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Simply Nutritious, Quick and Delicious

Jenna Smith, Extension Educator brings you helpful tips to make meals easy, healthy and tasty!

Dinners in a Pinch

Posted by Jenna Smith -

Sometimes it can be a difficult struggle to find the time to put a homemade meal on the table. Feelings of guilt can be a heavy load when you're pulling the car through the drive-thru window to pick up the family dinner. But hey! You are only human; you're not expected to be a Food Network star!

While homemade meals are often lower in fat and sodium, meals made with a few pre-made or convenient item ingredients can still be part of an overall healthy diet.

  • Buy a rotisserie chicken, a few potatoes, and frozen vegetables. Instead of baking the potatoes in the oven, which may take an hour, just place them in the microwave and have soft potatoes in less than 10 minutes! See the previous blog entry, "How to Dress up Those Vegetables" to turn frozen vegetables into an exciting side dish. Or combine shredded rotisserie chicken (skin removed) cooked potatoes (skin left on, cut in chunks), and cooked vegetables with 1 can of fat-free cream of mushroom soup. Place in a 9x9 inch square baking dish sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Sprinkle with low-fat shredded cheese and place under the broiler until the cheese melts and slightly browns.


  • Grab a can of spaghetti sauce (look for the one that is lowest in sodium) and frozen cheese tortellini. Prepare tortellini according to package directions and toss with spaghetti sauce for an easy Italian dinner. Buy pre-washed bagged lettuce for a no-mess side salad.


  • Tuna noodle casserole can be made with boxed or microwavable macaroni and cheese. Just omit the salt when boiling the pasta, use non-fat milk, and spray 4 or 5 sprays of spray bottle margarine rather than butter or stick margarine. Once the mac and cheese is prepared, add a can of low sodium canned tuna in water, and frozen broccoli that has been steamed in the microwave. Round out the meal with a jar of no sugar added applesauce and sprinkle it with ground cinnamon.


  • Make bean burritos by mixing ½ teaspoon of chili powder with a can of fat-free re-fried beans (look for the one that is lowest in sodium.) Spread in whole wheat flour tortillas and top with prepared salsa, reduced-fat shredded cheddar cheese and shredded lettuce.
By using a few pre-made ingredients, easy, healthy meals can be put together quicker than it takes for you to pull through the drive-thru. Try this easy recipe using wonton wrappers (usually found in the fridge section of the supermarket near the produce) and precooked barbecue chicken in a tub.

Barbecue Chicken Wonton Tacos

8 square wonton wrappers

4 ounces prepared barbecue chicken

¾ cup bagged dry coleslaw

2 Tablespoons light Asian ginger salad dressing


Preheat oven to 400°F. Spray a muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray. Drape one wonton wrapper in each muffin cup. In a small bowl, mix coleslaw and salad dressing. Microwave on high for 45 seconds or until slightly softened. Set aside. Fill each wonton wrapper with a tablespoon of barbecue chicken. Top with a teaspoon of slaw. Bake in preheated oven for 10-12 minutes, or until the wonton skins are golden brown.

Yield: 2 servings (4 tacos each)

Nutritional analysis per serving: 220 Calories, 5 grams fat, 20 milligrams cholesterol, 630 milligrams sodium, 33 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram dietary fiber, 10 grams protein

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