Skip to Content

How to Make Quick and Low Cost Meals: Healthy, High-Protein Pizza, Nachos, Sandwiches, and More

One of the biggest obstacles to overcome when it comes to health and fitness is food and nutrition. I’m sure you’ve heard that it’s nearly impossible to outwork or out-train a bad diet, and that’s true for most people. You can undo an hour’s worth of exercise with one candy bar. That’s why I aim to deliver simple, healthy, low cost meals and recipes.

With nutrition being such a large pain point and an integral part of our daily lives, it’s a perennial hot topic. This constant attention causes a barrage of information and different viewpoints on the best strategies and foods for healthy eating. And that, in turn, leads to nutrition and healthy eating being perceived as an over-complicated, insurmountable task. When in reality, it’s pretty simple.

about mason woodruff little rock personal trainer little rock nutritionist

This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualified sales. Click here to read my full disclosure.

Nutrition doesn’t require gourmet cooking skills, access to farmers’ markets, superfoods, or over the top strategies. Eating well with minimal cooking skills, simple foods/ingredients, and a budget is more than possible. Take the foods and recipes below, for example. The core ingredients cost well under $20 and can be used to create 10+ unique, healthy, protein-packed, and delicious meals.

Once you’ve got your core ingredients prepared, the fun begins. I’ve listed examples of the meals I frequently make and different variations you might want to try based on your goals and/or food preferences. Have fun with your food and nutrition and most importantly, don’t feel like you’re not eating well if your meals don’t look like something from the Food Network.

Core Ingredients & Instructions

You’ll only need three ingredients and one piece of cookware:

  • Two pork tenderloin filets
  • Two cans black beans
  • One can pinto beans
  • Crock pot – the one I use was less than $30 on Amazon

healthy low cost meals

For the pork, I buy pre-packaged/marinated, but you could go with an alternative and season it how you like. I will say that the overall flavor after cooking isn’t heavily influenced either way unless you go with a strong flavor like buffalo. To avoid the higher sodium content in canned beans, I add them to a colander and rinse with cold water before adding them to the slow cooker. You could use uncooked beans if you’d rather, and the ratio of black to pinto doesn’t matter – just my personal preference.

Side note: If you’re an active individual with zero pre-existing cardiovascular issues, sodium intake shouldn’t be a major concern. 

The preparation is nearly as simple as the ingredients:

  • Add rinsed beans to the crock pot
  • Add pork filets to the crock pot
  • Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours

After the pork is cooked through, turn the crock pot off and shred the pork with two forks. You could remove the pork and use a rotary mixer or something similar, but I like to let the shredded pork rest in the remaining mixture for 30-45 minutes to maximize the flavor. And that’s about it.

Next, let’s take a look at the plethora of meals you can make with this mixture. And can we take a second to appreciate its 360 grams of protein?

One final note: These recipes could be adapted to any type of tenderloin (beef, turkey, etc.). Get creative! 

healthy mac and cheese recipe

BBQ Mac & Cheese Quesadilla

With 25 grams of protein, 24 grams of carbs, and only 5 grams of fat, this quesadilla is awesome for a super filling meal on a low-calorie diet.

I used my healthy cauliflower mac and cheese (recipe below), 3oz of cooked pulled pork, a Flatout Light wrap, and cheddar powder (more on this in a second). It’s worth noting, I didn’t use the pork with beans to calculate the macros above, though they won’t be affected very much. To make this quesadilla, simply put the pork and cauliflower mac and cheese inside and pan grill over medium heat for 2-3 minutes per side.

healthy mac and cheese recipe

For cheddar powder, I use Hoosier Hill Farms from Amazon which you can get on Amazon here. It’s an awesome investment.

Related: Healthy Mac & Cheese, High Protein Cheetos, and Other Recipes to Make with Cheddar Powder

healthy mac and cheese recipe

As you can see, you can make a few swaps if you don’t have cheddar powder on hand. You could also use real cheese.

Egg & Pulled Pork Sandwich

pork tenderloin recipes egg recipes

In the photo above, I prepared the sandwiches with a fried egg cooked in 1 tsp of coconut oil, a 1/2 slice of cheddar cheese, and a tbsp of barbecue sauce. For the bread, I toasted Flatout sandwich wraps in a pan with coconut oil spray.

Note: I prefer Stubb’s barbecue sauces for their lower sugar content.

To minimize calories:

  • Use egg whites or egg substitute
  • Use low-fat mozzarella cheese or skip the cheese altogether
  • Use hot sauce or other calorie-free condiments instead of barbecue sauce
  • 1/2 the sandwich wrap for an open-face sandwich or skip the bread altogether

Other variations and ideas:

  • Spicy egg and pork scramble topped with avocado
  • Grate potatoes or sweet potatoes and pan fry with cooking spray or bake for a low-fat hash brown option to accompany pork and eggs
  • Vegetable and cauliflower rice stir fry with teriyaki pulled pork

pork barbecue pizza recipe

BBQ Pizza

The picture below was made with a Flatout Light Italian flatbread, 3-4 Tbsp of Stubb’s Original for the base sauce, low-fat shredded mozzarella, a few sprinkles of crushed red pepper, and 1-2 Tbsp of sauce drizzled on top. I baked two pizzas on a baking sheet for 10 minutes at 400 degrees. If you bake these straight on a rack, you’ll want to reduce cook time.

Other variations and ideas:

  • Add shrimp for additional protein
  • Grilled onions and vegetables (when you don’t have a picky girlfriend) add great flavor and a nutrition boost
  • Not to spark the perpetual pineapple on pizza debate, but I love pineapple and jalapenos on any pizza (including this one)
  • If you’re not concerned about calories or additional fat, you could add bacon (or turkey bacon for a lower-fat option)
  • You could also cook this in a frying pan, flip it halfway through, and you’ll have a quesadilla (like my cheeseburger quesadilla) on your hands

slow cooker crockpot pulled pork recipes cauliflower rice sriracha

Cauliflower Rice & Spicy Shredded Pork Tenderloin

Coming in as the most boring recipe on the list, this basic combo is a great option for the calorie-conscious. Living up to its high-volume reputation, the cauliflower rice (in addition to the beans) allows you to eat a massive amount of food for around 300-400 calories. The protein from the pork and beans and high fiber content of cauliflower and beans makes this dish extremely filling and satisfying.

Other variations and ideas:

  • Swap the cauliflower for brown or white rice if you’re looking for more carbs
  • Add an egg and soy sauce
  • This dish is on the plain end of the spectrum so something as simple as a condiment shift can give the dish an entirely new flavor and feel

BBQ Pork Nachos

This recipe can be as easy or complicated as you make it. You could throw chips and shredded cheese in the microwave a la Brendan from Step Brothers or you could make an elaborate concoction in the oven. I’ve admittedly gone both routes. I recommend Tostitos Oven Baked Scoops for their lower fat content and crunch factor. You can use any cheese you’d like but beware of fat-free cheese, as it doesn’t melt very well and basically turns into a cheese-flavored Laffy Taffy.

high protein fat loss meals meal prep in 5 minutes slow cooker chicken fajitas

Other variations and ideas:

  • Cauliflower nachos (cauliflower as the base – bake the cauliflower for 10-15 minutes prior to adding toppings for maximum crunch)
  • Fat-free cream cheese, Rotel, pinto beans, and taco seasoning make a great cheese dip alternative
  • Grilled onions and peppers
  • Fresh jalapeno, guacamole, or other toppings of your choice

Pork-Loaded Baked Potato

You can go the traditional route and bake your white or sweet potato in the oven, but I prefer the lazy man’s route of poking holes in the potato with a fork, wrapping it in a paper towel, and nuking it in the microwave for 7-8 minutes. I like to keep things simple with my pork-loaded potatoes and opt for salt, pepper, pork, and a bit of barbecue sauce. If you like butter on your potato, try a Tbsp of coconut oil with a sweet potato. It’s totes to die for.

how to bake a potato in the microwave pork loaded baked potato

Your possibilities are endless with these core ingredients. Share your ideas and creations with me on Facebook or Instagram. And if you’re interested in learning more about nutrition for fitness, download my free eBook below.

You'll love the flexibility and endless possibilities for high-protein, healthy meals from this crockpot combo.