads topped with tomato sauce, cheese and sauteed veggies, like zuchini and leeks.
"The combination of carbs, protein, fats and fiber is the perfect balance that will satiate your hunger, keep your blood sugar in check and prevent cravings," she says.
15. Turkey Roll-Ups + Popcorn
For a quick and tasty low-carb snack, prepare your own roll-ups with organic turkey and cheese slices and wrap them around with carrot, celery and cucumber sticks. Enjoy with a side of air-popped popcorn for a hearty crunch of whole grains.
"Turkey is a lean protein that is low in calories, but per ounce, it contains 7 grams of protein. If you are looking for a low-calorie snack, pairing it with fiber from veggies will keep you satisfied," Shapiro says.
"Rolling it with a slice of cheese will add additional fat, about 8 grams per slice. Popcorn is a crowd favorite because it contains salty crunchiness, but it also contains fiber, and you can eat a large serving for a few calories."
16. Protein Smoothie
Yup, you can have a smoothie dinner. These liquid meals are perfect for when you're in a pinch and need something nutritious.
Some healthy fixings include natural nut butter, spinach, frozen cauliflower, berries, banana and chia seeds. To add a boost of satiation, add a protein powder of your choice.
Not in the mood to make your own? "Daily Harvest purposefully creates balanced smoothies incorporating a variety of fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds that have fiber, protein and healthy fats," Shapiro says.
Enjoy your smoothie in a bowl, so you can take time to savor it instead of gulping it down.