Updated on 08.26.14

Six Healthy, Inexpensive, and Quick Summer Meals

Trent Hamm

My kitchen is often a laboratory around dinner time. I’m constantly striving to prepare a tasty meal for my family with healthy ingredients as quickly as I can. My kids and my wife combine for the ultimate test – if they both like it, it’s a success. If it’s fairly quick and healthy, it’s a big success – that’s something we’ll have again in some form.

Here are six of the big successes I’ve found over the last year.

Grilled Parmesan Tilapia Fillets

You can use this recipe with any kind of fillets – catfish works quite well, for example. However, my family simply loves the tilapia.


3 tilapia fillets (6-8 ounces each), rinsed thoroughly with water
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1 cup mayonnaise (I’ve tried other things, but there’s no substitute – this just works)
4 tablespoons lemon juice
4 tablespoons margarine or butter


Mix the Parmesan, the mayonnaise, and half of the lemon juice, and soften the butter/margarine. Dip the tilapia fillets in the butter, then the remaining lemon juice. Grill them over high heat for 6 minutes, flipping halfway through. Flip again, then spread the lemon-Parmesan sauce on top. Grill for 3 more minutes until the sauce turns golden brown. Serve!

Trent’s Burgers

During the summer, we have grilled burgers once a week. After many experiments, this is the recipe my family loves. These can be done just as easily in a pan, of course.


1 1/2 pounds ground beef (very lean if you’re cooking in a pan, not if grilling where the fat will drip off)
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 cup whole wheat Pepperidge Farm goldfish, crushed to dust


Mix everything together. Make 6 round patties out of the meat, about 2/3 inch thick. Press down gently in the middle of each patty, making a small indentation. Grill over medium high heat for about 10 minutes, flipping halfway through (check for doneness). Serve!

Campfire Meals

These cook very well by simply tossing them onto the edge of a camp fire, but you can also grill them or bake them in an oven. These are VERY flexible and have widely varying cooking times – you need to check them and make sure they’re done.


ultra-lean ground beef
chili beans
chili powder
diced potatoes
chopped carrots
butter (not too much)
aluminum foil


Tear off a rectangular piece of aluminum foil and add ingredients above to your heart’s content. Add two ice cubes, then wrap the aluminum foil into a tight package. Cook the package on the edge of a campfire or over high grill heat for 10-15 minutes. Serve! (It’s good to have everyone make their own individual packages, because people have different tastes – I like eggs and chili and carrots and just a few potatoes, whereas my wife avoids the chili and eats plenty of potatoes.)

Grilled Chicken & Spinach Quesadillas

This was adapted from a recipe I spied in a magazine (not sure which one) I read while standing in a checkout aisle a few months ago. I saw a delicious looking picture, put down the magazine, and picked up some spinach and cheese.


2 pounds cooked chicken breasts or a whole small rotisserie chicken, meat shredded
6 large flour or corn tortillas
3-4 ounces baby spinach (4 or 5 cups or so)
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 cup salsa
8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese (2 cups or so)
1/4 cup sour cream


Mix the chicken, spinach, chili powder, and cheese. Heat the grill to medium. Put 1/3 of the mix on each of three of the tortillas and spread it evenly. Put a second tortilla on top of each one to make three “sandwiches.” Grill the “sandwiches” over medium heat, about 4 minutes per side, and serve them with sour cream and salsa.

Quick Red Beans and Rice

We make a big batch of this on lazy summer days. We get it going, let it boil while we play outside in the late afternoon, then come inside for a delicious meal! This recipe makes a ton of leftovers.


4 cups dry read beans
2 quarts water
1 pound sliced Andouille sausage (optional)
1 large onion, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon black pepper
4 cups rice


Soak the beans overnight in cold water, then drain. Add all ingredients but rice, then boil it for two hours (slow boil). When there’s about half an hour left, add 3 cups water and the rice, bring it back to a low boil. Stir it about every twenty minutes or so after adding the rice. Serve!

Grilled Tuna Sandwich

This makes for a great lunch or the centerpiece of a light supper.


1 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 small red onion, diced
1 small celery stalk, diced
16 ounces tuna
olive oil (for bread)
pepper to taste
hearty bread of your choice


Mix lemon juice, tuna, mayo, cheese, onion, and celery. Make sandwiches out of the bread and tuna mixture, then brush olive oil lightly on the outside of the sandwiches. Grill over medium heat, 4 minutes on each side.

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  1. ckstevenson says:

    I have been told by friends that Tilapia is not a particularly healthy fish, that it lacks nutrients because most Tilapia is farm-raised. Is this true, myth, slightly true?

  2. Johanna says:

    I’m guessing that most of these dishes would be served with some sort of vegetables on the side – do you ever apply your tinkering skills to those? If you do, I’d love to read a post about it (as would the rest of your vegetarian/health conscious readers, I’ll bet). If you don’t, you totally should – vegetables can be tasty (heh) and interesting too.

  3. Mia says:

    I appreciate the recipes, love cooking, but I wouldn’t call any of these healthy. Especially the Tilapia – 1 cup of mayo for 3 people? That’s any where from 200 to 500 calories per person + high fat + the butter in your recipe. I know it tastes good, but ehh.

  4. Drew54 says:

    According to many sources the Farm Raised Tilapia is fed corn, this causes it to have higher Omega 6 and less Omega 3 than wild fish would have.

    It still packs a lot of protein.

  5. Amanda says:

    I cannot wait to try the sauce on the tilapia. I LOVE tilapia. I usually make it with just a hint of butter and lemon pepper, but you might have come up with something to alternate with that. I’m also going to try it out with my mayo substitute, although sometimes regular mayo is just the way to go. I also love the idea of the campfire packets. That will definitely be something I try out at my next get together since everyone has such different tastes.

  6. Mike says:

    Good Lord, people…

    As long as you exercise to burn off the calories, eating a bit of mayo/butter/whatever will not kill you.

    I’m getting tired of everyone ripping on Trent’s recipies because “OMG THERE’S SOME FAT IN THERE THAT’S NOT HEALTHY!!!!”

  7. Rangzy says:

    Nice article. Thanks!

    Request you to post more non-meat dishes next time onwards (for the vegetarians among your audience)

    Jai Ho !

  8. Jeremy says:

    If there was only *SOME* fat then it wouldn’t be a problem.

  9. Raine says:

    Thanks for the recipes! :)

    I’ll be making the Tilapia tonight, using light mayonnaise, because that’s what we have in the fridge. It should work, and cut the fat/calories some, although that’s not a huge concern – we’ll just have mixed beans & carrots with lemon juice & herbs for the side dish, instead of fries.

  10. Kristin says:

    I think it would be different if the fat were coming from a healthier fat, like EVOO, than from mayonaise. A little mayo isn’t bad, but 1/3 cup per person is a ton.

  11. almost there says:

    Don’t worry about the health fanatics. The
    French are healthier, they eat lots more fat, just smaller portion sizes. Besides, everyone knows that the quickest way to the life insurance policy is through the spouse’s stomach. :)

  12. mike says:

    Thanks for the recipes! Is that really a cup of lemon juice for the tuna? That seems like a lot, but I might be mistaken.

  13. mike says:

    Trent, is there any particular type of rice you find works best for the red beans and rice?

  14. k2000k says:

    Trent have you tried miracle whip? It has the same constancy as mayo but not quite as much fat. As far as health goes, being someone who watches their diet very carefully, no these dishes aren’t the most healthy things ever, but they are head and shoulders above anything you will ever get from a box or a restaurant. And honestly they probably taste better than healthier dishes do.

  15. jasmine says:

    Hi Trent,

    I’m glad to see you’re eating tilapia, it’s a responsibly managed fish and good for you too. However, tuna is on the cusp of being an endangered species! So while it’s cheap for now, the cost is actually very high for the planet. In the long term, eating tuna is just too costly for all of us. Plus its full of mercury and toxic metals for humans (pregnant women are told not to eat tuna). I love your blog and your comments on frugality and the real cost of things, so I hope you take this comment in the spirit it’s written — constructive.

  16. teri says:

    Grilled vegetables (like zucchini sliced lengthwise, eggplant, portobella mushrooms, asparagus) brushed with a bit of olive oil and some salt and pepper are amazing–pair that with some baked beans and some bread and cheese, and you’ve got a great meal for WAY less money than you are probably spending, plus less cruelty and more vitamins.
    just sayin’.

    Also, I’m sorry to be *that* girl, but I have to say that the image of “laboratory” followed by a post full of recipes that involve animals is a little ooky. I’m sure that’s just me, though, so I’ll just be back tomorrow when this post moves to the page. :-)

  17. Mia says:


    “French are healthier, they eat lots more fat, just smaller portion sizes.”

    1/3 CUP of mayo is not “some fat” nor is it a “smaller portion” or a “bit”. I repeat 1/3 CUP of mayo!!! + 1.3 T of Butter (another 100+ calories).

    When my daily calories to maintain a healthy weight are 1800, I do not want to use 500 of them on fatty mayo! Not on healthy Olive Oil either, lol. Snickerdoodles maybe, but not mayo. It would take an hour of cardio exercise to burn that off, never mind the damages it could do to a body.

    TRENT is the one who labeled these recipes as HEALTHY… recipes containing 1/3 cup of mayo are not healthy no matter how you try to spin it. Maybe it’s a typo…1 tablespoon, not 1 cup. I don’t think a person could even taste 6 ounces of fish slathered in 1/3 cup of mayo.

  18. Sarah says:

    Yes, I have to say…I’m not an anti-fat fanatic by any means, but the amount of fat in the first recipe is way too high. A cup of Kraft is 917 calories, so that’s 300+ per person, plus another 160 calories for the butter. I think that’s something over half a day’s worth recommended fat. (And what fat. Mayo and animal fat. I have to say that strikes me as a waste.)

    Even more worrying to me is the lack of fruits and vegetables, unless Trent is always serving these with multiple sides. I know this is all fairly standard middle-American diet, but having grown up on the same myself I’ve been forced to recognize that it’s really not that good for you (not to mention not all that tasty as a steady diet, once you wean your tastebuds off the goo and salt). I’m really not sure what your criteria for “healthy” is, Trent, but I think it could use some refinement.

  19. Holly says:

    Has anyone seen the pictures of Trent? Excess calories are not something he seems to care about. Let’s get back to the financial issues. There are much better bloggers out there who deal with good food.

  20. Amy says:

    I would also like to see vegetarian and vegan options. Leaving meat out is good for the animals and good for the budget.

  21. marta says:

    I think Trent does serve veggies –why else have a vegetable garden?

    However, I have to agree that a lot of those recipes don’t quite scream “healthy” at me. I actually think that word tends to be overused (and misused) around here. “Tasty” would be the other overused word. ;)

    Like other commenters above, I’d also like to see more vegetarian (and fish) options. I eat meat maybe twice a month, if that much…

  22. Faculties says:

    The ground beef might be very lean, but adding Goldfish just raises the fat quotient again. You can tell these are recipes written by a man! Women don’t have that many extra calories to play around with.

  23. imelda says:

    Jeez louise. Trent, this is a great article. Simple recipes (mostly) with totally unprocessed and wholesome ingredients.

    So what if one recipe includes some extra mayo? For pete’s sake, people, the point of this article is to show that home-cooked food can be appetizing without being difficult or expensive. Trent is not a health food nut. Counting calories is not his main concern–nor should it be anyone else’s, unless you’re on a restricted diet. Most people should just worry about eating 3 meals per day that provide the proper nutrients and avoid over-processed fast or prepackaged foods.

    Honestly. The above comments perfectly capture this society’s obsession with food: we make mountains out of molehills. As Ramit Sethi would say, we love to debate minutiae, and that keeps us from making any real changes. So maybe Trent’s recipes aren’t for someone who is already careful about what they eat, never eats out, and counts all of their calories and grams of fat. Maybe they’re meant for the majority of Americans who usually find it too overwhelming to get a simple meal on the table for their families every night.

    Alright, I’ll stop now. Let me conclude with some constructive advice: @Mia– your opinions are valid, but a word on etiquette. When it comes to food blogs or online recipes, the appropriate response is not to attack Trent for not adhering to your own diet’s requirements. The appropriate response is “I would use less mayo in that first recipe. On a daily diet of 1800 calories that mayo would take up half of the recommended fat. I recommend trying this recipe with a half-cup of Miracle Whip, instead.” Or whatever. (if you can’t tell the difference, the way you commented assumed that everyone should adhere to the same principles as you, and you therefore deemed these recipes universally unhealthy. You are wrong.)

    @Trent: Add my vote to those who asked for more vegetable-based recipes. As a vegetarian, I’m biased, but let me also point out that veggie dishes are cheaper and very nutritious! (also, rice and beans is one of the less-exciting vegetarian recipes out there)

  24. Bsigrist says:

    Thanks Trent for these great recipes. I cannot wait to try the Tilapia and the Red beans and rice!

  25. The red beans and rice is a favorite of mine, but I cook the rice separate and use it as a bed to serve the rest over. Chopped celery and bell pepper are good with it too. And cayenne to taste. Good stuff.

  26. lurker carl says:

    I agree that healthy and healthful are overused terms; flavor is not an indication of nutritional value. Just because certain ingredients are written into the recipe does not mean the cook must use them. There are plenty of substitutes for the mayo, butter, margarine, Goldfish and cheeses that will reduce the fat and sodium content of these dishes while maintaining intended the flavor.

    Barley, quinoa and other whole grains can be substituted for or added to rice for those wanting more fiber and nutrition than rice supplies. Prepare your other grains seperately, the cooking times will vary.

  27. amy says:

    There’s more fatty sauces in these recipes than I would add to a “healthy” meal. I’m not saying I wouldn’t enjoy all these recipes, but I can’t eat that much mayo and still fit into a bathing suit this summer! I think I’ll try the quesadillas with a little low fat sour cream, that one looks good enough to splurge on.

  28. J says:

    What are “read beans”? :)

    I would concur that the amount of fat, butter, mayo and so on do put these far out of the “healthy” range …. count the calories on these and realize that the condiments do add quite a bit to them, and you would need to do quite a bit of exercise to burn them off.

    I do dearly love things like andoullie sausage, burgers and tuna fish salad sandwiches. However, I do have to consume them sparingly of find other substitutes.

    For the red beans and rice with andoullie, it’s very common to use turkey kielbasa and add in spices like Tobasco and Tony Chacherie’s. It’s not quite the same, but close enough. I’ve also used canned red beans to make it truly “quick”. Substituting brown rice never seems to work well, though. Also if you add in chicken broth of some kind (or a beer) you can do wonderful things there, too. Cornbread is also a good side (although not “healthy”)

    For burgers if you go big with the spices the underlying meat becomes less important. Ground turkey can do a lot of the same things beef can, but you can “play” with the flavors more. We’ve made some asian style turkey burgers that were fantasic from the Cooking Light website.

    For the tuna, I’ve found that if you don’t drain the tuna too much, you can get by with considerably less mayonnaise. I’m still a big lover of “real” mayo, since it seems (like cheese) to be something where you get more flavor from the a smaller amount of the real thing than some processed stuff from a factory in New Jersey.

    And yes, I’d hope a big pile of veggies accompanies any of these dishes. Roasted vegetables are big hits in our house.

  29. Chris says:

    Just to throw my two cents in, use of true whole grain breads and tortillas to slow down the absorbtion of your sugars. I have actually been making salmon cakes since I don’t like salmon. Get the canned wild salmon and whole grain bread that has been ground up. Salt, Pepper, Mustard, Cayen and maybe some paprika, saute in olive oil. Definately not bad. Amazingly the canned salmon is usually wild which is much better for you.

  30. Hogan says:

    The food snobs are not about “I feel good” after eating something healthy it is more like “I feel better than everyone else” after eating healthy. Lighten up. No vegeterian has ever lived to 100.

  31. Noah says:

    Seriously mayo-haters, get over yourselves. It’s plenty delicious.

    Also your hamburger recipe looks very solid. Have you tried mixing an egg into the meat as you’re blending everything else? Let’s the goldfish adhere nicely and gives the meat some earthy flavor.

  32. rktheac says:

    “When my daily calories to maintain a healthy weight are 1800, I do not want to use 500 of them on fatty mayo! Not on healthy Olive Oil either, lol. Snickerdoodles maybe, but not mayo. It would take an hour of cardio exercise to burn that off, never mind the damages it could do to a body.”

    Tren’ts not you, you’re not Trent. I.e., what works for him, may not necessarily work for you. Cooking is also about improvising and experimenting to one’s tastes. Don’t like lots of mayo? Use less. Use a substitute. I certainly didn’t read these recipes as being written in stone, and I’m sure Trent wouldn’t mind if you changed the ingriedients and/or experiment.


  33. MichelleO says:

    These are recipes, not menus. Of course you’d serve some vegetables with these dishes.

  34. Mel says:

    I wasn’t sure whether to comment because I don’t want to be a negative Nancy but I have to say: these recipes can not be construed as healthy! Sure, you could serve them with veggies or salad on the side… but why not mention that? Would that destroy the illusion of economy?

    As someone who is used to properly healthy meals (with 3-5 veg or legumes as core ingredients) these meals sound kind of gross, and reinforce why 60 percent of the Western world is overweight.

    You don’t need to cook with such vast quantities of lard, butter, cheese, and processed ingredients to make food taste good. But you do have to spend a little more money… and it is absolutely worth it.

  35. Jerry says:

    Trent –

    Campfire chili sounds delicious! Makes me want to run around the woods then come and tell stories with friends while it cooks up…yum!!!


  36. Johanna says:

    @Mel: I suspect (but do not know) that the reason the vegetables aren’t mentioned is not because Trent’s deliberately trying to conceal the fact that he eats vegetables, but because he shares the standard American attitude that vegetables are unimportant components of the meal – worth eating, but not worth mentioning.

    In my parents’ house, for example, if you ask what’s for dinner, you might get an answer like “salmon” (meaning a salmon filet broiled with teriyaki sauce, which is one of my mom’s signature dishes and is really pretty good). Whether the menu is really salmon with salad, potatoes, and asparagus or salmon with rice, broccoli, and carrots is glossed over – it’s all the same salmon. There’s a central dish that defines the meal, and 99% of the time is meat- or fish-based, and everything else is just sort of there: deserving of only minimal attention when talking about the meal and when preparing it.

    I’d like to see that attitude change. Partly because I’m a vegetarian now, and I think that if people paid more attention to the non-meat foods that they already eat, they’d be less inclined to ask me what *I* eat as if they had no idea. But also because it’s just sad to see vegetables not getting the attention they deserve. Vegetables prepared well are really, really good. Vegetables prepared poorly can be really, really bad. A lot of kids grow up thinking they don’t like certain vegetables, when in truth they only don’t like vegetables prepared by people who have no idea what they’re doing. That’s why I’d really like to see a post where Trent, and all of us, can share ideas about recipes for vegetables.

  37. renee says:

    Trent – Forget about the naysayers and keep the recipes coming. Come on people – adding veggies is a given. For all you “health fanatics” – keep your negativity to yourself – it spreads like hate. BTW -I made your mulitple burrito recipe, it was great, the kids helped, and we have killer burritos ready at a moments notice.

  38. Nice post!

    Worcestershire sauce is the secret to great burgers!

  39. Angie says:

    Oh my goodness, just because people are concerned with calories and fat doesn’t mean they’re “health fanatics.” It means they don’t want to end up morbidly obese – which is were the US is heading.

    Ugh – I wasn’t going to comment, but seriously, some people on this site are as slavishly devoted to mayo as they are to Trent.

  40. Michele says:

    @renee No one is being negative, they’re just telling the facts like they are. How interesting that you have such a negative reaction to other people saying this type of food isn’t healthy.

    1 cup of mayonnaise is 1600 calories.
    4 tablespoons of butter are 400 calories.

    Whether or not the other commenters want to admit it or not, the fact remains that between three servings, each one has over 650 calories of sauce. This isn’t being negative. For many of us, that is a full third of our day of calories, in only one part of a meal.

    A better option would be to grill the fish with some seasonings and a bit of oil, then serve that alongside another sauce, or with just lemon juice on top. If you really like the fish, and not just the fatty sauce, then this is a quick and easy (and yummy) way of eating it.

  41. Kelly says:

    thanks trent, i enjoy your recipe/menu ideas as great options to add to my regulars when i get bored!

  42. some great options to try out this summer. these look simple enough too!

  43. Jen says:

    Trent, I recommend that you pick up Food Matters by Mark Bittman. It is about eating in a manner that is both good for you and for the planet, and inexpensively. He relies on a lot of whole grains, vegetables, and legumes–basically, he is a vegan until 5pm, and then he eats whatever he wants.

  44. susan says:

    I think these recipes sound great and I’m always looking for something, new, quick and easy to throw on the grill. I can’t wait to try them. Maybe I’ll tweak the recipes a bit to my own personal taste, maybe I won’t. Either way, it’s a great variety of recipes and they all sound yummy to me!

    Thanks Trent!

    And it’s a lot healthier than getting some quick Taco Bell or McDonalds for dinner.

  45. Mister E says:

    I like the idea of Goldfish in the burgers, I’d never thought of that.

    Labelling some of these as healthy is definitely a stretch but some of these comments are ridiculous. It really sounds like some of them are personally OFFENDED that a recipe with mayonaisse in it would even be posted. If you don’t like it (for taste or “health” reasons) then just don’t make it!

    Personally I won’t be making anything with mayonaisse in it because I absolutely cannot stand the taste of the goo. But hey, to each their own.

  46. cait says:

    Hey Hogan(comment 30)–Your comment sent me searching, because I’ve read a fair amount about the pluses of vegetarianism(lower BMI and less chronic illness among them)– and as it turns out Du Pinhua, the world’s “champion of longevity” is a lifelong vegetarian, and she’s 120!
    So vegetarians *can* live to 100, and beyond!

  47. Melissa says:

    Try making a pasta salad for a quick, easy, and inexpensive meal. Change the recipe to suit your taste and use what you have on hand. Boil some pasta, toss in some veggies, cheese cubes, and meat if you prefer. Salad dressing makes a great sauce. So does olive oil mixed with your favorite spices.


  48. Jeff says:

    What would be the best way to alter the Chicken & Spinach Quesadilla recipe if they aren’t grilled?

  49. Mike says:

    When my daily calories to maintain a healthy weight are 1800, I do not want to use 500 of them on fatty mayo! Not on healthy Olive Oil either, lol. Snickerdoodles maybe, but not mayo. It would take an hour of cardio exercise to burn that off, never mind the damages it could do to a body.

    TRENT is the one who labeled these recipes as HEALTHY… recipes containing 1/3 cup of mayo are not healthy no matter how you try to spin it. Maybe it’s a typo…1 tablespoon, not 1 cup. I don’t think a person could even taste 6 ounces of fish slathered in 1/3 cup of mayo.
    Mia @ 5:25 pm May 26th, 2009 (comment #17)

    ONE meal with some mayo, assuming you get regular exercise, will not harm you. And guess what, you are not required to eat the entire plate of food! Yes, you can save it for later.

    Everyone is not built like you. People who are larger than you, higher general metabolism, or who work out require more than 1800 calories to maintain their weight.

    If you don’t like the amount of calories in Trent’s recipies, it’s fine with me. Please start your own blog devoted to your crusade of zero fat meals instead of here.

  50. Mister E says:


    You mean how to cook them without a grill?

    Put them over medium/low heat in a frying pan on your stove. Brushing either side with butter makes for tasty quesadilla’s but is defintely not fat concious. A spray of Pam should work well too.

  51. Tammy says:

    Healthy is not an either or situation. Try thinking at the margin instead. For some people these recipes would be much healthier than going out for pizza or picking up a Big Mac value meal. For others who are already eating lots of veggies and low fat meals, these recipes would be a step back.

  52. Raine says:

    Just FYI, I tried the tilapia recipe last night. Delicious! I used low-fat mayo & had enough sauce to do 6 filets, with some leftover. Also, most of the butter stays in the dish, so it’s not like you have to totally slather it on. For something that was pretty quick & easy, I’d give it a thumbs up! Even my husband liked it, and went back for seconds, and he doesn’t normally like fish.

  53. jc says:

    all this discussion just underlines that, sadly, the anti-fat fanatics have already won, when someone can type without irony: “I’m not an anti-fat fanatic by any means, but the amount of fat in the first recipe is way too high.”

    I submit that there is no edible amount of fat content that is too high, if fatty acids are consumed in a relative balance, and there is no evidence to the contrary, in spite of the fulminations of the so-called “health news” media. But most people have made up their minds without realizing that there is no evidence of this. Gary Taubes has written several times on this but seems to have made less impact than, say, Michael Pollan on his pet subjects, which better fit with dietary orthodoxy.

  54. Georgia says:

    Raine has the right idea. Many, many times, the amount of sauce, etc. you use to dip things is not all used up. Even Trent’s recipe for the tilapia would not need all the sauce used on the 3 pieces. The rest goes in a small tightly covered bowl and into the fridge for next time &/or another meat dish.

    And, as one other person stated, these are recipes, not menus. My recipe books do not, for the greatest part, list the sides you use with your recipes. They just tell you how to make the item they are listing.

    Does anyone know what a second stage vegetarian is? One who only eats animal meat from animals who only eat vegetables.

  55. jc says:

    HA–and they made me forget. I too would like to hear about the vegetables you set along this and how you prepare them.

  56. K says:

    @renee — add up the calories in these “healthy” meals and see how they compare with published standards like 2000 calories a day for women and 2500 for men. These amounts vary per person, but are a pretty decent starting point.

    If Trent published a regular personal finance article about living on a budget of $2500/month, then listed a $1600 mortgage, $400 car payment, $150 for insurance, $600 for food, $200 for spending money and $100 for gas, plus a bunch of other expenses (cable, entertainment, eating out, etc), would you consider that “healthy”?

    Also it would be nice if the recipes included caloric information and serving sizes. It’s entirely possible to consume mayo, butter and other fats on a diet (in addition to ice cream, cookies, donuts, pie and cake) — you just need to know how many calories you are consuming so you can keep track. It’s exactly the same thing as keeping a money budget going.

  57. B says:

    @jc — it’s very simple, for personal finance OR weight control:

    Spend less than you earn.
    Eat less than you burn.

    Where those calories come from is not really a big deal, but fatty foods have more calories in them than non-fatty foods. Study after study after study keeps coming back to calorie counting as the most effective way to control your weight.

    It’s the same thing with budgeting for personal finance (and frugality). If you find value in eating a block of cheese dipped in mayo and then followed up with ice cream and a glass of whole milk, then go for it. Just know that you need to somehow get rid of the excess calories that you consumed, or control the amount by using sensible portion sizes. Same way that you might find value in owning a giant house with an expensive car and going on expensive vacations — you just need to be able to pay for it. If you can pay in cash, you can do OK — but if you start paying on credit, then you can get into a mess. Same thing with eating too much and “exercising tomorrow”. Tomorrow too rarely comes.

  58. slcp84 says:

    Plenty have made it clear that these aren’t exactly “healthy” and need veggies, and others have clarified that they could be much worse. Also, Trent on his last healthy/unhealthy post made clear that if you want healthier version to substitute things.

    I think the problem is this:

    Trent is posting something as a trusted source of information and saying it’s a healthy meal. The people who know how to eat healthy that are complaining can figure out for themselves what the problems are and fix them, but the people that actually need the advice of what to eat might see these and go “oh a healthy meal!” and not realize what they’re being told to eat.

    Please, for the sake of those who DON’T know how to eat right, try to put a little more thought into the “healthy meals” you recommend. And if you call it a meal, make it complete — don’t assume that people know that you are supposed to add veggies to it, etc.

  59. Kristin says:

    @Trent this is kinda but not really off subject. Alton Brown has a polenta recipe that is easy and out of this world! It’s a great side dish and if you’d like you can grill it! Also, polenta is pretty inexpensive to make as it’s just yellow corn grits which are about $1.50 a bag (you add butter and parm cheese and onions and chicken broth)

  60. Kristin says:

    @Trent this is kinda but not really off subject. Alton Brown has a polenta recipe that is easy and out of this world! It’s a great side dish and if you’d like you can grill it! Also, polenta is pretty inexpensive to make as it’s just yellow corn grits which are about $1.50 a bag (you add butter and parm cheese and onions and chicken broth). The recipe can be found on the food network website.

  61. Sandy E. says:

    Anyone have a 16 oz. bag of mixed vegetables in their freezer collecting freezer burn? Try this recipe if you want healthy, inexpensive and tasty:

    1 T extra virgin olive oil
    1 onion, chopped
    3 cups fat free chicken broth
    16 oz. bag frozen vegetable blend
    small can white beans, drained & rinsed
    1 cup 1% milk
    1/4 cup shredded cheese
    1 tsp. dried basil
    1/2 tsp. salt
    1/4 tsp. pepper

    Heat oil in dutch oven – add onion, cook 5 mins.
    Stir in chicken broth and vegtables & bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat, add beans (drained), cover and simmer 5 minutes.

    Pour 3 cups of the mixture into a blender and blend until smooth, then return to Dutch oven. Stir in milk, cheese and seasonsings and simmer 10 minutes.

  62. Sarah says:

    That’s exactly it. Trent called these recipes “healthy.” People trust Trent. Not only is it legitimate to respond to the claim Trent explicitly made by pointing out the problems with it, I’d think Trent would consider it his responsibility not to misinform people, just as he wouldn’t want to misinform people financially.

    As for the people going on about “balance” and differing caloric needs and such, sorry, but you’re kidding yourself there. My calculations on the sauce alone on the tilapia–lowball calculations, by the way–is that it’s about 500 calories. Adult males are supposed to be consuming an average of 2000 calories a day. 1/4 of your calories on the sauce on dinner by itself is crazy; most people who eat a serving of that sauce are going to end up going over for the day. Unless you are Michael Phelps, eating like that is going to make you put on weight. And people tend to eat what they’re served, so the whole “oh maybe they just won’t eat all the sauce” theory is equally untenable. Trent also didn’t say that these were special-occasion dishes for his family, but rather ones they return to again and again.

    I’ll be the first to say that it sucks that we can’t eat as we like, in the abundance our society makes available to us, without putting out weight, but there it is. I believe strongly that everyone’s weight is their own business, but in order to make your own choices, you need good information. And calling that tilapia recipe “healthy” is not good information.

  63. Bargain Babe says:

    These recipes sound tasty, thanks! I like to make a quick corn and bean salad that you can eat by itself, on tacos, fajitas or with chips.

    Bargain Babe’s quick summer side salad
    1 15-oz can black beans
    1 15-oz can corn
    1 red pepper, chopped small
    1/2 red onion, diced
    2-3 T lime juice

    Toss all ingredients together. Add lime juice until the flavors really sing. Enjoy!

  64. jc says:

    sarah>> you’ve given the calories for the average sedentary (aka ordinary) adult female, but not for even sedentary adult males (let alone those who get some exercise). and 125 calories is less than what you find it 2 Tbsp of a creamy salad dressing like Caesar or Ranch (show me somebody who really only uses that much). Y’all are making a mountain out of a molehill with this mayo thing.

    and for what it’s worth, that’s exactly how I’m eating these days, along with veggies and beans, and it’s taking weight off.

    just stop using the word “healthy” as a synonym for “low calorie” (always a farce, because you always eat more of it) or “low fat” (ditto). not everyone shares your definition of “healthy”–and they shouldn’t, because it’s absurd! if you want to demonize entire food groups as “unhealthy,” let’s go after refined sugar and starch.

  65. Sarah says:

    Well, JC, if you routinely put more than 2 tbsp of creamy dressing on your salad and are under the impression it’s better for your weight to eat high-calorie food than low-calorie food because people always eat less high-calorie food, I wish you luck, but I wouldn’t expect that weight to stay off very long. Not because fat is inherently evil, but because it is more calorically dense than the other macronutrients, it’s very easy to take in more of it than you realize, and if you’re casually glopping on large servings of creamy sauces or dressings while chomping down on other high-calorie foods, you’re fighting physics and physics will win. (PS: it’s not 125 calories at issue here, it’s ~500.)

    However, I’m not sure where you get that I equate “healthy” and “low-calorie” or “low-fat,” considering what I said in the first place: “Even more worrying to me is the lack of fruits and vegetables.” That sure looks like a suggestion that a healthy meal should be heavier on unprocessed foods and their attendant vitamins and fiber to me.

  66. Heather says:

    Hmm… why the ice cubes in the campfire bundle? Is it just to add some extra water and not have to mess with water in a foil bundle?
    Nice idea. Thanks, Trent.

  67. John says:

    Great recipes, Trent.

    Those overly obsessed with calorie counts sound read Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes. Not all calories are created equal.

  68. jc says:

    i second john’s remark immediately above.

    and it IS 125 calories at issue, because it’s divided across four servings.

    people are so afraid of a little sauce because it’s “high in fat” but go nuts with the bread and potatoes. that’s where the real weight is gained.

  69. Jen says:

    OMG Trent, I cannot believe how ridiculous some of the comments are that you get on your food posts!

    I suggest all the people who claim to know what’s healthy pick up a copy of Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon and Dr. Mary Enig. Real fats are healthy, and that includes butter, lard, tallow, coconut oil and olive oil. It’s the highly processed, rancid vegetable oils (which are frequently genetically modified) that are nasty to the extreme!

    @jc… YES, you get it! :)

    @slcp84 (#58) Suggested reading: Eat Fat Lose Fat

    Here is a great recipe for Parmesan Tilapia that uses a lot less mayo, for those who are freaked out by fat (for no good reason):


    Thanks for the ideas Trent, and I really hope you disregard those ridiculous comments. I LOVE your food posts!

  70. Charlotte says:

    One cup of mayo is 1,600 calories. Read the label.

  71. littlepitcher says:

    You can substitute fat-free ranch dressing for mayonnaise in many recipes. Adjust liquid accordingly.

    My old fave campfire recipe is a porkchop, slice each of onion, russet tater, tomato, and a sprinkle each of rosemary and garlic. Wrap and roast.

  72. Justin says:

    WOW…the Grilled Chicken & Spinach Quesadillas sound incredible. Want to try these soon. Thanks for sharing.

  73. susan from LI says:

    I just made the parmesan tilapia for my family tonight – WOW – that is delicious. I “eyeball” recipes, so I don’t know (or care) how much mayo or cheese I used, but whatever – it was a delicious dinner and something different for us. The tilapia was $4 for 2 lbs and the green beans I steamed up at the same time were on sale for 99 cents. A few slices from a loaf of day old italian bread (for $1) and we had a great meal! Looking forward to trying the other recipes.


  74. Barb says:

    Mercy, y’all get off Trent! We ALL eat an unhealthy dish or an unhealthy meal once in awhile. You don’t have to eat his recipes at all, if you don’t want to, but you certainly wouldn’t eat them every meal of every day. Chill out, for goodness sake.

  75. michael bash says:

    What, in heaven’s name, are “Pepperidge Farm Goldfish”, crushed to dust no less? You’d better suggest something more generic that readers who don’t live next door to you (or even in the same country) can understand. You American are so provincial (I’m sorry to say).

  76. michael bash says:

    re comment #1 – from what I’ve read recently, it’s true, sad but true. It used to be a staple for us. Michael = mbash1944@yahoo.com

  77. ben says:

    learn to make your own mayo with eggs and olive oil blended up in your food processor. Makes it much healthier than packaged mayo from the store with all the other things in it. Mayo isn’t that bad if you make it yourself.

  78. Mary Nasfell says:

    I can’t find all the summer recipes anywhere in the archives–do you have a recap of them all? I am looking for the bowl burrito recipe

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