Because we are all done with this cooking business.
If the 17,000 meals you’ve already made in quarantine have you feeling like breaking out the pots and pans yet again could cause you to collapse into a heap of sadness and hunger on the kitchen floor, same.
I’m here to tell you that there is another way: Throwing a bunch of snacks onto a plate and calling it a day. “You can definitely make a really satisfying and enjoyable meal out of what we typically think of as snack foods,” Rachael Hartley, R.D., certified intuitive eating counselor and owner of Rachael Hartley Nutrition, tells SELF. After all, “The distinctions that we have between snack foods and meal foods are really more cultural than nutritional,” Hartley explains.
The key to making a snack-meal that keeps you full and energized for three or four hours, like a regular meal, is including a rich variety of nutrients and foods. “If you just have an apple and peanut butter, that’s still just a snack,” Hartley says. “I usually tell people to get at least four different foods in there, and three or four different food groups. That helps with making sure you’re getting enough to eat, as well as a nice balance of fats, protein, carbs, and fiber.”
The best way to do that is to plate your snack-meal, instead of picking at things or eating out of the container. “I like to take a normal-size dinner plate and compartmentalize around it in a clockwise fashion,” Cara Harbstreet, M.S., R.D., L.D., of Street Smart Nutrition, tells SELF. “Doing it that way helps me make sure I’ve got a variety of food groups, textures, and flavors represented…and that it’s going to be enough [to fill me].”
For some inspiration straight from the pros, check out the ideas below. But keep in mind your snack-meal can also be a truly random assortment of tasty and filling snacks. “It’s nice to have a theme or something inspiring it, but it doesn’t have to make sense,” Hartley says. “My philosophy is you can’t mess it up. If you’re craving it and you have it on hand, it works,” Rebecca Scritchfield, R.D.N., author of Body Kindness, tells SELF.
A note about the word healthy here: We know that healthy is a complicated concept. Not only can it mean different things to different people, it’s a word that’s pretty loaded (and sometimes fraught), thanks to the diet industry’s influence on the way we think about food. At SELF, when we talk about food being healthy, we’re primarily talking about foods that are nutritious, filling, and satisfying. But it also depends on your preferences, your culture, what’s accessible to you, and so much more. We selected these recipes with those basic criteria in mind, while also trying to appeal to a wide variety of nutritional needs and taste buds.*
1. Classic charcuterie board
“My go-to truly snack-style meal is a cheese board or charcuterie board,” Harbstreet says.
Start with your favorite crackers and plenty of cheese. “I use whatever little odds and ends are in my fridge—soft, hard, sliced,” Harbstreet says. Try cheddar, brie, gouda, fresh mozzarella, pecorino, cheese sticks, or Babybel rounds.
Then add the works. Harbstreet uses cured or deli meat (prosciutto, salami, pancetta, turkey), fresh or dried fruit (apple slices, grapes, dried apricots), and nuts or seeds (almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds). For a fancy twist, pick up crostini or bruschetta-style crackers.
2. Bagel-style platter
“I love to do a bagel-inspired snack plate for lunch,” Hartley says. Start with your favorite flavors of bagel chips (everything, garlic, plain) and cream cheese (veggie, scallion), and add the fixings: smoked salmon or lox, tomato and cucumber slices, and a hard-boiled egg or two.
Of course, you can use real or mini bagels instead of chips. Vegans: Skip the salmon and use tofu-based cream cheese.
3. Yogurt bowl
Dietitian, personal trainer, and wellness coach Maxine Yeung, M.S. R.D. C.P.T., tells SELF that she likes to make yogurt “sundaes” for no-cook meals when she’s hungry and craving something sweet. Top plain yogurt with a spoonful of nut butter (like almond) and a sliced banana, along with chopped walnuts or almonds.
Harbstreet prefers to top her yogurt with a hearty muesli full of oats, nuts, seeds, and dried fruit, plus a handful of fresh fruit, while Hartley goes for a combo of granola, fresh fruit, and nuts. Drizzle with honey or maple syrup for extra sweetness.
4. Mezze-style platter
For a vegetarian-friendly spread, try a Mediterranean-inspired smorgasbord, starting with chips and dip. Yeung likes to pair whole wheat pita chips (or pita bread) with hummus or another kind of bean dip. You could also do premade baba ganoush and tzatziki, or a scoop of plain Greek yogurt drizzled with olive oil.
Then add veggies galore. For fresh dipping vegetables, Harbstreet likes grape tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, broccoli florets, bell pepper strips, and carrots. You could also use jarred veggies like roasted red peppers and artichoke hearts. Other additions: olives, feta cheese, goat cheese, or crispy chickpeas.
5. Nut-butter dippers
Nut and seed butters (peanut, almond, cashew, sunflower seed) are natural snack-meal stars because they work as tasty and filling dips/spreads for so many snack foods: Crackers, pretzels, rice cakes, mini bagels, veggie sticks (celery and carrot), sliced fruit (apples, pears, bananas), et cetera.
Yeung loves doing everything-seasoned pretzel crisps with peanut butter (plus fruit and veggies). Yasi Ansari, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., national media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and assistant director of Performance Nutrition for UC Berkeley Athletics, tells SELF she does almond butter on toast with jam (plus soy milk). Hartley goes for sliced-up frozen waffles or muffins with almond butter and fruit.
6. Tuna platter
Protein-rich cans and pouches of tuna fish (or salmon) are perfect for elevating snacks into legit no-cook meals, Harbstreet says. Yeung suggests adding a little pepper and olive oil for flavor and spreading onto hearty crackers. (Other flavor boosters: lemon juice, garlic powder, balsamic, or hot sauce.)
Ansari tops her tuna and crackers with a sliced avocado or guacamole. Scritchfield pairs hers with chopped veggies and a little cup of salad dressing (ranch, Italian) for a quick dip.
7. Souped-up cereal
A bowl of cereal with milk is delicious on its own, but it’s really more of a snack situation. Topping generously with yummy and nutritious toppings makes it a filling breakfast—or breakfast-for-dinner, as it sometimes is at Scritchfield’s house.
Scritchfield likes adding nuts or seeds (slivered almonds, chopped pecans, roasted sunflower seeds) and fresh or dried fruit (sliced strawberries, raisins, dried cranberries) to bowls of Cheerios or Frosted Mini Wheats with 2% milk. (If you’re doing a plant-based milk, go for protein-rich soy or pea.)
Okay, so if you think about it, most smoothies are really just a bunch of different snack foods (like fruit, dairy, and nuts) that you throw into a blender.
For a filling and energizing breakfast, Ansari likes to blend kefir with banana, berries, granola, and nut butter. You can use whatever fresh or frozen fruit you like, and feel free to sub in yogurt, cottage cheese, or milk for the kefir; whole nuts for the nut butter; and muesli (or plain oats) for the granola.
Written by Carolyn L. Todd.
This article originally appeared on SELF US.