20-Minute Meals

Fast dinners that make it easy to keep your prenatal nutrition on track.


It's late. You're starved. You see the closest pair of Golden Arches and make a beeline. When you're pregnant and working, it's tempting to zoom through a drive-through and pick up something fast, but such a meal probably wouldn't offer the good nutrition you need.

More than ever before, now is when you should be eating right — your little one is counting on it. But it isn't always easy to find the time to cook when you're working and perhaps already raising a family. (Besides, you have plenty of other things to do, like plan your maternity leave, your baby's nursery and date nights with your other half.) What you could use are quick, satisfying, well-balanced meals tailored to meet your nutritional needs during pregnancy.

We're here to help. Using as little time and few pots as possible, we've created five simple dishes loaded with all the nutrients necessary for a healthy pregnancy. These recipes are a working woman's dream: Not only are they delicious, but they'll feed a hungry group of four in just 20 minutes. The key is that they use fewer and fresher ingredients; thinly cut meats, poultry and fish; and quick-cooking techniques, such as grilling, broiling, steaming or blanching. So the next time you need some good food — fast — don't aim for the drive-through; head toward your own kitchen instead.


Broiled Pork Chops with Apple Slices Serves 4

4 4-ounce pork loin chops 1 teaspoon salt, divided ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided 2 tablespoons vegetable oil 1 Gala apple, cored and thinly sliced 1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans, drained ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper Juice of 1/2 orange

Preheat oven to broil. Rub pork chops with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Line a 10-by-12-inch pan with foil and place pork chops on it; fold up edges of foil and set aside.

Warm oil in a nonstick skillet over high heat until it smokes. Add apple; cook until brown, about 2 minutes per side. Add beans, cayenne pepper, and remaining salt and pepper. Pour orange juice over mixture; stir. Cook until beans brown, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer.

Place pork chops under broiler for 5 minutes on each side. Serve with apple slices and bean mixture.

Nutritional information per serving (1 pork chop plus 1/3 cup apple-bean mixture): 408 calories, 32 percent fat (14.5 grams), 37 percent carbohydrate, 31 percent protein, 5.4 grams fiber, 2.7 milligrams iron, 75 milligrams calcium, 92 micrograms folate.

Linguini With Broccoli and Cherry Tomatoes Serves 4

3 quarts water 1 teaspoon salt, divided 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided 1 pound bite-size broccoli florets 12 ounces fresh linguini 1 clove garlic, crushed and coarsely chopped 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved ¼ cup fresh Italian parsley, coarsely chopped 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese, finely grated

Boil water in a large pot. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon olive oil and broccoli. Cook 3 minutes. Add linguini and cook until tender, about 2 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of water; set florets and pasta aside.

Warm remaining olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add garlic; cook about 30 seconds. Stir in tomatoes and reserved water. Reduce heat to low and stir in florets, pasta and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir to coat; heat about 1 minute.

In a serving bowl, toss with parsley and black pepper, top with Parmesan cheese and serve.

Nutritional information per serving (1 1/4 cups): 354 calories, 23 percent fat (9 grams), 61 percent carbohydrate, 16 percent protein, 8 grams fiber, 4.7 milligrams iron, 142 milligrams calcium, 117 micrograms folate.

Steamed Salmon with Baby Spinach Serves 4

4 4-ounce fresh salmon fillets 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided ½ teaspoon salt, divided 2 lemons (1 thinly sliced and 1 cut into 6 wedges) ¾ pound baby spinach, washed

Fill the bottom of a large steamer with 3 inches of water (or use a large pasta pot with a steamer rack, leaving 2–4 inches of space between water and rack) and bring to a boil.

Season salmon with 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Place salmon fillets, skin side down, on steamer rack; top each with a lemon slice and cover. Cook until fillets are opaque and pale pink, 8–10 minutes.

Remove skin from fillets, pile spinach on top and sprinkle with remaining salt and pepper. Cover; continue to cook until spinach is slightly wilted, 3–4 minutes.

Turn off heat, remove fillets and divide among 4 plates. Squeeze 2 lemon wedges over spinach. Garnish with remaining lemon wedges.

Nutritional information per serving (1 fillet): 196 calories, 35 percent fat (7.5 grams), 17 percent carbohydrate, 48 percent protein, 3.5 grams fiber, 4.2 milligrams iron, 152 milligrams calcium, 231 micrograms folate.

Broiled Chicken Breasts with Dried Herbs and Carrots (Pictured) Serves 4

4 4-ounce boneless, skinless chicken breasts 2 cloves garlic, sliced lengthwise 1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed 1 tablespoon dried thyme 1 tablespoon dried sage 4 carrots, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1-inch pieces 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil ½ teaspoon salt ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to broil. With a sharp knife, remove the "tenders" from the underside of each breast. Cut 2–3 small slits in the top of each breast; insert a sliver of garlic into each slit and set aside.

In a small bowl, mix together rosemary, thyme and sage; spread mixture onto a dinner plate. Roll and press each breast into herb mixture.

Line a 10-by-12-inch pan with aluminum foil and place chicken breasts on it, close together, alternating narrow ends. Place carrots in a layer around chicken and fold up edges of foil approximately 1 inch. Drizzle carrots with olive oil, salt and pepper.

Place pan in oven and cook for approximately 7 minutes. Turn over chicken and cook for another 5–7 minutes. Using the tip of a sharp knife, pierce chicken at its thickest point. If juices run clear, the chicken is done; if juices are pink, cook for another 34 minutes.

Nutritional information per serving (1 breast plus 1¼ 2 cup carrots): 264 calories, 27 percent fat (8 grams), 17 percent carbohydrate, 56 percent protein, 3 grams fiber, 3.3 milligrams iron, 79 milligrams calcium, 21 micrograms folate.

Grilled Vegetable Sandwiches Serves 4

8 slices whole-wheat bread 1 clove garlic, peeled 1 small round eggplant, sliced crosswise into ¼-inch rounds 3 medium summer squash, cut lengthwise into ¼-inch slices 2 red bell peppers, seeded, stemmed and cut lengthwise into ½-inch-wide slices 1 bunch green onions, trimmed 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil ½ teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to broil. Lightly toast bread slices and rub with garlic clove; set aside.

Line a 10-by-16-inch pan with aluminum foil. Spread vegetables in a single layer on pan and fold up edges of foil. Drizzle vegetables with olive oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper and place in oven. Broil until vegetables just begin to char, approximately 8 minutes. Turn over vegetables and broil on the other side for another 8 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

Place a slice of bread on each of 4 plates and top with a generous portion of vegetables. Lay 2 slices of cheese over vegetables and top with remaining bread. Nutritional information per serving (1 whole sandwich): 285 calories, 35 percent fat (11 grams), 47 percent carbohydrate, 18 percent protein, 10 grams fiber, 3.2 milligrams iron, 265 milligrams calcium, 142 micrograms folate.