Summer usually means hot days and busy schedules, which might leave you wanting to do anything other than turn on the oven or stove. But if you’re someone who still desires to eat healthy this time of year, you may be looking for tips on how to do so that require minimal cooking or time.
If so, keep reading for tips on creating meals that won’t leave you sweating, and for plenty of recipe ideas for inspiration and to help get you started!
Tips for creating healthy no cook meals
When temperatures are rising and your AC is running around the clock, you need alternative options besides the stove and oven for creating healthy meals. These tips can help!
1. Utilize your slow cooker.
Slow cookers are perfect for hot days since they don’t heat up your kitchen and require minimal hands-on cooking time. You can slow cook everything from whole chickens to soups to big batches of whole grains, which can all be enjoyed later either hot or cold. Pressure cookers and rice cookers are also great options for cooking without added heat.
2. Cook (& eat!) outdoors.
If you’re fortunate enough to have an outdoor grill, summer is the perfect time to use it. While grilling does involve some heat, being in the fresh outdoor air is much more enjoyable than a cooped up kitchen. A bonus is that your kids and family can play and hangout while a healthy meal is being prepared. Grilling doesn’t have to be reserved just for meats, either. You can grill an endless variety of vegetables, fruits, meatless burger patties, tofu, tempeh and more.
3. Embrace the right convenience items.
Grocery stores (and online food and grocery sites like Vitacost!) are full of healthy items that help make summer eating more convenient. Take advantage of things like pre-cut bags of vegetables, bagged salad mixes, frozen smoothie packs, pre-cooked frozen packs of whole grains like brown rice and quinoa, and protein sources like pre-cooked lentils, canned beans, rotisserie whole chickens, cooked frozen shrimp, etc. These ingredients can be turned into an endless variety of healthy meals so you can mix and match per preference.
4. Prep ahead of time.
Preparing meals will always require a bit of effort, but it doesn’t have to mean standing in the kitchen for hours. Try pre-cooking versatile ingredients like shredded chicken, lean ground turkey, hard boiled eggs, and whole grains ahead of time, preferably during cooler times of the day such as in the morning. This could also look like portioning out snacks like trail mix, assembling freezer crockpot meals and overnight oats, chopping veggies to use in salads, wraps or in grain bowls, etc. Consider learning how to meal prep with intuitive eating in mind, too!
No-cook meals to enjoy throughout the day
With those tips in mind, here are some healthy meal ideas to keep you full, nourished, and cool!
Overnight oats. Oatmeal doesn’t have to be eaten hot. Preparing it in advance and sticking it in the fridge creates a healthy and high fiber morning meal you can enjoy straight from the fridge. Try one of the recipe ideas below or create your own version by adding oats, milk of choice, nuts or nut butter, fruit, and optional add-ins like flax or chia seeds to a sealable jar, then store in the fridge until ready to eat. Pair with some eggs or yogurt for added protein and even more satisfaction!
Yogurt parfaits. Greek yogurt has the benefit of being cold while also providing a great source of protein and natural probiotics. If dairy is an issue for you, you can swap plant-based yogurts like coconut or almond based versions. Use your favorite fruits and toppings to suit your preferences.
Recipe idea: Berry Chia coconut yogurt parfait
Egg + avocado toast. This is a satisfying and simple breakfast idea that is packed with quality nutrients. Use pre-cooked hard boiled eggs and mash together with avocado before spreading on toast, or enjoy the eggs on the side.
Recipe idea: For a vegan version, you can use tofu instead of eggs, like this tofu scramble with avocado
Smoothies and smoothie bowls. Smoothies are the ultimate hot-weather meal or snack, and are a great way to pack in produce. Simply blend together your favorite frozen fruit with liquid of choice, optional veggies, a protein source like whey protein powder or greek yogurt, and some healthy fats like nut butter, avocado, or seeds and get ready to feel the delicious cooling effect in your body immediately.
Chilled soup. Soups are known to be warm and nourishing meals for cooler weather, but they can be enjoyed in the summer, too! Most soups are equally delicious hot or cold, and can be prepped ahead of time in a slow cooker or large stockpot/dutch oven.
Entree salads. Turn a side dish into a filling, produce-packed meal perfect for cooling you off in hot weather. Simply use whatever combination of fruit and vegetables you have available and sound good, then add a protein source like boiled eggs, canned tuna, or pre-cooked chicken or lentils and finish with added healthy fats from crumbly cheese, diced avocado, nuts or seeds and extra complex carbs as needed from pre-cooked quinoa or other whole grain. Then, toss together and serve with your favorite dressing.
Recipe idea: Kale citrus pomegranate salad with basil vinaigrette (add protein and extra carbs as needed to create a full, balanced meal)
Wraps. enjoy your favorite sandwich ingredients in a wrap for a healthy and delicious alternative and cool meal. You can use lettuce leaves for a lighter meal, or serve on whole grain tortillas. Simply prep the ingredients ahead of time and store in the fridge before serving.
Recipe idea: Chicken salad with apples, cranberries, and cashews
Grilled anything. There are so many delicious and healthy ingredients to grill, so the options are endless.
Loaded nachos or bean dip. Nachos don’t have to just be greasy food you get at sporting events. By pre-cooking a meat option or simply using canned beans, you can create a simple meal that can be enjoyed warm or cold. Add in extra veggies from things like onion, bell peppers and zucchini and use whole-grain or veggie-based chips along with reduced-fat cheese for a healthier take.
Recipe idea: Instant pot chicken nachos
Pasta salad. Pasta is another meal that has the benefit of being versatile enough to be enjoyed hot or cold. While a hot bowl of spaghetti may not sound appealing in summer, there are plenty of nourishing cold pasta recipes that are simple and can be enjoyed by the whole family.
Homemade, non dairy ice cream. This is just as refreshing as the kind from the store but can offer much better nutrition with significantly less sugar. Blending frozen bananas with nut butter makes a deliciously creamy “ice cream” texture, or you can make a version using canned coconut milk and flavor as desired.
Recipe idea: Coconut collagen ice cream
Chia seed pudding. Chia seeds are packed with nutrients and naturally gel up when soaked in liquid, creating a delicious pudding-like texture. It’s a perfect cold treat for hot days that you certainly shouldn’t feel guilty about.
Recipe idea: Raspberry kiwi chia pudding parfaits
Ice pops. Making your own popsicles is so easy and is another way to beat the heat while enjoying quality nutrition. These are a treat the whole family will love.
So now the only question that remains is, which cool meal will you try first?