20 Mini Meal Ideas Perfect for Busy Days

Cottage Cheese and Pineapple

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Eating three square meals a day is generally accepted as the norm in most Western cultures. But there’s no set rule for how many meals you should or shouldn’t eat a day. In fact, the number of meals you eat a day has been a hot research topic for decades.

Registered dietitians and other health professionals recommend small mini meals for people who fill up quickly or have gastrointestinal problems. But there are other benefits to eating several small meals a day.

Benefits of Mini-Meals

  • May boost energy
  • May improve satiety and reduce hunger levels throughout the day
  • May balance blood sugar and insulin levels (which may help with weight maintenance and reduce the risk of disease)
  • May reduce indigestion
  • May be a great option for those with early satiety or low appetite

You may also prefer eating mini meals if you don’t have time to prepare big meals or you’re looking for a way to add more variety to your diet.

Here’s a list of 20 mini-meal ideas with prep that include a variety of nutrient-rich foods from all the food groups and a healthy balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fat. 

Overnight Oats


Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Overnight oats are a perfect make-ahead meal, especially for those mornings when you’re in a rush. In a sealable container combine 1/3 cup of dry regular oats, 1 cup nonfat milk or unsweetened plant milk, 1/4 cup sliced strawberries, and 2 teaspoons almond butter. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

This mini meal has a healthy balance of carbs, protein, and fat and is a good source of fiber, B vitamins, and other essential nutrients, making it the perfect meal to start your day or an excellent anytime snack.

Whole-Grain Toast and Nut Butter

Toast is quick and easy and goes well with many toppings. Top one slice of 100% whole-grain toast with 1 tablespoon of natural chunky peanut butter and 1/2 of a medium banana cut into thin slices. 

Read the food label to make sure your bread is 100% whole grain so you get all the health benefits. Whole grains are naturally rich in fiber, iron, and B vitamins and should make up at least half of your daily grain choices.

Fruit and Nut Greek Yogurt

Fruit and Yogurt

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Instead of buying fruit-flavored yogurt, make your own. Top one 6-ounce container of plain Greek yogurt with 1/2 cup of fresh or frozen (unsweetened) blueberries and four chopped walnuts. 

If you’re looking for an easy way to add more protein to your diet, Greek yogurt makes a better choice than regular yogurt with 16 grams of protein in a 6-ounce serving versus 9 grams in the same serving of regular yogurt. It’s also a good source of calcium.

White Bean Dip and Veggies

Veggies and Dip

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Cannellini beans have a nutty flavor and velvety texture, making them a good choice for a bean dip. Blend together 1/3 cup low-sodium canned cannellini beans with 1 teaspoon of olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic, 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice, 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve with 1/4 cup of carrot sticks and 1/4 cup of cucumber slices. 

Cannellini beans, and other legumes like black beans and chickpeas, are so rich in nutrients that they fall into two food groups: vegetables and protein.

Breakfast Burrito

Though it’s called a breakfast burrito, you can eat it anytime. In an 8-inch 100% whole-wheat tortilla add 1 large scrambled egg, 2 tablespoons chopped tomatoes, 1 tablespoon chopped red onion, and 1 tablespoon of pepper Jack cheese. Roll the tortilla to make the burrito.

Plus, this burrito is great to take on the go!

Chicken Salad Sandwich

Rotisserie chicken

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Chicken is a lean and versatile protein that goes well with many flavors. Mix 1/3 cup of cooked and chopped chicken breast with 1 tablespoon of nonfat plain Greek yogurt, 2 tablespoons of chopped green apple, and three red grapes cut in quarters. Stuff your salad into a 6-inch 100% whole-wheat pita or between two slices of 100% whole-wheat bread.

Salmon Salad

Baked Salmon

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends eating two servings of fish a week to lower the risk of heart disease, especially fish high in omega-3 fatty acids like salmon. Pre-cooked salmon makes the perfect protein-rich salad topper.

Top 1 cup of chopped kale with a 1.5-ounce serving of broiled salmon, 1 tablespoon of unsalted roasted chopped almonds, 2 tablespoons of fresh blueberries, and 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinaigrette. 

Quinoa Salad


Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Quinoa is a fast-cooking whole grain that’s also a complete source of protein, which means it contains all of the essential amino acids. This grain makes a good base for a healthy salad you can take with you to eat for lunch or a snack. 

Mix together 1/2 cup cooked quinoa with 2 tablespoons of low-sodium canned chickpeas drained, 3 grape tomatoes cut in quarters, 1/4 cup chopped cucumbers, 1 tablespoon sliced green onion, 1 tablespoon of pine nuts, 1 teaspoon of olive oil, and 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar. 

Chicken and Lettuce Wraps

Lettuce wraps are an easy meal that requires very little prep. Like the protein bowl, it’s a good way to use leftover lean proteins like chicken, salmon, tuna, or white bean dip.

Wrap 1.5 ounces of roasted white meat chicken topped with 1/4 cup of sliced red peppers and 1 teaspoon of spicy mustard in one outer leaf of red leaf lettuce. 

Whole-Wheat Pita and Hummus

Pita bread

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Hummus is a bean dip and spread made from chickpeas and tahini (sesame paste). Hummus is a good source of fiber, protein, and healthy fat. For your mini meal, serve a 1/3-cup serving of this dip with half of a 6-inch 100% whole-wheat pita cut in quarters. 


Sliders are mini hamburgers. Use ground white meat turkey or very lean ground meat to get the protein without extra saturated fat. 

Make 1.5-ounce patties and grill or broil your meat until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Serve on a 100% whole-wheat sandwich thin or 100% whole mini bun with 1 tablespoon mashed avocado mixed with toasted sesame seeds and a leaf of lettuce. 

Dried Fruit and Nuts


Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Dried fruit and nuts are a good source of fiber and healthy fats and make a filling mini-meal you can keep in your bag or desk for those busy work days. Mix two tablespoons of unsweetened chopped dried fruit with 2 tablespoons of unsalted mixed nuts and keep in a sealable container. 

Chia Pudding

Chia pudding is a filling make-ahead meal. In a sealable container mix together 2 tablespoons of chia seeds with 1/2 cup of unsweetened almond milk, a dash of cinnamon, a dash of vanilla extract, and 1/4 cup of fresh blueberries. Refrigerate for at least two hours. 

Chia seeds are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids and fiber.

Stuffed Sweet Potato

Baked Sweet Potato

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Sweet potatoes are a good source of fiber and beta-carotene. Pre-cooked sweet potatoes make a good base for healthy toppers when you’re short on time.

For your mini meal stuffed sweet potato use half of a cooked medium sweet potato and top with 1/4 cup black beans, 2 tablespoons roasted red peppers, 1 tablespoon chopped avocado, 1 tablespoon chopped red onion, and 1 tablespoon plain nonfat Greek yogurt.

Roasted Chicken and Veggies

Roasted chicken with vegetables is a classic meal rich in protein, fiber, and antioxidants. In a bowl, mix 1/2 cup chopped red potatoes, 1/2 cup chopped carrots, 1/2 cup chopped red onions, and 1/2 cup chopped green peppers and toss with 2 teaspoons of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. 

Place vegetables in an oven-safe baking dish and top with a 3-ounce chicken breast and cook for 20 to 25 minutes in a preheated 425-degree Fahrenheit oven. Divide in half for two mini meals.

Protein Bowl

A protein bowl is filling and nutritious and a great way to use leftovers. In a bowl, mix 1.5 ounces of cooked white meat chicken or turkey with 1/4 cup of roasted vegetables, 1/4 cup cooked brown rice, four pecans chopped, 1 teaspoon of olive oil, 1 teaspoon of lemon juice, and 1 teaspoon honey dijon mustard.

Pasta Primavera

Pasta primavera is a great way to use leftover vegetables and proteins. Make your pasta primavera with 100% whole-wheat pasta for extra fiber. 

Mix together 1/2 cup cooked 100% whole wheat penne pasta with 1/2 cup cooked broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots, 2 tablespoons of marinara, 2 tablespoons low-sodium cannellini beans, and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese. 

Cottage Cheese and Fruit

Cottage Cheese with Pineapple

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Cottage cheese is a good source of protein and calcium. It has a mild flavor and pairs well with fruit. For this mini meal, top 1/2 cup of low-fat cottage cheese with 1/2 cup of cubed cantaloupe. 

Cinnamon Apples with Peanut Butter

For a sweet mini meal, cut one small green apple into quarters (with the skin on) and toss with 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon. Serve with 1 tablespoon of unsalted natural peanut butter.

Tomato and Avocado Melt


Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Avocados are rich in monounsaturated fat and fiber and make a healthy substitute for mayonnaise. Top half of a 100% whole-wheat English muffin with 1/4 slice of avocado, 1 thick slice of tomato, and 1/2 ounce of sliced Swiss cheese, and broil in the oven until the cheese melts. 

A Word From Verywell

Mini meals keep your energy levels up and hunger pangs a way. They also make a good option if you’re too busy to make and eat a larger meal. When creating your mini meal plan, include a variety of foods from all the food groups for balanced nutrition.

Before making any changes to your diet, talk to your primary care provider or schedule a consultation with a registered dietitian for guidance.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the benefits of eating small meals?

    Eating small meals offers many benefits, especially to those who have a hard time tolerating large meals. Eating small, frequent meals eases indigestion, keeps energy levels up, and helps with appetite control. It may also help you get the variety of foods you need to boost your nutrient intake.

  • What is considered a small meal?

    There’s no set definition for a small meal. A review article published in 2019 in the scientific journal Nutrients refers to a small meal as “nibbling” or a snack. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), snacks usually have about 200 to 300 calories. However, your small meal size may depend on your personal calorie needs and the number of meals you eat throughout the day.

    Like any meal or snack, your small meal should include a healthy balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fat and include nutrient-rich foods from multiple food groups.

  • How often should you eat small meals?

    There are no specific guidelines for meal timing or frequency when eating small meals. According to the review in Nutrients, people who eat small meals eat six or more meals a day. How often you eat depends on your nutrition needs, health goals, and lifestyle. 

    Your primary care provider or registered dietitian may offer some guidance on how often you should eat when eating small meals.

14 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Jill Corleone, RD
Jill is a registered dietitian who's been learning and writing about nutrition for more than 20 years.