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3 Delicious Dinner Ideas for Lockdown: Lose Weight & Feel Great

There is no doubt that quarantine has been somewhat difficult for most of us due to the uncertainness of the state of this pandemic. Based on my experience as well as those of friends and family I have talked to, quarantine has altered our mental health in a negative way and has led to emotional eating. Research by Polivy and Herman (2005) supports the idea that our psychological state can dictate what and how much we eat. I know that when I'm feeling sad, confused, or anxious, and only have the option to sit at home, it is more appealing to me to open a pint of Ben & Jerry's or order Postmates than to be proactive about cooking a nourishing meal. Zeigler et al. (2020) reported that 22% of 1,200 participants in a study gained 5-10 pounds during quarantine. Weight gain during quarantine has been attributed to irregular sleeping patterns, decreased physical activity, snacking, and stress-induced eating. Whether you have experienced weight gain or not, it is beneficial to our mental and physical health to focus on healthy eating. The findings of Bekker et al (2007) indicate that, in this case, emotional eating is dependent coping and avoidance distraction. What else can be a coping method? Cooking! It can distract us in a good way by taking time for ourselves in a self-soothing way. I have three recipes to share with you. I have made these recipes time and time again, even before the pandemic, so be assured that these are tried and true. Something to point out is all of these recipes use pantry and freezer staples and yield enough for leftovers.

Sheet Pan Gnocchi with Pesto and Vegetables

Adapted from The Kitchn


2 bags Trader Joe’s frozen gnocchi (any kind: Cauliflower, Kale, Sweet Potato, and others)

1 bag Trader Joe’s frozen Organic Green Vegetable Foursome

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 container Trader Joe’s pesto (either Genova Pesto or Vegan Kale, Cashew & Basil Pesto)

Salt & pepper to taste

Grated parmesan cheese (optional)


Heat oven to 450F.

Empty the gnocchi and frozen vegetables onto a rimmed basking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Toss well to combine. Spread out in an even layer.

Roast, stirring halfway through, until the gnocchi are lightly browned, about 25 mins. Remove from oven, toss with pesto and parmesan cheese (if desired).

Can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.

Enchilada Soup

Adapted from Liz Moody


1 tsp. olive oil

3/4 tsp. cumin

2 1/2 tsp. chili powder

2 (6 oz.) cans tomato paste

4 cups chicken or vegetable broth

1 1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1 1/2 tsp. onion powder

Salt to taste

1 bunch kale, de-stemmed and torn into bite-sized pieces

2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed

Optional toppings:

Freshly squeezed lime juice


Green onion


In a large pot, heat olive oil on medium. Add cumin and chili powder and cook for about a minute until spices are fragrant.

Stir in tomato paste and cook for 2-3 mins, or until tomato paste darkens slightly in color.

Add the broth, scraping any bits stuck to the pan. Add garlic powder, onion powder, and salt to taste, stirring well to combine.

Add in the kale and black beans and cook until warmed through.

Soup can be kept in the fridge for up to 4 days. When serving, top with your choice of toppings, if desired.

Baked Chicken Stew

Adapted from Cooking with Trader Joe’s


1/4 cup flour (or all-purpose gluten-free flour)

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

1 tsp. dried oregano

2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts

3 Tbsp. olive oil, divided

3 cups mirepoix from Trader Joe’s refrigerated produce section (or 1 chopped onion, 1 cup chopped celery, 1 cup thinly sliced carrots)

1 clove garlic, minced

1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes (regular or fire roasted)

2 Tbsp. tomato paste

2 cups chicken or vegetable broth

1/4 cup dry white wine

Rice, quinoa, or couscous (optional)


Heat oven to 350F. And heat a deep pan with 1 Tbsp. oil.

Combine flour, salt, pepper, and oregano in a shallow bowl or plate. Coat the chicken with this mixture. Brown the chicken breasts on both sides (do not cook them through), transfer them to a 9x13 pan and drizzle with 1 Tbsp. olive oil. Sprinkle remaining flour mixture over chicken.

Add 1 Tbsp. olive oil in the same pan. Sauté the onions, celery, and carrots. Stir often until the onion is soft. Add garlic during the last few minutes.

Add the diced tomatoes (including juices), tomato paste, broth, and wine. Stir well, and bring to a simmer for a few minutes. Pour this mixture over the chicken.

Cover tightly with foil and bake for 2 hours. Serve over rice, quinoa, or couscous in desired.

Can be kept in the fridge for up to 5 days.


Deyo, A., Forbes, B., Kerekes, M., Lopez, B., Pederson, G., Welty, J., & Zeigler, Z. (2020) Self-quarantine and weight gain related risk factors during the COVID-19 pandemic. Obesity Research & Clinical Practice, 14 (3), 210-216.

Gunn, D. & Miniati, W. (2008). Greek Chicken Stew. Cooking with Trader Joe’s.

Herman, C.P. & Polivy, J. (2005) Mental Health and Eating Behaviors: A Bi-directional Relation. Canadian Journal of Public Health, 96 (3), 43-46.

Moody, L. (2020). The Actually Delicious 10-Day Detox. Liz Moody.

Prakash, S. (2020, July 2). Sheet Pan Kale Gnocchi with Pesto and Veggies. The Ktchn.

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