Reality TV shows like Chopped have turned cooking into a competitive sport, but it doesn’t have to be quite so high stakes. Getting a handle on a few healthy recipes can go a long way. (There’s nothing wrong with takeout or delivery, but most of us can’t afford to outsource every single meal!) It also takes some of the guesswork out of weeknight meals, because it means you have several easy dinners to fall back on when you don’t feel like ordering in or getting creative.
The best part is that simple, healthy meals are often the easiest to throw together. Sometimes it’s a matter of combining a few easy staples—roasted chicken alongside some simple roasted vegetables, or a perfect hard-boiled egg atop a bowl of greens and grains. Other times, it means throwing a bunch of ingredients into a single cooking vessel and stepping away to let the magic happen, as in the case of healthy crockpot recipes.
Some people love day-long cooking projects—that’s awesome, and if you have friends like that, you should definitely get yourself invited to dinner every once in a while. But if you’re more of a bare-essentials type of cook, there’s zero shame in that. While not everyone has the patience for sourdough or the technical skills for pâté en croûte, most adults can perfect, say, a few healthy chicken recipes in several ways.
Whether your cooking skills are starting from zero or you’re just looking to simplify your kitchen routine, here are the essential, healthy recipes that you should add to your list.
First, though, 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, but 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, sure, we’re talking about foods that are nutritious, filling, and satisfying. But we’re also talking about foods that help you connect with your culture, promote joy, and simply taste delicious. Some of those foods might fall into conventional ideas of what “healthy” is. And some might not. We selected these recipes with all of that in mind while also trying to appeal to a wide variety of nutritional needs and taste buds.