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10 Recipes with 5 Ingredients or Less that Nutritionists Love

If time constraints and ingredient availability have thrown off your usual eating routine, these dietitians have ideas for how to simplify your meals while keeping nutrition in mind.

couple cooking healthy meal at home togethersvetikd/Getty Images

Scale back on ingredients—not taste or nutrition

The coronavirus crisis has thrown a serious monkey wrench in the eating habits of many American households. In addition to now juggling homeschooling, work duties, and other household responsibilities, most adults are making fewer grocery trips and facing limited ingredient availability. If you’re in this group, you’re probably streamlining your usual daily meals. Scaling back on the ingredients you use in a single recipe can stretch your food supply and save valuable time, but it doesn’t have to mean sacrificing nutrition or taste. I reached out to some of my dietitian colleagues to find out what they’re eating, and I included a few quick go-to dishes of my own. Each recipe requires five or fewer ingredients, and the collection fits a range of needs: Meals ready in minutes, make-ahead staples, a healthful treat, and even a DIY bread.

curry and spinachCourtesy Cynthia Sass

Curried spinach lentils

In addition to their filling fiber and plant protein, one cup of lentils provides about 20 percent of the daily target for immune-supporting zinc. This easy lunch or dinner meal also incorporates a cup and a half of fresh spinach, to up your intake of vitamins A, C, and E, as well as magnesium, iron, B vitamins, and potassium.

Ingredients (Serves one):

  • 1 cup of cooked lentils
  • 1 tablespoon virgin coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon curry seasoning
  • 1.5 cups fresh spinach

Instructions:

Over low heat warm cooked lentils in coconut oil with curry seasoning. Stir to combine thoroughly. Add spinach and stir until wilted. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

broccoli soupCourtesy Lindsey Janeiro

One ingredient broccoli soup

Broccoli, the solo ingredient in this amazing soup recipe from registered dietitian Lindsey Janeiro of Nutrition to Fit, is a member of the cruciferous veggie family. In addition to chronic disease protection, green cruciferous veggies like broccoli have been shown to help optimize immunity in the gut, the location of 70-80 percent of the body’s immune cells.

Ingredients (Serves four):

  • 1 pound broccoli, chopped into large pieces
  • Enough water to fill a large pot 2/3 full

Instructions:

Bring water to a boil. Add broccoli and boil approximately 8-9 minutes or until broccoli is fork-tender. Carefully transfer broccoli, along with one cup of the cooking water, to a blender. Blend on high for at least one minute or until completely smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and any other seasonings you desire, such as garlic, turmeric, lemon, and basil, etc. If desired, top with roasted chickpeas, nuts, or other healthful ingredients you have on hand.

lemon pinto bowlCourtesy Luisa Sabogal

Lemony pinto bowl

This combo of beans, rice, tomatoes, and avocado provides a wide range of vital nutrients, in addition to a macronutrient balance that helps regulate blood sugar and insulin levels, for steady, even energy, and a delayed return of hunger. Give this recipe from registered dietitian Luisa Sabogal a try.

Ingredients (Serves one):

  • 1/2 cup cooked pinto beans
  • 1/2 cup cooked brown rice
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 cup avocado, chopped
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced

Instructions:

Cook brown rice. Drain and rinse canned pinto beans and warm them up. While rice is cooking, cut tomatoes and avocado in small pieces and toss in lemon juice. Serve beans and rice in a bowl, and top with the tomato avocado mixture. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

spinach quesadillaCourtesy Malena Perdomo

Easy spinach quesadilla

This easy-breezy comfort food recipe from registered dietitian Malena Perdomo combines ready-to-eat time-saving shortcuts while fitting in more than a cup of fresh veggies. Opt for plant-based cheese if you can’t or don’t eat dairy, and choose any type of tortilla that fits your dietary needs, including whole grain or gluten-free.

Ingredients (Serves one):

  • 1 (8-inch) flour tortilla
  • 1 cup fresh spinach, rinsed, dry
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 teaspoon of extra virgin oil
  • Store-bought fresh salsa

Instructions:

Start with any type of tortilla. Warm a skillet and coat with oil. For best results, use a cast iron pan. Fill half of a tortilla with spinach and top with mozzarella cheese. Fold in half and press down with a flat spatula or grill press to flatten and brown on each side. Wait until the cheese melts to remove from pan. Serve with salsa.

sweet potatoCourtesy Erin Kenney

Stuffed sweet potato

One cooked sweet potato, the main ingredient in this quick dish, supplies over 150 percent of the daily goal for immune-supporting vitamin A. After preparing the basic recipe courtesy of registered dietitian Erin Kenney of NutritionRewired.com, you can doctor it up with whatever favorite topping you may have on hand.

Ingredients (Serves one):

  • 1 large sweet potato (white would work too!)
  • ¼ cup onion, diced
  • ½ cup canned lentils or beans
  • 1 teaspoon Mexican seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil

Instructions:

Microwave the sweet potato: stab the sweet potato a few times with a knife in a few different spots. Wrap it in a damp paper towel and microwave for 4-6 minutes depending on the size of your potato. While the sweet potato is cooking, sauté onion with beans or lentils and Mexican seasoning in a pan with oil. Stuff the sweet potato with the sautéed mixture, and season with salt and pepper to taste. If desired, top with add-ons you have on hand, such as pumpkin seeds, nuts, fresh herbs, or a dollop of plain yogurt.

pinto instant potCourtesy Willow Jarosh

Instant pot pinto beans

Another dish featuring beans—one of the most underrated superfoods in your cupboard. Rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber, regular bean consumption is tied to a reduced risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. That’s why they’re the star of this recipe from registered dietitian Willow Jarosh, owner of Willow Jarosh Nutrition

Ingredients (Serves six):

  • 1 pound dried pinto beans
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 bunch collard greens (including stems), chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

Place beans in the Instant Pot with enough water to cover 2 inches above the surface of the beans. Cook on “manual” setting for 2 minutes and then quick release the steam. Rinse the beans and add enough fresh water to cover 1 1/2 inches above the surface of the beans. Add garlic powder. Cook on “manual” setting for 4 more minutes and allow to slow release. Stir in greens and salt and pepper to taste and slow cook for an additional 30 minutes. If desired, serve with a tortilla.

white beansCourtesy Cynthia Sass

Swift white bean olive salad

Again, beans are the focus in my recipe. Just a half-cup of cannellini beans pack 8 grams each of plant protein and filling fiber, along with 10 percent of the daily target for potassium, a mineral that helps regular blood pressure, and 15 percent for iron, which helps transport oxygen to the body’s cells.

Ingredients (Serves one):

  • ½ cup chilled cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons jarred olive tapenade
  • 1 cup fresh spinach
  • 1/16 teaspoon crushed red pepper

Instructions:

Toss the beans with the olive tapenade. Place over the bed of spinach, and garnish with the crushed red pepper.

tuna meltCourtesy Cara Harbstreet

Sun-dried tomatoes and greens tuna melts

In addition to veggies, in the form of greens and sundried tomatoes, protein-packed tuna supplies anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, and immune-supporting vitamin D in this recipe from registered dietitian Cara Harbstreet of Street Smart Nutrition.

Ingredients (Serves two):

  • 4 slices sourdough bread
  • 2 pouches tuna packed in extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup fresh greens (arugula or spinach work well)
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped or sliced
  • 4 slices provolone cheese

Instructions:

Adjust your oven rack to 5-6 inches below the broiler and preheat your oven to the broil setting on high. If desired, lightly toast the sourdough. Combine the tuna with the chopped or sliced sun-dried tomatoes and begin to build your open-face tuna melts. Arrange the spinach or arugula onto each slice of bread, then top with 1/4 of the tuna-tomato mixture. Top each tuna melt with one slice of cheese. Place on a baking sheet and broil 3-5 minutes or until cheese is melted and tuna melts are heated through. Note: Keep a close eye on your baking sheet to avoid overheating the tuna melts. Transfer to a serving plate and enjoy. Garnish with seasonings you may have on hand, like cracked black pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, or fresh or dried basil.

homemade breadCourtesy Lauren Cornell

Super 4-ingredient homemade bread

Photos of homemade bread have flooded social media since the coronavirus crisis began. Part therapeutic, part sustenance, this staple can be used in numerous ways. This simple homemade version from registered dietitian Lauren Cornell of Lauren Cornell Nutrition, Inc. is just like grandma made—no preservatives or other ingredients you can’t pronounce. Spread it with nut or seed butter, mashed avocado, or hummus, or top with veggies and an egg or beans for quick and filling breakfast.

Ingredients:

  • 3 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ – 2 teaspoons kosher sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon active dry yeast for baking
  • 1 ½ cup warm water

Instructions:

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and dry yeast. Gradually add the water to your dry mix and stir. Form the dough into a ball and transfer to a clean bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or a cloth and let rise for 12-18 hours. When the dough is ready to be baked, place an empty Dutch oven or casserole dish in the oven and preheat the empty dish to 450ºF. Sprinkle some flour on the dough, cover with plastic wrap, and let it sit for 15 minutes. Cut an “X” at the top of your dough and lightly brush the top of your dough with water. Carefully take your dish out of the oven, place your dough in the dish, cover the dish with a lid, and put the dish back in the oven for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, take the lid off and bake for an additional 8-15 minutes or until the top of the bread is golden brown.

cashew cookie doughCourtesy Monica Auslander

Spiced cashew cookie dough


Last but not least, a seemingly indulgent, but healthy treat, courtesy of registered dietitian Monica Auslander Moreno, owner of Essence Nutrition. The star of this plant-based snack or dessert is chickpeas, which are rich in plant protein and antioxidants. Research published in 2016 in Nutrients found that people who regularly consume chickpeas have higher intakes of several key nutrients, including fiber, vitamins A, E and C, folate, magnesium, potassium, and iron. And the best part: unlike traditional cookie dough, it’s perfectly safe to eat raw.

Ingredients (Serves four):

  • 2 cups whole cashews, divided
  • 1 can of chickpeas, (drained and rinsed)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Instructions:

Set aside a few whole cashews. Soak the remaining cashews overnight in water in the refrigerator. Blend cashews with chickpeas in a food processor with vanilla, cinnamon, and pumpkin pie spice. Add a pinch of sea salt if desired. Top with the whole cashews.

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