The no-fuss cooking method gets a health-over.
Foil pack meals are nothing new, but they’re making a big comeback. When most people think of a foil pack, they think of a grill, but you can also make them in the oven. Foil pack meals are no-fuss, ideal for beginners, heavy on flavor, and light on dirty dishes.
The only downfall is that many popular foil pack meals tend to use a lot of cheese and red meat. While that’s fine in moderation, cheese and red meat are two of the top sources of saturated fat. Too much saturated fat on a regular basis may increase cholesterol levels and your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Luckily, there are other, healthier ingredient options. In general, here’s the playbook for healthy foil pack meals:
Pick a lean protein. (Beans, fish, seafood, tofu, or tempeh are ideal.)
Add your favorite vegetables. Choose non-starchy veggies whenever possible.
Season with herbs, citrus, garlic, onion, and/or ginger.
Limit salt and added fats (such as oil or cheese).
If you’re not feeling creative, here are a few healthy foil pack meal ideas to get you started:
1. Tilapia with lemon, herbs, and summer veggies.
One tilapia fillet has just 2 grams of fat (and only 111 calories). To get the value of this lean protein without dredging it in flour and frying it in oil, all you need is some fresh thyme and a squeeze of lemon.
Then, combine the tilapia with some non-starchy vegetables. Try broccoli, cherry tomatoes, zucchini, mushrooms, or asparagus. Find out how to make lemon herb tilapia foil packs from Diabetes Forecast here.
2. Salmon with lemon, garlic, green beans, and potatoes.
Salmon might not be a “lean” protein, but it’s loaded with good-for-you fats (and quality is just as important as quantity). The pink-hued fish offers a major punch of omega-3 fatty acids, which are a type of polyunsaturated fat that helps build brain cells and support heart health.
Pair the salmon with fresh green beans and slices of potatoes. (The potatoes act as the “carb” for a balanced meal.)
3. Lemon-parsley chickpeas, broccoli, and bell pepper.
Since foil pack meals often use ground beef, it might be surprising that you don’t need any meat in your foil pack at all. In fact, foil packs are the best way (if not the only way) to put beans on a grill.
Using legumes as your main protein results in a low-fat, cholesterol-free, fiber-rich meal. Plus, chickpeas are high in potassium, a common deficiency for adults eating the standard American diet. Paired with broccoli and bell pepper, this beany foil pack is a nutritional powerhouse. Find out how to make this chickpea foil pack via She Knows here.
4. Curried potato and egg hash.
For breakfast or dinner, this vegetarian option is easy, hearty, and flavorful. If you’re not into curry seasoning, swap in your favorite spice blend, like Cajun seasoning, herbes de provence, Italian seasoning, or jerk seasoning. (Just choose salt-free blends so you can control the sodium.)
This foil pack meal is pretty simple as is, but you can jazz it up with peppers (sweet or spicy) for an extra kick and added fiber. Check out how to make this baked potato and egg foil pack meal by Cotter Crunch here.
A foil pack without butter, bacon, or beef? It’s totally possible (and totally delicious).
Chickpeas. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture. (Accessed on April 22, 2019 at https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/45359340.)
Fish, tilapia, raw. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture. (Accessed on April 22, 2019 at https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/15261.)
Heart-healthy grilling and barbecue tips. Dallas, TX: American Heart Association, 2016. (Accessed on April 22, 2019 at http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyEating/HealthyCooking/Heart-Healthy-Grilling-and-Barbecue-Tips_UCM_303146_Article.jsp#.XL3CxpM-fVp.)
Omega-3 fats - good for your heart. Washington, DC: MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine. (Accessed on April 22, 2019 at https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000767.htm.)
Salmon fillets. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture. (Accessed on April 22, 2019 at https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/45232986.)
Top ten tips for healthy grilling and barbecue. Dallas, TX: American Heart Association. (Accessed on April 22, 2019 at https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/add-color/top-ten-tips-for-healthy-grilling-and-barbecuing.)