healthy meal formulas

Healthy Meal Formulas That Waste Less Food

The stats about wasted food are overwhelming. Americans waste 72 billion pounds of food. Much of it isn’t composted, making over 20 percent of the landfill food. Of course, unused food also wastes resources like water to grow. So, there’s room to do better. Luckily, there are plenty healthy meal formulas you can make with whatever you’ve got unused in the kitchen.


Call them fiesta eggs and they’ll feel like a party. Eggs are a great way to use up some leftover veggies. Scramble eggs and then throw in whatever didn’t make it into last night’s dinner: spinach, asparagus, black beans, salsa, or cheese. The goodness could be folded into an omelet, too.


Blend unused fruits and vegetables into a smoothie and use up produce before it goes bad. Too-ripe bananas are a start or any other fruit you’ve got on hand for sweetness. Add in greens, beets, celery, or a carrot. Add half an avocado or a couple scoops of yogurt for creaminess. A liquid, such as milk, water, or juice helps it all blend together. The general formula is 4 parts fruits or vegetables, 2 parts liquid, and 1 part yogurt.


While we’re on the breakfast theme, let’s talk oatmeal. Rolled oats can be purchased in bulk and used half a cup at a time. Just microwave with two parts water for two minutes. Then stir in apple chunks, blueberries, banana slices, or a spoonful of nut butter. Top it with whatever you like: a drizzle of honey or that smooshed granola bar you forgot about in the bottom of your purse.

If you’re more savory than sweet, start with the same oatmeal base, then add savory toppings, such as a fried egg, goat cheese, caramelized onion, and kale. Mediterranean-inspired is also fun. Try a fried egg, feta, olives, scallions, and cilantro.


Start with a bed of greens, add a protein like leftover salmon, garbanzo, or black beans. Top it with something crunchy. My go-to is to use half an apple on my morning oatmeal, then toss the other half on a salad for lunch. I mix in garbanzo beans or leftover chicken and a handful of walnuts. Top with cheese if you like. Then add drizzles of olive oil and balsamic—or your favorite salad dressing. This formula can be tweaked to use whatever is in the kitchen.

Grain bowls

Grain bowls are a trendy way to use what’s in the fridge. This healthy meal formula is simple: whole grains, veggies, protein, sauce, and toppings. Leftover rice, pasta or quinoa makes a nice base. Add roasted vegetables and a protein, like meat, fish, or beans. Make a sauce like tahini-yogurt or creamy avocado or add a dollop of hummus. Top your bowl with something fun like pumpkin seeds, slivered almonds or pine nuts.

You could make a Mediterranean-style bowl with quinoa, tomato, cucumber, olives, and chickpeas or falafel and top with tzatziki or hummus. For a burrito bowl, start with rice add lettuce, seasoned meat, black beans, and top with salsa or guacamole. A pasta bowl could include white beans, roasted squash and onions, and pesto or red sauce.

Sheet pan dinners

Protein, chopped veggies (or fruit!), and a drizzle of olive oil are the foundation for one-pan, easy-to-clean sheet pan dinners. After your protein and produce are roasted, you can add anything you don’t want cooked, like a dressing or lettuce. Here are some sheet pan dinner ideas to get you started.


Soup can be a warming and healthy meal. Start by sautéing aromatic vegetables like onion and celery. Remove from heat and brown any meat you want to use. Then throw the aromatics back into the pot along with water or broth and any spices you want. Then add softer items that cook faster, like beans, corn, peas, and cooked grains like quinoa or rice. You can also toss in any greens that cook fast. Finally top with any fresh herbs, cheese, cream or other toppings.

Some ideas to get you started: Chicken tortilla soup, baked potato soup, sweet potato and black bean chili, and a classic chicken noodle soup.

Candace Nelson

In the mountains or water debate, Candace Nelson, MS, CN chooses water every time. She is a licensed nutritionist and loves taking any fitness class that makes her forget she's working out. Read more at

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