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Healthy Convenience Foods that Require No Cooking or Prep Time

October 21, 2021

By Kira Jennings, MS and Christine Tenekjian, MPH, RDN/LDN, NBC-HWC, Duke Lifestyle and Weight Management Center

In our ever-changing world, many of us are struggling with our lives getting increasingly busy again. We are always seeking convenient foods that require little to no cooking/prep time. Plenty of food options are nutritious and able to contribute to balanced meals for these lifestyles.

We must start with a balanced plate to have a healthy, convenient meal. Putting together a meal in a hurry can be stressful, but if you combine a simple protein, some vegetables, and a healthy carbohydrate food (e.g., fruits, whole grains), your healthy meal will be complete within minutes.

We must start with a balanced plate to have a healthy, convenient meal.

Down below, we share ideas for each food group and their corresponding meal ideas:

Food Group Examples


  • Canned tuna or salmon, tuna/salmon/chicken pouches (e.g., Starkist Creations)
  • Rotisserie chicken
  • String cheese or Babybel cheese
  • Frozen turkey burgers, frozen veggie burgers (e.g., Beyond meat)
  • Greek yogurt
  • Cottage cheese
  • Frozen cooked shrimp, or seasoned fish fillets
  • Peanut butter
  • Peanut butter powder
  • Canned beans
  • Cooked lentil pouches
  • Frozen egg bites (Egglands Best, Organic Valley, Life Cuisine)


  • Bag spinach or other greens
  • Sliced vegetables or vegetable tray
  • Bag broccoli & cauliflower mix or broccoli slaw
  • Chopped onions
  • Grill-ready veggie skewers
  • Baby carrots
  • Frozen vegetables (lots of combos, sauced or plain)
  • Spiralized zucchini and cauliflower rice (fresh or frozen)


  • Fresh cut melon or pineapple
  • Fresh fruit salad
  • Fresh apple slices
  • Frozen fruits of all types (no added sugar)
  • Frozen smoothie combos (no added sugar or juices)


  • Rolled or quick oats
  • Frozen prepared steel-cut oatmeal
  • Pre-cooked whole-grain pouches (e.g., Uncle Ben’s original whole grain brown ready rice, Seeds of Change whole grain blend)
  • Whole grain or blend pasta (e.g., Barilla Protein +)
  • Whole-grain crispbread crackers (e.g., Finn Crisp, Ryvita, Wasa)
  • 100% whole wheat English muffins or thin-sliced slices of bread

Meal Starters

  • These are frozen combo meals that can be combined with extra frozen vegetables, extra protein, and/or whole grains to increase the number of servings per bag. This will lower sodium and caloric intake per serving.
  • Some examples are Birds Eye Voila Chicken Fried Rice, Healthy Choice Chicken & Vegetable Stir Fry, or even P.F. Chang’s General Tso Chicken!

Meal Combination examples

Dinner or Lunch

  • Shredded rotisserie chicken + taco shells + bagged spinach or slaw + shredded cheese + salsa
  • Green Giant marinated veggies eggplant, peppers & zucchini frozen vegetables + Barilla protein plus penne pasta +/- frozen shrimp
  • Frozen turkey burger or veggie burger + pre-cooked whole-grain blend + steam-in-bag frozen veggies
  • Curried lentil pouch + frozen or fresh spinach + pre-cooked brown rice +/- rotisserie chicken
  • Breakfast on the go
  • Fresh apple slices + peanut butter + string cheese
  • Whole wheat English muffin + slice cheese + frozen egg bites
  • Breakfast made overnight
  • Rolled oats + milk of choice + greek yogurt + chia seeds + frozen fruit + pb powder

About Duke Lifestyle & Weight Management Center Nutrition Consultations

Our registered dietitians /nutritionists will conduct a nutrition assessment and create a plan with you that addresses your weight and health goals. Your nutritionist will learn about your personal needs and then assist with creating a nutrition plan and setting lifestyle goals to help you adopt healthier eating habits. During regular visits, you’ll learn how to plan meals that can be adapted to your preferences or if you have cultural eating limitations, food allergies, or other intolerances.

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