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While I love creating healthy meals for my family, I don’t necessarily want to be in the kitchen cooking several times a day. For this reason I am a HUGE fan of leftovers. A little extra planning can help you create healthy dinners that provide tasty leftovers for your family’s weekday lunch boxes.

Sunday Night: Roasted Chicken

This is on my dinner menu every single week. Occasionally I pick up a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, but most of the time I prepare it in the oven or even in my crock pot. I like to marinate the chicken for a couple hours before cooking. Rub the chicken down with olive oil and garlic, then season with rosemary, parsley, thyme, salt and pepper. We like the skin to be extra crispy, so I use a lower temperature than this recipe and cook the chicken uncovered.

When I oven roast chicken, I throw the whole meal in the oven. Fill the roasting pan with root vegetables like carrots, turnips, sweet potatoes, etc. You can also wrap some baking potatoes in aluminum foil and throw them in the oven (they need 1 to 1 ½ hours depending on size).

Monday Lunch Idea: Use leftover chicken to make chicken salad sandwiches or chicken tacos for lunch boxes.


>> Recipe: Skinny Slow Cooker Creamy Chicken

Monday Night: Chili

I love the versatility of chili and with so many recipe variations, every pot tastes different. Use your slow cooker for added convenience. Start by choosing your meat. My personal favorite is bison, but I have also used chicken, turkey, lean ground beef, ground steak — you get the idea. I like to brown the meat before adding it to my slow cooker. Add two cans of beans — again, try out some different combinations! You don’t always have to use kidney beans. Try navy beans or pink beans instead.

I like to mix chicken broth with a couple cans of diced tomatoes and chilies and 1 can of tomato paste for my sauce. Seasoning options include salt and pepper, chili powder, onion powder, dried oregano, cumin, etc. Let it cook in the slower cooker on low for 4-5 hours or on high for 1-2 hours. Then 20-30 minutes before serving, I like to add in whatever veggies I have in the house. Great options include peppers, onions, mushrooms, carrots, etc. When I serve my family, I offer a platter of topping options like more chopped scallions, avocado, cheese, Greek yogurt, tortilla chips and cilantro. Then each family member gets to customize their bowl.

Prefer a recipe? Try this one: Slow-Cooker Chili Recipe

Tuesday Lunch Idea: Portion out individual portions and freeze for a future family dinner or lunches. For a tasty lunch the following day, serve reheated chili on top of a baked potato (or rice, or whole wheat pasta). If the chili is thick, you could wrap it up in a tortilla. My favorite chili lunch is to serve my reheated chili on top of a garden salad. I top that with some scallions, cilantro, avocado and about six tortilla chips.

white chicken chili

>> Recipe: White Chicken Chili

Tuesday Night: Spaghetti and Meatballs

Another classic dinner we eat regularly. I like to change up the meat — ground turkey, ground beef, ground pork, etc. Our favorite combo is equal amounts of ground turkey and ground pork mixed together and well-seasoned.

My other favorite thing about this dish is that marinara sauce is a great place to hide extra veggies. Simply cook and puree whatever veggie you want to add, then add the puree to your marinara sauce before serving. My favorite veggie to sneak in is spinach.

Wednesday Lunch Idea: Meatball sandwich! Because my family is such a big fan of meatballs, I usually double or triple this recipe just to make sure everyone gets the portion they want at both dinner and lunch the following day.

spaghetti squash and turkey meatballs

>> Recipe: Spaghetti Squash with Turkey Meatballs

Wednesday Night: Crock Pot Picante Chicken and Black Bean Soup

I love my Crock Pot! You can dump all these ingredients in your slow cooker the night before, put it in the refrigerator overnight and then plug that thing in on your way out the door in the morning. When you get home, your house smells awesome and dinner is served!

I love this particular recipe because the soup itself is very basic, so each person in your household can tailor it to their particular taste with the toppings they choose when you serve it. I like feta cheese on mine. My husband and kids like shredded cheddar. Other ideas for toppings include cilantro, avocado, cucumber, tomatoes, a squeeze of lime, etc. When I serve my kids, I like to put rice in the bottom of their bowls before adding the soup and then top with a generous portion of cheese. If you like it creamy, add some Greek yogurt. It has the same taste effect as sour cream without the calories.

Plus, it freezes and reheats really well. I like to make a double batch and freeze it in portions for lunch options.

Thursday Lunch Idea: When I take this for lunch, I like to top it with 2 tablespoons of sweet corn, a quarter of an avocado, scallions and cilantro and then stir in a quarter cup of Greek yogurt.

black bean and sausage soup

>> Recipe: Slow Cooker Black Bean Soup

Thursday Night: Chicken Stir Fry

Stir fry is another great dish that gets my children to eat a rainbow of veggies. Once you find a sauce your family likes, you can swap the protein and veggies per your family’s taste preferences. I like this particular recipe, because I do like to eat a side of brown rice with my stir fry, and a one-cup portion of this is less than 200 calories. That leaves room for me to add a little rice and guacamole!

Friday Lunch Idea: Taco salad. You can use whatever raw veggies you have in your refrigerator, add some black beans and leftover stir fry. Then top the whole thing with salsa and a dollop of Greek yogurt.