10 genius weeknight cooking hacks you need to try

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AOL's Lifestyle Collective partnered with SmartMade™ to create these posts! Enjoy!

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Nutritious swaps to try in the kitchen
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Nutritious swaps to try in the kitchen
1) Swap squash or zucchini for noodles

"Do you ever make smart swaps? You know, instead of whole milk you use almond milk or in baking, you sometimes substitute granulated sugar for applesauce? Well, lately I've been on the smart swap kick myself. Lately, I've been making a lot of noodles made from zucchini, or squash!" - Dana, This Silly Girl's Kitchen

"I am sharing a recipe for one of my favorite zucchini noodle dishes, Zucchini Noodle Primavera! I thought since Primavera was already a dish loaded with veggies, why not just take it to the next level! And you know what, it's even better than the original if I do say so myself! I was inspired to start trying out some smart swaps after I saw these SmartMade meals in the freezer section at various grocery stores." - Dana, This Silly Girl's Kitchen

2) Prepare cauliflower rice
"I do best with smart eating when I take small steps like no pasta during the week...I make pasta and rice for the kiddos but I always have zucchini noodles or cauliflower rice in the fridge for myself.That step alone makes a huge difference for me and it’s not hard to do." - Karen, Seasonal Cravings
"I don't always have time to make meals like this during the week since I am often playing chauffeur to my kids.  On those nights, I look to SmartMade to make eating smart easy. SmartMade is a new line of frozen meals that uses smart swaps like this one to create delicious, balanced dinners that can be ready in minutes. I love having meals like this in the freezer that I can cook quickly on busy weeknights. These are meals made like I cook." - Karen, Seasonal Cravings
3) Make a weekly dinner menu with healthy swaps

"There are two ways I know of to combat the surprise need to order take-out mid-week: 1) make a weekly dinner menu and stick with it, or 2) have a few fast, easy, and nutritious meals up your sleeve for those crazy-busy nights that inevitably come up. And it’s a total bonus if those meals simulate your favorite take-out!" - Faith, An Edible Mosaic

"I made a few smart swaps that help make this meal as nutritious as it is delicious. Here I used quinoa instead of rice because even though they have about the same calories per serving, quinoa has more protein and fiber, as well as more vitamins and minerals like B vitamins and iron than rice. I think quinoa tastes just as good as rice, so that was an easy swap for me to make." - Faith, An Edible Mosaic
4) Substitute quinoa in fried rice
"Part of being dietitians means we are always looking for creative swaps for our favorite foods that may not be quite as nutritious.  So when our friends at SmartMade contacted us about creating our own healthy recipe using a "smart swap," we jumped at the chance to turn a traditional fried (white) rice into a yummy vegetable quinoa delight." - Wendy, Food Heaven Made Easy
"You'll be happy to know that this vegetable quinoa fried rice is even more flavorful than its traditional counterpart. Top that off with the fact that this dish actually nutritious -- really nutritious -- and you would be missing out big time if you do not to give this goodie a chance." - Wendy, Food Heaven Made Easy
5) Reach for the spaghetti squash
"Chicken parm is usually served on/with pasta but I've swapped that for some yummy, healthy spaghetti squash. How cool is this vegetable?! So crazy that its fibers are in long strands like spaghetti!...If you're trying to eat a low-carb diet or consume less calories then make this swap in your next spaghetti recipe." - Melanie, Garnish & Glaze
"Maybe your life is super busy and hectic and you need a healthy meal fast. SmartMade is a new line of frozen meals that would be a great choice. It's your favorite dishes but made with better ingredients to offer a balanced and delicious meal. They are meals that are inspired by the same healthy cooking techniques you already use like grilling chicken and roasting vegetables." - Melanie, Garnish & Glaze
6) Create custom bowls with healthy ingredients
"This magical bulgogi is far from authentic, but I love how the ground chicken absorbs the flavor of the soy-based sauce, which is equal parts sweet, savory and tangy. Combined with the coconut cauliflower rice, crunchy fresh veggies, and a dollop of gochujang or sambal oelek for heat, these bowls are a satisfying, nutrient-packed feast that you’ll want to keep in regular rotation." - Serena, Domesticate Me
"I know this bowl seems to have a lot going on, but it’s actually pretty easy to pull off. I’m talking 30 minutes from start to finish if you’re committed. As always, feel free to customize your bowls based on what you have on hand. Ground chicken could just as easily be 93% lean ground turkey, pork, lean beef, or firm tofu. Sub shredded or grated coconut for flaked. Throw in whatever fresh veggies happen to be hanging out in your fridge." - Serena, Domesticate Me
7) Go Greek
"I love the way SmartMade meals swap things out for more nutritious alternatives. So I SWAPPED out the heavy cream for a cup and a half of Greek yogurt in this recipe! While the swap made a change to the overall texture of the dish, I am happy to report it maintained its full flavor." - Jennifer, Tatertots & Jello
"Recently we found SmartMade meals at the store. They're fun frozen meals that feature smart ingredients. For instance, white pasta is swapped out for whole wheat and white bean puree is used instead of heavy cream." - Jennifer, Tatertots & Jello
8) Turn to cashew milk for heaps of flavor
"When we were asked by SmartMade to come up with a Smart Swap (i.e. an idea to replace a common ingredient with a more nutritious one,), we decided to create this Quick Cashew Chickpea Curry recipe, which is DELICIOUS, but also completely vegan. This recipe has no butter or ghee, and uses cashew milk rather than the normal heavy cream or yogurt for its distinctive flavor and creamy texture." - Sarah, The Woks of Life
"This Quick Cashew Chickpea Curry is everything. It’s spicy, filling, and has a hint of coconut. Thick, ever so slightly sweet cashew milk gives the dish that distinctive creaminess that you’re looking for in a great curry, without the dairy. Oh, and the leftovers are awesome, making for great weeknight dinners or daytime lunches." - Sarah, The Woks of Life
9) Forget about meat when you have mushrooms

"You can make this mushroom Bolognese recipe for a casual weeknight meal, or for when you’re watching your wallet or your waistline, without having to compromise any flavor." - Phoebe, Feed Me Phoebe

"This mirepoix technique is great for meat sauces. But it’s even more essential for a flavorful vegetarian Bolognese, which cooks up in a fifth of the time... You can easily use this smart swap for topping gluten-free pasta. But I love it ladled over a creamy bowl of polenta, which is made rich and buttery by using only full fat coconut milk." - Phoebe, Feed Me Phoebe 

10) Mash cauliflower as a hearty potato replacement
"One of my favorite things to do lately has been to swap cauliflower mash for mashed potatoes whenever possible. Don't get me wrong, I love potatoes but cauliflower has significantly less calories than potatoes. So naturally, a cauliflower mash will definitely give you more bang for your buck if you’re looking to cut down on your calorie intake."
- Amanda, The Skinny Fork
"I love that this recipe (like a lot of my others) is made with real ingredients that anyone can pronounce. That's always how I like to eat! Clean and lean. If you're like me and you enjoy smart swap style meals, then you'll love SmartMade too!" - Amanda, The Skinny Fork
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After a long day, making a nutritious meal from scratch can easily be pushed down on the to-do list, and reaching for something quick can seem like the only solution. Luckily, quick doesn't have to mean junk food.

Grabbing a balanced frozen meal is one great way to save time and still feel good about what you are eating and serving to your family. SmartMade meals are ready in just a few minutes and are inspired by real home cooking techniques, plus they utilize smart ingredient swaps (think quinoa instead of white rice)!

Similarly, members of the Lifestyle Collective tried swapping out ingredients in their favorite recipes for smarter options and loved the results! Whether these food bloggers were crafting a homemade curry or a delicious pasta dish for their families, they switched out one or two traditional ingredients for smart swaps and were able to whip up their favorite meals in no time.

Check out the slideshow above to see what creative smart swaps members of the Lifestyle Collective made, and try them at home!

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