Stir fry is a great, healthy dish for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. It’s a one pan dish that can be so versatile! It’s easy to make it for one or for a family. Here are some of my tips to make any meal stellar!
To break it down, a stir fry incorporates every single food group into one meal, if you know how to do it right. We can start with the protein. This is the one-two ingredients that will provide staying power.
For breakfast, eggs are the obvious go-to protein. Bacon, ham, sausage, or tofu would work just as well, either as the main or assistant protein. Beans are also really easy and nutrient dense, you can make them fancy or just drop them into the pan out of the can. My favorite combination for breakfast protein would either be eggs with chicken sausage or black beans.
Lunch and dinner follow similar patterns. Chicken is a staple in my diet, as it is for so many others. I eat chicken more than any other protein and you can never go wrong with simply grilled, spiced, or marinated depending on your mood. Steak is another great option as it can offer protein and fat. Steak is one of my favorites, but I tend to eat it less because 1. I try not to eat too much red meat and 2. I am not an expert at cooking it, yet. The most versatile protein for stir fry would be fish, particularly salmon because it is full of omega 3’s and good-for-you fat. I also enjoy tilapia as it is so similar to chicken. Swordfish and tuna are good too. Stir fry is so fun because you have so many different options! Any protein you might use in breakfast can also be used for lunch or dinner: eggs (not just for breakfast/brunch!), beans, or tofu- all excellent choices!
Next up, we need the veggies. Veggies provide the bulk of the dish- or at least they should! Vegetables add heft, filling you with nutrients and vitamins. Not to mention that they allow you to eat more food! Here’s where you can get really fancy. For my stir fry, I usually chop up and toss in any assortment of vegetable I have in the fridge. My staples are red bell peppers (my favorite vegetable), spinach, carrots, broccoli, and zucchini. To keep things fancy, I sometimes add in bok choy, sugar snap peas, sweet potato, squash, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, or corn. For my meals, I add in a ton of vegetables so I never worry about meeting my daily requirement. They are like salads in this way. I recommend choosing at least two-three vegetables to add to your stir fry and be as fancy or simple as you want! Goal: make it colorful!
Carbohydrates tend to scare people. I get it. Carbs and sugar make up a lot of the tasty treats we hate to love (or love to hate) and we’re told not to eat too many.
Side note: don’t ever feel bad about indulging. If you are truly indulging, it means you are enjoying what you love and incorporating it as an important part of your healthy lifestyle. Gulping down spoonfuls of ice cream is a lot different than savoring every bite. Your relationship to food is all in your perspective. I’m still learning more about this, but it’s so important to developing and maintaining healthy habits.
But carbs are good for you and you need them. Yes, you! The easiest grain to use in my stir fry is brown rice. Brown rice is good because it adds a wonderful, chewy texture to the dish without taking away from the flavor. I’m also a fan of whole grain pasta, buckwheat noodles, or quinoa. Sweet potato and regular potato are also yummy carb choices, but they can also still be considered veggies, so double yay! White rice and pasta are fine too on occasion, but the whole grain versions offer more protein, which means it will fuel your body for longer. Let’s vow to stop making carbs, in their simplest form, the enemy. It’s what the carbs make up that matter (which is still quite alright every so often).
Let’s talk about another friend that gets a lot of grief. I don’t get why people are so against fat. I think it’s because it shares a name with an adjective that no one wants to be called. Healthy fats need to be distinguished. Yes, we should use them in smaller portions, but we should still use them.
Uh oh, another side rant! When I was on Weight Watchers I remember thinking how silly it is that the plan would rather me eat a wayward, processed, low-nutrient, but low-calorie and low-fat granola bar than a serving of almonds or peanut butter. First, peanut butter is my favorite food ever. Also, nuts are so good for you. They offer a ton of protein and healthy fats and are incredibly versatile for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks! Nuts can be dressed up and dressed down. They come from the earth. Eat the right kind, the right amount, and you can’t go wrong!
And we’re back- I like to toss in a few nuts, either cashew, peanut, or pine for a bit of fat, when I use grilled chicken as my protein because there is no fat there. Cheese or olive oil also contribute to the healthy fat content and provide the dish with a little heft. It’s in a good way though because you need fat to help keep you full!
We’ve discussed protein, vegetables, carbohydrates, and fat and we’ve created exciting meal options. Last thing we need is a little marinade. It might be a stretch, but we can consider this the sweetness that we all need in our diet. My favorite sauces for stir fry include anything peanutty, sesame, or teriyaki-based. When I buy them, I make sure to first check the ingredients- many store-bought brands have so many ingredients, it’s crazy- and the calories to see if it’s even worth it. Sauces, and dressing for that matter, are things I need to start making home-made. I enjoyed the recipe I did make, which included some spicy mustard, soy sauce, and garlic. Simple, yet delicious! *And I can name the ingredients. A little sauce can go along way if you know how to mix things right.
I don’t know whether to be impressed or embarrassed that my little post on stir fry went on for so long. Let’s blame it on the little rants spread throughout. There are so many dishes that follow the rules of stir fry- oatmeal and yogurt parfaits for example. Yes, these meals can go from good to uh-oh very quickly, but if you pay attention, stir fry is more likely to stay on the side of good.
I followed my own rules this afternoon for lunch. I’ll break it down.
My protein of choice was salmon, which thanks to last night’s leftovers, made things very easy for me. Next, I chopped up and tossed in my veggies. More leftovers included Brussels sprouts and cauliflower. I added bok choy, red pepper, shredded carrots, and zucchini. My grain was a simple brown rice that was seeped in flavor after I poured the medley over it. To top things off (more like swirl around), I drizzled a teriyaki marinade/soy sauce combination throughout.
The end result was delicious, leaving me fueled, healthy, happy, but not overly stuffed. The meal was a great recovery from my strength workout this afternoon, got me through this post, and will lead me through an afternoon of studying.
What’s your go-to stir fry?