fast food

When did “a burger and fries” come to be our only choice for fast food? Fast food can be done without a trip to the drive-thru. And it can be done in your own kitchen, with real food—and for real cheap. Don’t give up your resolution to eat better, especially on the days when you only have minutes for dinner. Here are five ideas for five-minute dinners to support your New Year’s diet. These are fresh, colorful, and vegetarian-adaptable. No MSG, no trans fats, no guilt!

Thai Noodle Stir-Fry

Rice noodles are a time-saver’s ideal pasta. Tossed into boiling water, they are done in just about three minutes. Drain them and toss into an oiled hot skillet with sliced vegetables and protein of choice—scallops, shrimp, and cubed tofu are delicious choices that cook up in minutes. Serve with lots of fresh cilantro, lime juice, and fish sauce (or soy sauce) for a colorful, fresh bowl in a snap.

Beans and Bacon With Greens

This adaptable take on Italian rustic fare is one of my absolute favorite dishes, even when I’m not short on cooking time. It’s full of fiber, protein, and leafy greens—all the good stuff to stay lean and trim. Start by browning just a strip of two of sliced bacon in a large skillet (or substitute sliced chicken sausages or sliced tempeh bacon instead). Add a few cups of chopped greens, a can or so of white beans, and just a bit of water or broth. Let the mixture simmer for a few minutes; season with ample black pepper and a drizzle of balsamic, and finish off with a scattering of grated Parmesan.

Super Scramble

Eggs are extremely satisfying for dinner. They also cook up in minutes. Make a super scramble by sautéing ample chopped vegetables in a large skillet. Add lightly beaten eggs and cook until fluffy. Fold in chopped smoked salmon and get your omega-3 boost with this low-carb fave. For a vegetarian version that’s still loaded with protein, add feta cheese or black beans to the batter.

Whole Grain Fried “Rice”

The rice is in quotes here because this dinner is made with whatever leftover grains you have in the fridge, all stir-fried up with whatever veggies you’ve got on hand. This quick dinner is yet another reason to make yourself a large pot of grains first thing in the week; cook a huge batch and have grains ready to go for days. Whether you’ve got leftover quinoa, rice, couscous, or even small pasta noodles, this dish is great for carb-lovers. Stir-fry your grains in olive oil in a hot skillet, adding frozen vegetables like peas or broccoli and fresh veggies from the fridge. Top your stir-fry with chopped nuts for a protein, fiber, and healthy fat boost.

Seared Steak, Chicken, or Salmon With Side Salad

A pot roast or winter stew may take hours to perfect on the stovetop, but a simple seared fillet or breast cooks up in five minutes or under. While your protein cooks up in a skillet, toss a side salad of dark greens and a basic vinaigrette. If you don’t do meat, try seared tofu steaks: slice a block of tofu into ½-inch thick steaks, then season liberally on both sides with herbs and spices of choice. Pan-sear as you would a cut of meat, in a few drizzles of oil over medium-high heat until browned on both sides.

Image: barry.pousman