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.
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.
This meal is super versatile, and you can choose from a variety of flavor combinations. You can try out one of the simple recipes below or wing it and simply pile your favorite ingredients onto a roasted sweet potato.
- Chicken Pesto Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
- Taco Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
- Vegetarian Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
- Mediterranean Baked Sweet Potatoes
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.
Here are a few more grain bowl recipes that make a perfect dinner option for nights when you’re short on time:
- Thai Chicken Buddha Bowls
- Salmon Grain Bowls with Lemon Tahini Sauce
- Sweet Potato & Chickpea Buddha Bowl
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.
Here are a few tasty and easy frittata recipes:
- Spring Vegetable Frittata
- Cheesy Chicken Pepper Broccoli Frittata
- Wild Mushroom Frittata with Cheddar, Green Onions, and Peas
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.
Here are a few more dinner salad ideas:
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.
Here are a few recipes to try out the next time you’re craving a pasta dish:
- Broccoli Pesto Chicken Pasta
- Roasted Vegetable Chickpea Pasta Salad
- Zucchini Noodles with Mini Chicken Feta and Spinach Meatballs
Herbs and spices can make the difference between a meal that’s amazing and one that’s just alright. For most people, a meal plan that’s consistently comprised of delicious dishes just might be enough to make the meal planning habit stick.
In addition to being exceptional flavor-enhancers, herbs and spices are loaded with plant compounds that provide a variety of health benefits, such as reduced cellular damage and inflammation (3Trusted Source).
If you don’t already have a solid stash of dried herbs and spices, just pick up 2–3 jars of your favorites each time you go grocery shopping and slowly build a collection.
7. Shop your pantry first
Before you sit down to make your meal plan, take an inventory of what you already have on hand.
Peruse all of your food storage areas, including your pantry, freezer, and refrigerator, and make a note of any specific foods you want or need to use up.
Doing this helps you move through the food you already have, reduces waste, and prevents you from unnecessarily buying the same things over and over again.
8. Consistently make time
The best way to integrate a meal planning routine into your lifestyle is to make it a priority. It can help to regularly carve out a block of time that is solely dedicated to planning.
For some people, crafting a meal plan can take as little as 10–15 minutes per week. If your plan also includes preparing some food items ahead of time or pre-portioning meals and snacks, you may need a few hours.
Regardless of your specific strategy, the key to success is making time and staying consistent.
9. Designate a place for saving and storing recipes
Avoid the unnecessary frustration of trying to remember recipes by saving them in a designated location that you can easily reference anytime.
This could be in a digital format on your computer, tablet, or cell phone, or a physical location in your house.
Keeping a space set aside for your recipes saves time and helps reduce any potential stress associated with meal planning.
10. Ask for help
It can be challenging to always feel inspired to craft a brand-new menu each week — but you don’t have to do it alone.
If you’re responsible for meal planning and preparation for an entire household, don’t be afraid to ask members of your family for input.
If you’re primarily cooking for yourself, talk to your friends about what they’re cooking or use online resources, such as social media or food blogs, for inspiration.
11. Track and record your favorite meals
It can be frustrating to forget a recipe that you or your family really enjoyed.
Or worse — forgetting how much you disliked a recipe, only to make it again and have to suffer through it a second time.
Avoid these culinary predicaments by keeping an ongoing record of your favorite and least favorite meals.
It’s also helpful to keep notes of any edits you made or would like to make to a particular recipe, so you can quickly begin taking your culinary skills from amateur to expert.
12. Always head to the grocery store armed with a list (or shop online)
Going to the grocery store without a shopping list is a good way to waste time and end up buying a lot of things you don’t need.
Having a list helps you stay focused and fight the temptation to buy food you don’t have a plan to use just because it’s on sale.
Depending on where you live, some larger grocery chains offer the option of shopping online and either picking up your groceries at a designated time or having them delivered.
You may be charged a fee for these services, but they can be a great tool for saving time and avoiding the long lines and distracting promotions you’re likely to encounter at the store.
13. Avoid shopping while you’re hungry
Don’t go to the grocery store when you’re hungry, as doing so can increase the risk of impulse buys that you’re likely to regret later.
If you feel a little twinge of hunger before you’re heading to the store, don’t hesitate to have a snack first, even if it’s outside of your typical meal and snack routine.
14. Buy in bulk
Take advantage of the bulk section of your local supermarket as a way to save money, buy only the amount you need, and reduce unnecessary packaging waste.
This part of the store is a great place to shop for pantry staples like rice, cereal, quinoa, nuts, seeds, and dried fruit and beans.
Bring your own containers so you don’t have to use any plastic bags to carry your bulk items home.
15. Plan for and repurpose leftovers
If you don’t want to spend time cooking every day of the week, plan to make enough to have leftovers.
Making a few extra servings of whatever you’re cooking for dinner is a great way to have lunch for tomorrow without any extra effort.
If you’re not a fan of leftovers, think about how you can repurpose them so they don’t feel like leftovers.
For example, if you roast a whole chicken with root vegetables for dinner, shred the leftover chicken and use it for tacos, soup, or as a salad topping for lunch the next day.
16. Batch cook
Batch cooking is when you prepare large quantities of individual foods for the purpose of using them in different ways throughout the week. This method is especially useful if you don’t have much time to spend cooking during the week.
Try cooking a big batch of quinoa or rice and roasting a large tray of vegetables, tofu, or meat at the start of the week to use for salads, stir-fries, scrambles, or grain bowls.
You could also make a batch of chicken, tuna, or chickpea salad to use in sandwiches, eat with crackers, or add to salads.
17. Use your freezer
Cooking certain foods or meals in large batches and freezing them for later is a great way to save time, reduce waste, and stretch your food budget — all at the same time.
You can use this method for simple staples like broth, fresh bread, and tomato sauce, or for entire meals, such as lasagna, soup, enchiladas, and breakfast burritos.
18. Pre-portion your meals
Pre-portioning your meals into individual containers is an excellent meal prep strategy, especially if you’re trying to consume a specific amount of food.
This method is popular among athletes and fitness enthusiasts who closely track their intake of calories and nutrients. It’s also a great method for promoting weight loss or even just getting ahead when you’re short on time.
To take advantage of this method, prepare a large meal that contains at least 4–6 servings. Portion each serving into an individual container and store them in the refrigerator or freezer. When you’re ready, simply reheat and eat.
19. Wash and prep fruits and vegetables right away
If your goal is to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, try washing and preparing them as soon as you get home from the farmer’s market or grocery store.
If you open your refrigerator to find a freshly prepared fruit salad or carrot and celery sticks ready for snacking, you’re more likely to reach for those items when you’re hungry.
Anticipating your hunger and setting yourself up with healthy and convenient choices makes it easier to avoid reaching for the bag of potato chips or cookies just because they’re quick and easy.
20. Prep smart, not hard
Don’t be afraid to acknowledge the need to cut corners.
If you’re not great at chopping vegetables or don’t have time to batch cook and pre-portion your meals, there are likely some healthy, prepared options at your local grocery store.
Pre-cut fruits and vegetables or prepared meals are usually more expensive, but if the convenience factor is what it takes to reduce stress in your life or get you to eat more vegetables, it may be well worth it.
Remember, not everyone’s meal planning and preparation processes look the same. Having the wisdom to know when you need to scale back and improve efficiency can help you stick to your goals long term.
21. Use your slow or pressure cooker
Slow and pressure cookers can be lifesavers for meal prep, especially if you don’t have time to stand over a stove.
These tools allow for more freedom and hands-off cooking, so you can meal prep while simultaneously finishing other chores or running errands.
22. Vary your menu
It’s easy to get stuck in a dieting rut and eat the same foods day after day.
To avoid this, make it a point to try cooking new foods or meals at regular intervals.
If you always choose brown rice, try swapping it for quinoa or barley. If you always eat broccoli, substitute cauliflower, asparagus, or romanesco for a change.
You can also consider letting the seasons change your menu for you. Eating fruits and vegetables that are in season helps you vary your diet and save money at the same time.
23. Make it enjoyable
You’re more likely to stick to your new meal planning habit if it’s something you enjoy doing. Instead of thinking of it as something you have to do, try to mentally reframe it as a form of self-care.
If you’re the household chef, consider making meal prep a family affair. Have your family help you chop vegetables or batch cook some soup for the week ahead, so these activities become quality time spent together instead of just another chore.
If you prefer to meal prep solo, throw on your favorite music, a podcast, or an audiobook while you do it. Before long, it may be something you look forward to.
The bottom line
Meal planning and preparation is a great way to make healthier food choices and save time and money.
Though it may seem overwhelming at first, there are a variety of strategies you can employ to develop a sustainable meal planning habit that works for your unique lifestyle.
Article by: 23 Tips to Ease Meal Prep (healthline.com)
Photo by Thang Cao: https://www.pexels.com/photo/woman-sitting-at-restaurant-table-10506890/