Print This Page SparkPeople

29 Slimming and Satisfying No-Cook Meals

Breakfasts, Lunches, and Dinners That Won't Have You Breaking a Sweat
  -- By Stepfanie Romine, Staff Writer
When the mercury rises, the last thing you want to do is spend time cooking in a hot kitchen. Conserve your energy and give the stove and oven a break with these no-heat meals. Beyond salads and sandwiches, these dishes feature creative ways to use the bountiful, fresh fruits and vegetables that are readily available and affordable this time of year.

A few of them do take some help from the supermarket, in the form of healthier convenience foods like heat-and-eat rice, pre-cooked shrimp, and canned tuna, but we like to believe that's the opportunity cost of not having to stand over a hot stove for an hour. Keep reading for more than four weeks' worth of no-cook meals--enough ideas to get you through the dog days of summer without turning on the stove!

No-Cook Breakfasts

  Fruity Cottage Cheese
This creamy breakfast packs in the protein. Choose low-fat cottage cheese, then top with your favorite summer fruit. Berries are a perfect pair, as are peaches or melon. Round out the meal with a slice of whole-grain bread or a serving of crackers. Find more healthy cottage cheese recipes.
  Muesli
Think of muesli, the traditional Swiss breakfast of raw oats, dried fruit, and nuts, as instant granola--minus any added sugars or oils. Serve over yogurt, pour on skim milk, or eat with ricotta or cottage cheese.
  Overnight (Soaked) Oats
Soaked overnight in yogurt or milk, muesli becomes "overnight oats," a hot-weather alternative to a steaming bowl of porridge. Combine raw oats with yogurt or skim milk, a sprinkle of ground flaxseeds or ­chia and cinnamon. Stir, cover, and refrigerate. The oats will absorb the moisture from the milk or yogurt and become soft--almost to the consistency of cooked oats with a bit more texture. Start with equal parts oats and liquid, adding more liquid to thin the oats to the desired consistency. In the morning, top with berries or your favorite oatmeal stir-ins.
  Peanut Butter and Banana Wrap
You can't beat this fresh spin on an old favorite. Start with a whole-grain wrap, then spread a thin layer of natural peanut butter in the middle, and top with sliced banana. Dress it up with spices (try cinnamon, nutmeg, pumpkin pie spice, or cardamom) and a drizzle of honey or maple syrup. This is equally delicious with fresh berries, sliced peaches or (for the brave among you) pickle slices. Tired of plain PB? Try one of these nutritious nut butters.
  Yogurt Bowls
Start with a serving of low-fat or Greek yogurt. Top with fresh fruit, ground flaxseed or chia seeds, a sprinkle of cereal or granola and maybe a drizzle of honey. If you're feeling fancy, layer the ingredients parfait style in a sundae dish or glass.
  Fruit & Yogurt Smoothie
Cool and portable, smoothies are a great way to jam pack your meals with fruits (and vegetables). Start with a base of one serving of low-fat yogurt or skim milk, then add at least two servings of fruit. Boost the satiety factor by adding a scoop of protein powder, a spoonful of nut butter or a sprinkle of ground flax or chia seeds. Puree and slurp. Tip: If you struggle to get enough greens into your diet, consider tossing a couple of cups of greens (try spinach or mixed baby greens) into your smoothie. The fruit in your smoothie will mask the flavor of the greens, and it's a lot easier to gulp down a few cups than to plow through a huge salad!

 
Tomato & Ricotta Toast
Slather 1/4 cup low-fat ricotta cheese on a slice of whole-grain bread (toasted if desired), then top with thick slices of fresh tomato, plenty of black pepper and a few sprigs of herbs.
 <pagebreak>

No-Cook Lunches and Dinners


  Shrimp Sandwiches
Pick up thaw-and-eat shrimp from the supermarket. Thaw them in the refrigerator in the morning. At dinnertime, rinse the shrimp and place atop a toasted whole-grain bun (try ciabatta) smeared with herbed cream cheese, sliced cucumbers, tomatoes, and lettuce. For the cream cheese: Combine one tablespoon light cream cheese with about a teaspoon of fresh chopped dill or parsley, a squeeze of fresh lemon, and plenty of cracked black pepper.  
  Black Bean and Corn Salad
There are plenty of variations on this simple dish. Pair creamy black beans with crunchy canned corn (or fresh, raw corn sliced from the cob) and plenty of crunchy garden vegetables. Add avocado and cilantro if you like. Tturn it into a meal: Stuff into a whole-grain tortilla with fat-free Greek yogurt and a sprinkle of low-fat cheddar cheese. Or serve atop fresh spinach with lime juice and plenty of guacamole.
  Chickpea Salad
Smothered in a low-fat yet zesty dressing and served over lettuce, these humble canned beans turn into something special. Bonus: There's loads of fiber in this dish, too!
  Cucumber "Cups"
Remove the peel from a large cucumber. Using a mandolin or a vegetable peeler, make long, thin strips. Carefully form them into a circle and fill with your favorite salad. This also works with thin slices of carrot and zucchini.
Panzanella
Leave it to the Italians to create something delicious from stale bread. This simple bread and veggie dish is a great way to use up leftovers, and it gets tastier the longer it sits. 
  Cold Pasta Salad
To keep with the no-cook theme, this one is a perfect next-day meal when you have just a bit of leftover pasta or maybe a few bits of chopped veggies. Rather than a salad made mostly of pasta, we lighten it up with more of the "salad" and just a bit of the pasta. Toss with your favorite bottled dressing and store in a sealed container. The next day, add greens and any veggies you have in the fridge.
  Cheese Stuffed Peppers
Core a bell pepper and slice it in quarters. Slice an ounce of fresh mozzarella cheese into four pieces. Place a slice of cheese and a basil leaf inside each piece of pepper.
  Salad Bites
This meal looks fussy but is quite simple to execute. Slice zucchini or cucumber into 2-inch pieces, use a small melon baller to remove the seeds and core, and fill with herbed goat cheese or tuna salad. Top a store-bought baguette (aim for whole grain) with a low-fat dip and plenty of vegetables.
  Healthier Cobb Salad
Top loads of leafy greens with a sliced hard-boiled egg, a slice of bacon,  grilled chicken (buy it pre-made from the supermarket or use leftovers), chopped tomatoes, sliced avocado and any veggies you have on hand. With so much flavor, you might not need dressing. If you do, choose a low-fat vinaigrette.
  Protein-Packed Lettuce Wraps
Start with a composed salad, such as egg salad, chicken salad, or tuna salad. Spoon into soft lettuce (we like Bibb or butter) and serve. If you prefer more crunch, try endive, Romaine, or Napa cabbage leaves instead.
  Massaged Kale Salad
Kale's the toughest green of the bunch—literally. Soften it by massaging an acidic dressing, such as a vinaigrette, into the leaves a couple of hours before eating (or up to overnight). This recipe uses hard-boiled eggs, but you could swap in a handful of unsalted, shelled sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds (pepitas). Dress it up with dried cranberries and some finely chopped red onion.
Hummus & Veggie Platter
Serve this protein-rich Mediterranean dip with vegetable crudité, whole-wheat pita triangles, and maybe a few olives. Boost the protein by serving with plain Greek yogurt (stir in some chopped fresh herbs and squeeze in some lemon juice) or stir in nutritional yeast for a vegan, dairy-free option.
  Ham & Melon Salad
Load up on cooling, low-calorie melon, which pairs well with salty ham. Start with a bed of spicy baby arugula, then top with melon wedges. Add one ounce of chopped lower-sodium deli ham and a bit of fresh basil, then drizzle on balsamic vinegar.
  Turkey Wraps
Start with a whole-grain wrap, then spread on your favorite low-fat condiments. Layer on lean deli meat, maybe a slice of cheese, and plenty of veggies for crunch: lettuce, cucumber sticks, carrots, sprouts, peppers, or onions. Roll it up and eat. Tip: If you're eating on the go, wrap in foil for a mess-free meal. If you're dining at home, slice into pinwheels for a fun presentation.
  Quick-Cook Tabbouleh
Use your electric kettle to boil water in seconds without turning on the stove. Pour boiling water over whole-wheat couscous (use 1 cup water to 2/3 cup couscous), cover tightly and wait 10 minutes. Meanwhile, chop fresh herbs (like parsley, mint, and basil), tomatoes, onions, and peppers. Juice and zest a couple of lemons over the veggies, then fluff the couscous with a fork. Toss everything together and finish with olive oil. Boost the protein: Add chunks of feta or canned tuna packed in water.
  Tomato Couscous
Follow the same directions for the couscous, mixing in a pint of quartered cherry tomatoes, a handful of fresh herbs, and a drizzle each of red wine vinegar and olive oil. Or: Skip the cherry tomatoes and stuff inside a hollowed out tomato to serve.
  Veggie Boats
Slice both ends off a medium cucumber, then slice in half lengthwise. Use a melon baller or a teaspoon to remove the seeds. Fill with your favorite sandwich fillings: tuna or egg salad are obvious choices, but you can get creative with chopped meats and cheeses.
  Chicken Wraps
Whole-grain tortillas turn any standard sandwich into a meal worth remembering. Combined with rotisserie chicken or the ready-to-eat grilled chicken strips found in the refrigerated section, these fiber-filled wraps make quick work of dinner. Start with (you guessed it!) veggies: carrot strips, cucumber slices, lettuce leaves, chopped tomatoes or pepper strips. Pile on the lean protein and finish it with a tasty condiment to add flavor and moisture. Go beyond mustard and mayo with hummus, a Greek yogurt-herb dressing, or salsa. One of our favorites: No-cook fajitas. The chicken is the only ingredient that requires cooking; if you use ready-made meat, you can just assemble and eat. We love the added crunch from using raw veggies like peppers and onions.
  Caprese Salad
There's nothing like a perfectly ripe tomato—except when it's combined with fresh mozzarella and fresh herbs. "Insalata caprese," as it's called in Italian, is the classic summer salad. Choose the best, freshest ingredients you can, and stick to one ounce of cheese per person. If you have room in your calorie budget for the full-fat variety, eat it! The flavor is out of this world. If you only have regular mozzarella (such as the part-skim block variety), dress it up with a drizzle of balsamic. 
  Tuna Salad
Ditch the mayo and use vinaigrette in your tuna salad. Combine one drained pouch or can of water-packed tuna with white beans, tomatoes, red onion, cucumbers, and peppers, plus your favorite dressing for a Mediterranean-inspired meal in minutes. We love this Tuna and White Bean Salad.
  Vegetarian Sushi
Heat a packet of ready-to-eat brown rice in the microwave and assemble your favorite shredded or thinly sliced vegetables. Spread the rice thinly over a sheet of nori (seaweed), leaving a 1/2 inch of nori exposed. (Tip: Work with hot rice and moisten your hands to more easily spread the rice and keep it from sticking.) Add your veggies, roll and seal the edge using a bit of water. Allow to rest for a few minutes, then slice using a sharp knife. Serve with lower-sodium soy sauce.
Summery Spring Rolls
You don't even need to boil water to soak the rice wrappers for this meal. (Hot tap water will suffice.) Soak the wrappers one at a time and fill with thinly sliced veggies, pre-cooked meat or shrimp, instant rice noodles, and fresh herbs (basil, cilantro, or mint). Serve with lower-sodium soy sauce or a bottled sweet and sour sauce thinned with a bit of water.