4 One-Pot Meals to Make After a Workout, According to a Registered Dietitian
Whip up one of these nutritious meals after your next sweat sesh.
One-pot meals can be a quick and easy option to make after an arduous workout. The best part about one-pot recipes? They save time and extra dishwashing, especially when compared to making a meal that requires several pots, pans and utensils. One-pot meals are exactly what they sound like: recipes that require minimal-to-no kitchen tools (think a pot, a knife and a wooden spoon).
One-pot meals are relatively easy to prepare, and research has suggested that cooking at home is associated with overall healthier eating habits, too. Studies have even found that people who eat healthy foods and engage in exercise regularly reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer—compared to those who only exercise but don't eat nutritious foods, or those who only follow a healthy diet but don't work out.
Below, you'll find four recipes for one-pot meals and the benefits that each provides the body post-workout.
Easy One-Pot Recipes to Make After a Weeknight Workout
1.Veggie Pesto Pasta Bowl
- One box of lentil or chickpea pasta
- 2 cups chopped asparagus
- 1 cup broccoli florets
- 1/3 cup pesto
- Chilli flakes, optional
- Cook pasta according to the package directions.
- With two minutes left for cooking, add the asparagus and broccoli to the pasta pot.
- Drain the pasta and vegetables and stir in the pesto.
- Top with optional chilli flakes and serve.
Time: 15 minutes (or less)
Lentil or chickpea pasta contains more protein (a single, 1-cup serving of lentil pasta offers 21 grams of protein) than traditional whole-grain pasta (a single, 1-cup serving contains 8 grams of protein). This is especially relevant for anyone who follows a plant-forward diet.
The protein from the lentil or chickpea pasta will help repair and support muscle growth—which is needed after the natural breakdown of muscle fibres that occurs during exercise. And the complex carbohydrates found in these pastas help to replenish glycogen stores in muscles that might have been depleted during a workout.
Broccoli and asparagus make the meal hearty and add extra fibre, vitamins and minerals. A note for vegans or those with lactose intolerance; consider purchasing shop-bought pesto (without cheese) or making your own version at home.
2.Egg Roll in a Bowl
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil (or vegetable oil)
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 0.5 kilograms turkey or beef mince
- 4 cups coleslaw mix
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- Heat a large frying pan over a medium heat and add sesame oil.
- When the oil starts to shine, add in the ginger and garlic, sautéing for one minute.
- Add in the meat, breaking it up and sautéing for five to seven minutes, or until cooked through.
- Add in the coleslaw mix and soy sauce.
- Sauté until the vegetables are soft.
- Serve alone or with a side of rice.
Time: 20 minutes (or less)
Even though this dish requires fewer than 10 ingredients, it's not short of protein, vegetables or flavour.
Use your preferred type of meat (turkey, beef or even chicken mince), and if you are plant based, extra-firm tofu is a fine substitute.
Purchasing pre-packaged coleslaw mix spares extra chopping. However, if coleslaw isn't available at the supermarket, reach for red and green cabbage as well as carrots to make your own.
Bear in mind that this recipe is very low in carbohydrates, so for those completing a low-impact workout (such as light cycling or yoga), this dish might be suitable on its own or without any additions. But, for workouts involving heavy weights or cardio sessions, it may be best to pair this dish with a side of rice to replenish the carbohydrates burnt during high-impact, intense exercise.
3.Squash and Lentil Chilli
- 1 cup vegetable broth, divided
- 1 small white onion, diced
- 2 cups peeled, chopped butternut squash
- 3 large tomatoes, chopped
- 1 green pepper, diced
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 1 cup dry green lentils
- 2 teaspoons chilli powder
- Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
- Heat a large pot over a medium heat and add a splash of the vegetable broth.
- Add the onion, stir and let cook for several minutes.
- Add the butternut squash and cook for another five minutes.
- Then, add the tomatoes, green pepper, tomato paste, lentils, chilli powder, salt, pepper and remaining broth.
- Stir, reduce the heat to low and cover with a lid.
- Simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the contents have thickened and absorbed most of the liquid.
Time: 40 minutes (or less)
Chilli is a classic one-pot meal, and this gluten-free, vegan version packs a load of nutritional value from the lentils and vegetables. Lentils are a good source of plant-based iron and magnesium—nutrients that are important for overall health and for exercise performance.
This chilli is also rich in complex carbohydrates from the lentils, as well as antioxidants from the butternut squash and tomato. Consumption of foods rich in a variety of antioxidants may help to improve post-exercise recovery, according to a 2022 review article in the journal, Nutrients. Keep the chilli vegan by using vegetable broth. For meat-eaters looking for a boost in protein, use beef stock.
4.Sweet Potato and Egg Hash
- 1 teaspoon coconut oil
- 1 medium sweet potato, diced
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 red pepper, diced
- 2 cups chopped, packed kale leaves
- 4 eggs
- Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
- 1 avocado, sliced
- 1 green onion stalk, sliced
- Pre-heat the oven to 200°C.
- Heat a cast-iron frying pan over a medium heat and add coconut oil.
- Once the oil has melted, add the sweet potato.
- Cook for about four minutes undisturbed.
- Once the potatoes have browned, flip them over and continue cooking for five more minutes.
- Add the smoked paprika and red pepper, and cook for another two minutes.
- Then add the kale and cook until just wilted, and remove the frying pan from the heat.
- Make four wells in the hash mix and crack eggs into each divot.
- Season with salt and pepper, and place in the oven to bake for about six to eight minutes or until the eggs have set.
- Remove from the oven and garnish with avocado and green onion.
- Divide onto plates and serve.
Time: 25 minutes (or less)
Hash isn't just for breakfast. A hash is a quick and easy, one-pot meal that can be enjoyed at any time of the day.
An excellent form of protein, eggs not only provide the protein in this dish but also add a robust amount of the essential amino acid leucine. Leucine plays a critical role in the production of muscle proteins and two eggs provide roughly 1,000 milligrams of leucine, a dose that is right on target for promoting optimal muscle protein synthesis.
In addition to supporting peak muscle growth, this dish contains five different types of plants. Consuming a variety of plants is important for optimising gut health. "Gut health" refers to the health of the entire gastrointestinal tract (and the healthy balance of the bacteria inhabiting the GI tract). For athletes who exercise regularly, paying attention to gut health may not only help performance but can also support recovery, too.
A vegetarian-friendly and gluten-free dish, this recipe is appropriate for most dietary needs.
Words by Sydney Greene, MS, RDN.