Nutritionist reveals the best 'quick and easy' dinner options

Kristine Tarbert
Lifestyle & Entertainment Producer

There are so many options these days if you’re too busy to cook dinner, but some are definitely better than others.

Aside from takeaway, which we already know is unhealthy, many people turn to frozen meals, recipe bases, or meal delivery kits to help make evenings less stressful.

While home cooked meals, without processed ingredients, will always remain the best option, Melanie Lionello, nutritionist and Food Blogger at Naturally Nutritious, has taken a look at the other ‘quick and easy’ dinners available to work out what’s the best choice.

Frozen meals have come a long way since the basic pizza or pie people had available, with hundreds of brands offering quick meals via the microwave or the oven.

“From a nutrition perspective, frozen meals have set portion sizes that are often relatively small and can be low in calories, making them attractive for anyone who’s focus is weight-loss,” Melanie tells Be.

Frozen meals are generally more process in nature. Photo: Getty

“However, the way frozen meals are created can make them more processed in nature potentially using preservatives or additives, and possibly being high in sodium.”

She also says that while they might be the most convenient option, they are generally the most expensive.

“I would encourage people to read the nutrition information panel and ingredient list before buying to see if it’s a good fit for them. They are of course fine as an occasional stop-gap when you’ve got no time but cooking.”

These have been gaining in popularity more and more over the past few years, even though they have been around for a while. Brands like Hello Fresh, Marley Spoon and Dinnerly are all having success in Australia.

Meal kit deliveries are gaining more popularity. Photo: Supplied/Be

“I think the key value-add from meal delivery is that they save time and energy in going to the supermarket, and also in deciding what to eat,” Melanie tells us.

“They can also be a great way to get yourself out of a rut if you’ve been stuck making the same five recipes for a while.”

She says the downside is however that by eliminating grocery shopping people lose the opportunity to learn about ingredients etc. She also warns that the process can take much longer than suggested for people that are beginners in the kitchen, sometimes making it more stressful.

Similar to frozen meals, recipe bases and stir-fry sauces have come such a long way over the last few years, with brands like Maggi Marketplace, Dolmio and Continental offering enormous choice.

“I am a huge fan of recipe bases for a few reasons – they are very convenient, and usually take under 30 minutes to create,” Melanie says.

Recipe bases help speed up the cooking process. Photo: Getty

“They allow you to be creative and choose your own veggies and protein, making them ideal for families with different dietary requirements. My personal favourite is Maggi Marketplace, which uses authentic ingredients and real herbs and spices.”

They are also affordable cost-wise and easy customise to any budget.

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