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25 Quick and easy meal and snack ideas (that involve little to no cooking)

woman looking at recipe on tablet
25 Quick and easy meal and snack ideas (that involve little to no cooking)

By Marisa Pruitt, CD, RD Gundersen Nutrition Therapy

Stressed? Tired? Too busy to cook? We've got you covered!

Want the secret to quick and easy meals that meet your nutritional needs and involve little-to-no cooking? It's not fancy and it's not revolutionary. Here it is:

Think food groups.

Seriously! There are five food groups: vegetables, fruits, grains, protein and dairy. A balanced snack combines 1-3 of them and a balanced meal combines 3-5 groups. If you are hungrier, add a food group; less hungry, remove a food group. If you've eaten all five food groups and still are hungry, slightly increase your portion of one or two of them. Soon, you'll get the hang of it and in no-time have a list of your go-to favorites.

Using the food group method also increases the likelihood of meeting all of your nutrition needs without additional supplementation. The key is to eat whole, minimally processed, high quality, nutrient-dense foods.

Here are some examples to get you started. The list starts with mini-meals/snacks and moves into larger snacks/meals:

  • 1 cup fresh veggies + ¼ cup hummus
  • 1 small-medium apple + 1 string cheese
  • 3 cups popcorn + ¼ cup nuts
  • 1 small-medium apple + 2 Tbsp. peanut butter 
  • 4-6 whole wheat crackers + 2 slices deli chicken or turkey
     
  • 1 cup baby carrots + 1 hard-boiled egg
  • ¾ cup high fiber cereal + ½ cup low-fat milk + 1 cup berries
  • ¼ cup trail mix + ½ cup dry whole grain cereal + 1 cup milk
  •  ½ cup fruit salsa (pineapple, mango or melon + onion + cilantro + lime juice) + 10 tortilla chips + string cheese
  •  1 cup broth-based soup with beans or chicken + 1 small-medium pear
     
  •  1 slice of whole wheat bread + 2 Tbsp. peanut butter + 1 small banana
  •  ¼ cup fat-free refried beans + 1 small whole wheat tortilla + ½ cup cherry tomatoes
  •  ½ whole wheat pita pocket + 1 slice cheese + 1 cup fresh sliced veggies (cucumber, tomato, bell pepper)
  •  ½ cup cooked oatmeal + 2 Tbsp. nut butter
  •  1 cup edamame + 6-8 whole grain crackers + 1 small apple
     
  •  6 oz. plain yogurt + frozen berries + 1 tsp. honey or maple syrup (optional)
  • 1 cup cut melon + 6 oz. light yogurt + 1 slice whole wheat toast + 2 Tbsp. peanut butter
  •  2-3 slices deli meat + 1 slice cheese (cut into 3 pieces) + 3 small pickles, rolled up
  •  1 cup steamed broccoli with 2 Tbsp. shredded cheese + 1 cup chili with beans
  •  ¼ cup nuts + ¼ cup dried fruit + ½ cup whole grain cereal + 1 cup milk
     
  •  1 slice whole grain toast + 1/3 avocado + 1 hard-boiled egg, sliced
  •  ½ cup low-fat cottage cheese + ½ cup canned fruit (pineapple, peaches, pears) + 6 whole grain crackers
  •  1 (8 oz.) whole grain tortilla + 1 oz. cheese, heated and rolled up + marinara or salsa for dipping + 1 cup pea pods
  •  1 slice rye toast + 1 Tbsp. cream cheese + 2 oz. smoked salmon + 1 cup cherry tomatoes
  •  1 whole wheat English muffin, open faced and topped with ¼ cup marinara sauce + mozzarella cheese, heated
  • Smoothie made with ½ cup frozen fruit + 1 scoop protein powder, blended with ice and water
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