Food For Meal

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Food For Meal

You may think that preparing healthy, delicious dinners at home is a complicated process, but I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be.

Even though I love food and enjoy cooking, I like to keep it simple when it comes to mealtime. This means choosing recipes that are easy to follow and don’t involve complicated cooking techniques or seemingly never-ending steps.

Here are 10 of my go-to simple dinner recipes that can help you get a healthy meal on the table quickly.

1. Stuffed sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes are loaded with beneficial nutrients like beta carotene, vitamin C, potassium, and fiber.

Plus, they’re delicious and pair well with just about anything. This makes them the perfect base on which to build a filling meal.

At my house, we prepare stuffed sweet potatoes at least once a week. I roast a whole sweet potato, then stuff it with ingredients like sautéed veggies, beans, chicken, and cheese.

2. Grain bowls

Grain bowls are a hit in my kitchen. My husband and I love how simple and adaptable grain bowls are and frequently prepare this dinner when we’re craving a flavorful yet easy-to-prepare meal.

I follow a gluten-free diet, so we use gluten-free grains like quinoa and brown rice. However, you can use any grain you want for grain bowls, including farro, millet, and barley.

Grains provide an important source of fiber and other nutrients like magnesium. Studies have found that diets rich in grains are linked to a lower risk of several health conditions, including colon cancer, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.

To prepare a grain bowl, top a serving of cooked grains with cooked or raw veggies and a protein source like chicken, fried or hard-boiled eggs, grilled shrimp, or salmon.

Then top it with a store-bought or homemade dressing, or keep it simple with a drizzle of olive oil and lemon juice.

For example, this Green Goddess Buddha Bowl uses an irresistible combination of brown rice, roasted broccoli, sugar snap peas, avocado, hard-boiled eggs, toasted pumpkin seeds, and a creamy yogurt-based sauce.

3. Veggie loaded frittatas

veggie frittata in a pan
cheche22/Getty Images

When you have chickens like I do, eggs make their way into more than just breakfast meals. We regularly use eggs as the protein source for quick and tasty dinners, including frittatas.

Eggs have you covered when it comes to healthy fat and protein, so all you need to do is add a variety of your favorite veggies to cover your fiber needs.

Some of my favorite vegetables to use in frittatas include asparagus, spinach, sweet potatoes, zucchini, onions, broccoli florets, mushrooms, and tomatoes. You can also add in ingredients like cheese, herbs, spices, or pesto to give your frittata extra flavor.

You can even use leftovers like salmon, shredded chicken, and potatoes in your frittata.

I like to serve frittata with some sliced avocado or fresh fruit. It’s a filling meal that you can enjoy at any time of the day or night. Frittatas are super simple to make, and you can whip them up in under an hour.

4. Dinner salad

A large, filling salad is one of my go-to dinners, especially when I’m not feeling up to putting time into a meal.

The problem with most salads is that they’re not well composed, and you end up feeling hungry again just a short while after finishing your meal. The key to making a hearty dinner salad is making sure that you include plenty of protein, healthy fats, and fiber.

Start with a base of your favorite greens, such as spinach, mixed greens, arugula, kale, or romaine. Add a few more veggies, such as peppers, cucumbers, carrots, broccoli, or red onions, to your greens to bump up the fiber content.

Then choose a protein source like grilled chicken, shrimp, salmon, or hard-boiled eggs. Adding a fiber-rich carb source, such as beans or roasted sweet potatoes, will bump the fullness factor even higher.

Top your creation with roasted sunflower or pumpkin seeds for a crunchy texture, then drizzle it with a healthy dressing like olive oil and balsamic vinegar, or follow this recipe for Homemade Green Goddess Dressing.

5. Loaded brown rice pasta

Most everyone loves a good pasta dish, but most pasta dishes don’t contain the necessary ingredients, such as protein and fiber, to keep you feeling satisfied.

Fortunately, using a few simple tips can help you create a filling and nutritious pasta dinner in no time.

First, choose your pasta. I am a big fan of Tinkyada brown rice pasta, but you can use any pasta you like. You can also use zucchini noodles in place of pasta if you’re following a lower carb dietary pattern.

Next, pick a source of protein. I like to use chicken breast or ground chicken or, if I want plant-based protein, I will add chickpeas.

Next, choose your veggies. I love a classic combo of spinach and broccoli, but almost any vegetable will work. Lastly, pick a sauce, such as pesto, marinara, or olive oil.

6. One-pot soups

Few meals are more satisfying than a hearty, hot bowl of soup. Fortunately, soup can be simple to prepare and makes a perfect choice for meal prep, as you can make large portions easily.

I like making soups that require only one pot because this means less time cleaning up. I make my soups on the stovetop, but you can make any of the following recipes in an Instant Pot to save time.

7. Curry

Curry is a smart choice for a quick, filling dinner because it’s versatile, easy to make, and family-friendly. Plus, eating curry regularly may help improve your health by reducing heart disease risk factors, including high triglyceride and blood sugar levels.

I like whipping up a warming chickpea and sweet potato curry during the winter months and serving it over rice or quinoa.

8. Burgers 

Burgers are a great choice for families because they’re simple to make and sure to please even the pickiest of taste buds.

Even though beef burgers are a popular choice, you can make burgers out of just about any protein source, including ground chicken, salmon, tuna, and lentils.

My husband makes a delicious chicken burger, and I like to serve it with a large salad and roasted sweet potato fries.

You can serve your burgers on a hearty whole grain bun, in a lettuce wrap, or on top of a bed of greens to suit your dietary needs.

9. Whole roasted chicken

whole roasted chicken in a pan
Cameron Whitman/Stocksy United

Even though roasting a whole chicken may take some time, it couldn’t be any simpler. Check out this guide on how to roast a perfect chicken.

When I roast whole chickens, I stuff the bottom of the roasting pan with potato wedges, onions, and carrot chunks so the veggies cook along with the chicken.

10. Sheet pan meals 

If you’re not a fan of cleaning dishes, this idea is for you.

Most recipes require you to use several pots, pans, and bowls. However, sheet pan meals allow you to pile all of your ingredients onto a single sheet pan to cook, which saves you time in the kitchen.

Best Healthy Lunch Foods to Eat

While lunch is often an afterthought when it comes to meal planning, what you eat midday can make a big difference in how you feel all afternoon. Trade up your deli sandwich with a bag of chips for some of these foods to get more from your lunch, without spending too much time in the kitchen.

1. Canned tuna

“Seafood is packed with protein, helping you feel full and satisfied. It’s also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, known for their role in heart and cognitive health,” says Chrissy Carroll, RD at Snacking in Sneakers. “Canned tuna is by far one of the most inexpensive and accessible ways to include seafood in your diet, and since it’s shelf stable you can keep it on hand at all times,” she adds. “Other canned fish like salmon, sardines, and mackerel are also great to keep in your pantry,” notes Allison Knott, M.S., RDN, CSSD, NYC based endurance sports dietitian.

Canned tuna (and other fish) can be used in sandwiches, salads, casseroles, pasta, and so much more. A classic tuna melt is a no-brainer or make our Tuna Salad Sandwich (pictured above). Not a fan of mayo? Try our Pressed Tuna Sandwich. If you’re new to other canned fish like salmon, Knott likes to mix it with a little mayonnaise, lemon, and pepper for a simple salmon salad, and she recommends topping whole grain toast or crackers with canned sardines or mackerel for a quick and easy lunch that satisfies.

2. Mini sweet peppers

If making half your plate vegetables is a challenge at lunch, try keeping a bag of colorful mini peppers or other ready-to-eat vegetables in your fridge. With no cutting, cooking, or prep of any kind required, there’s little excuse not to eat them! Knott recommends “finding vegetables that you enjoy eating raw and keeping them on hand as a simple addition to a meal.” If mini-peppers aren’t your thing, try snap peas, cherry tomatoes, carrots, or cucumbers. Vegetables not only add important vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients to keep you healthy, they also add fiber, which can help you stay full for longer.

“Ready-to-eat vegetables like mini sweet peppers or carrot chips are convenient and have a satisfying crunch, which can be a great alternative to chips when paired with a sandwich,” says Knott. Don’t be afraid to add your favorite dip or dressing to make them more fun to eat.

3. Farro

If you’re tired of quinoa (or don’t love it), make farro the base of your next grain bowl. With 6 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber per ½ cup cooked, it’s guaranteed to help keep you full all afternoon. That’s because the protein and fiber found in farro, “take longer to digest, slowing the rate at which sugar gets released into our bloodstream,” says Symone and Chantel Moodoo, dietitians for busy lifestyles. This helps you feel full longer and and avoid a mid-afternoon slump.

Farro can replace almost any grain (unless you eat gluten-free). It’s a great base for salads, grain bowls, or even stuffed peppers. Try our Farro and Grilled Chicken Salad, Smoked Turkey and Farro Salad, or our Cherry, Almond, and Farro Salad for easy make ahead lunches.

4. Veggie burgers

Veggie burgers are a great way to add more plant-based meals to your week. “They are convenient, filling, and can be a good source of fiber and protein,” says Knott. Make your own on a weekend (try our lentil burger or zucchini chickpea burger) and freeze for easy lunches or grab a box from the freezer aisle. While frozen options are very convenient, “sodium can add up quickly,” notes Knott. A good rule of thumb is to aim for less than 400 mg of sodium per burger (see all our tips for buying the healthiest veggie burgers). Whether you’re making your own or using store-bought (no shame!), look for higher protein options, especially those that are made with beans, lentils, tofu or other soy products, to stay satisfied for hours.

Beyond the traditional bun with your favorite toppings, you can add veggie burgers to grain bowls, salads, or wrap them in butter leaf lettuce. Get creative with your toppings, too! Try pesto or guacamole for healthy fats that add a ton of flavor.

5. Ricotta cheese

Think this ultra creamy cheese is just for lasagna? Think again. “It’s a versatile dairy product can add flavor and texture to a sweet or savory lunch. Plus, it has both protein and fat to help you feel full longer,” says Carroll. As with any dairy products, much of the fat is saturated fat, so you’ll want to consider your whole diet and how it fits in. If you eat other full-fat dairy and red meat, you may want to choose part-skim ricotta.

To serve, spread a thick layer of ricotta on whole grain toast and then add your favorite toppings. For a savory option, Carroll recommends arugula, sliced beets or roasted winter squash, and a drizzle of balsamic glaze. For a sweet option, try sliced banana or strawberries with sliced almonds and honey. Pair either option with a piece of fruit or, for some crunch, some raw veggies for a quick, well-balanced lunch.

6. Black beans

Black beans (along with other beans) are an under-appreciated superfood. Packed with fiber, protein, and important vitamins and minerals like iron, magnesium, and folate, they offer a lot of bang for your buck (literally!) as one of the least expensive protein options available. “Black beans can be used in a ton of different lunch-time combos,” says Carroll. “Because they’re canned and shelf-stable, they’re easy to keep on hand for a quick meal. Plus with all their digestive-friendly fiber, beans support gut health,” she adds.

The simplest way to use beans is to add them to any salad or grain bowl for a quick protein and fiber boost. If you have some time on the weekends, “make a big batch of black bean soup or chili, then store them in individual grab-and-go containers for lunch throughout the week,” suggests Carroll. Try our slow-cooker vegetarian chili for a hands-off make ahead lunch, or our bean and beef taco soup.

7. Avocado

Would it even be an article on healthy foods if we didn’t mention avocado? This fiber and healthy-fat filled fruit brings a ton of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients to your lunch. Eating avocado (and the nutrients found in this fruit) is linked to better cholesterol, blood sugar control, and even improved attention.

Use mashed avocado as a spread on sandwiches, or as Carroll recommends, mix it with canned tuna instead of mayonnaise. Add it to salads, tacos, grain bowls, wraps, or on top of your black bean soup or chili. And yes it’s still healthy if you make it into guacamole!

8. Hummus

Made from chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, herbs, and spices, hummus is packed with good-for-you ingredients that are linked to many health benefits. Upgrade your wrap or sandwich by using hummus instead of mayonnaise or other condiments. It’s also perfect for a “snack lunch,” which Carroll likes to make with tuna salad, whole grain crackers, nuts, and fruit.

Or, take it up a notch with our Hummus and Chicken Bowl or Lemon Roasted Vegetable Hummus Bowl.

9. Apples

There’s actually some truth to the old saying that an apple a day keeps the doctor away. Eating apples has been linked to numerous health benefits including reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease, as well as better gut health, thanks to all the phytonutrients, vitamins, and prebiotic fiber they contain. Plus, they are easily portable and require no packaging, making apples a perfect complement to almost any lunch.

While we think they are delicious as-is, they also add great flavor and crunch when sliced and added to a sandwich, grilled cheese, or a wild rice salad.

10. Whole-grain bread

One of the best upgrades you can make to a lunch sandwich is to trade in white bread for whole grain.

Whole-grain bread contains more fiber and protein than white bread which “is key to avoiding that mid-afternoon crash,” says the Moodoo sisters.

Look for “whole wheat” or “whole grain” listed first on the ingredient list. This signifies that the main flour in the bread is made from the whole grain and hasn’t been stripped of fiber as well as vitamins and minerals.

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