Add some new go-to recipes to your family's dinner menu with my 23 Best Quick & Healthy Dinner Recipes.
If you panic or get a sense of dread at the thought of the "what's for dinner?" question, this blog post is for you! In it, I share my 15 Best Quick & Healthy Dinner Recipes as well as tips for how to grocery shop for healthy dinners, ideas for quick and impromptu healthy dinners, and healthy cooking staples I always have on hand.
It seems that people often think I cook more gourmet more often than I actually do. Whereas I'd love the time to cook an involved 1-2 hour feast a few nights of a week, that's often a luxury reserved only for Saturday or Sunday nights.
With the exception of the days I recipe develop or cook for the blog, most nights are about me coming home from the salon around 8-9 PM, famished and ravaging through the fridge for something to whip up for dinner before I eat my weight in tortilla chips.
Some nights it also just ends up being a Trader Joe's pizza or mac 'n cheese, too.
And though I don't feel guilty about my pizza or pasta nights, I do want to try to work in more healthy and whole foods-based meals if I can, so why not?
So I put together this guide as a way to remind myself of how to work more quick and healthy meals into my life as well as to share these tips with you. I hope they're helpful for you and add more flavor, ease, and nutrition to your lives. As always, any comments or questions, please comment below the post or DM me on Instagram. 🙂
How do you plan for healthy dinners?
I like to plan for healthy dinners by doing a mixture of planning out my meals ahead of time and also making sure I have a selection of healthy pantry staples on hand.
If I plan out 2-3 meals on Sunday, I can cook them on my not-as-busy evenings. On the other busier nights when I get home late, I can either eat those leftovers or work with healthy pantry staples I have on hand to create quick and more on-the-fly recipes (see below for some ideas!).
What kitchen staples do you need on hand to have healthy and quick dinners?
Keeping a well-stocked pantry is my secret to making quick and healthy dinners! As long as I have some protein and fresh veggies to work with, I can almost always make any dish if I have good staples on hand.
Here's a list of my favorite healthy kitchen staples I like to always have on hand:
- Olive oil or avocado oil
- Vinegar -- balsamic, white vinegar, red wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, etc.
- Canned tomatoes
- Tomato paste
- Canned beans
- Chicken and/or vegetable broth
- Sweet potatoes and/or white potatoes
- Canned olives
- Healthy grains -- whole wheat couscous, farro, barley, amaranth, etc.
- Dried fruit
- Nuts & seeds
- Whole grain pasta
- Garlic & onions
- Dried seasonings -- basil, garlic, thyme, turmeric, ginger, oregano, chili powder, paprika, cumin, cayenne pepper, Italian seasoning, and more (see my seasoning combination ideas below!)
- Salt & black pepper
- Low-sodium soy sauce or liquid coconut aminos
- Honey & maple syrup
- Coconut oil
If you consistently keep these on hand, you will be ready to work with almost any fresh ingredients you have on hand to make a fresh, healthy, and quick meal!
How do you grocery shop for healthy dinners?
I shop for healthy dinners by making one large grocery store trip per week. Once I have my 2-3 recipes for the week, I'll add those ingredients to the list and then I'll add my healthy staples to my list.
Then, when I get to the store, I go around the outside of the store first -- picking up my list items and any healthy and fresh items that also catch my attention. Pro-tip: always look for what produce is in season! The more in season it is, the fresher and better tasting it will be. It will be better priced, likely, too!
And finally, I try to not shop for groceries while hungry, cause that's when I tend to make the worst food decisions and/or want to buy everything!!
Ideas for last-minute healthy dinners:
There are some dinners I like to make when I'm short on time but looking for something healthy:
- A veggie and lean protein stir- fry -- stir-fry up some vegetables in oil until they're crisp-tender. Then remove them from the pan, reheat more oil and stir fry small slices of lean protein until it's cooked through. Then add in a stir fry sauce -- I like a combination of soy sauce, garlic, honey, red pepper flakes, and ginger -- along with the veggies to the pan and bring to a simmer. Serve on its own or over rice or cauliflower rice!
- An omelet or scramble -- saute up veggies and/or chicken sausage in a bit of oil until they're cooked through and then add in eggs -- or if you're fancy, make an omelet -- and some cheese, cook through, and you're good to go!
- A pasta toss -- cook up some pasta in heavily salted water and drain when cooked through. While that cooks, saute veggies in oil, season with some Italian seasonings and salt, and then toss the veggies with the drained pasta and cover with grated parmesan or romano cheese and black pepper.
- A grilled dinner -- cut some veggies (I like zucchini, red peppers, red onion, and eggplant) into thin long slices, brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Brush your lean protein -- chicken thighs or breasts, sirloin steaks, portobello mushroom, etc. -- with olive oil and season with salt and pepper or any of your other favorite seasonings. Grill until cooked through, remove from the heat and let it rest for about 5 minutes and then serve!
- Soup -- soup can be a healthy way to work vegetables, lean protein, and hydration into your diet! Just saute up some onions, carrots, celery and/or peppers until the onion is transparent, add in your lean protein and cook it until it's cook through, and then add broth, seasonings, and salt and simmer on medium-low for 10-15 minutes, or until the flavors of the soup have developed. Add in a drained and rinsed can of beans or some cooked farro and you have a delicious and well-rounded dinner! Pro-tip: experiment with different seasoning combinations to take your soup different flavor directions (see a list of combinations below)!
- Salad -- make a hearty and healthy salad in a snap! Start with a bed of healthy -- preferably dark green -- leafy greens and layer on a variety of vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, cheese, and dried (or fresh!) fruits before finishing the salad off with a healthy and easy dressing. See my section below on how to make a healthy, quick, and filling salad!
- Tacos - tortillas are the perfect vehicle for a healthy and delicious dinner! Just grill or saute up your favorite meats and veggies, top them with some shredded cabbage or lettuce, drizzle with salsa and enjoy!
What are the essentials of a healthy and quick dinner?
I always start by deciding on what protein and vegetable I want to highlight in my dinner. Then, I build out from there with the carbohydrate I want to include (if I want to include one).
Once you have your protein, vegetable, and carbohydrate, consider the types of healthy fat you want to include and the seasonings that will add your desired flavor you want to do your dish (see below for inspiration!).
Healthy fats I like to use are olive oil, avocado, nuts, seeds, coconut, and olives.
Popular seasoning combinations to create the flavors you want:
Experiment with the following seasoning combinations to create your desired flavors in your quick and healthy dinner recipes!
Mexican seasonings - chili powder, cumin, garlic, onion, lime juice, cayenne pepper, Mexican oregano, and paprika (optional)
Asian seasonings - ginger, garlic, soy sauce, honey, red pepper flakes, rice wine vinegar, five-spice seasoning, fish sauce, cilantro, and galangal
Italian seasonings - basil, garlic, oregano, olive oil, marjoram, red pepper flakes, balsamic vinegar, and thyme (optional)
Indian seasonings - garlic, onion, ginger, turmeric, cumin, coriander, garam masala, black pepper, and mustard seed
Greek seasonings - lemon peel, lemon juice, garlic, red wine vinegar, oregano, salt, black pepper
How to make a healthy dinner salad:
First, start with a leafy green -- the darker the better -- as the bed of your salad. I like to use baby spinach, massaged kale, baby kale, or spring greens.
Then, top with the following components to make your salad flavorful, well-rounded, and satisfying!
- Crunch - crunch will give the salad some texture and mouthfeel. I like to add nuts, green pea snaps, pumpkin seeds, raw broccoli, chopped up carrots, cucumbers, peppers, pita chips, or apples, to name a few.
- Creamy - something creamy can make the salad extra satisfying. I like to add avocado, goat cheese, or hard-boiled eggs.
- Chewy - chewiness gives the salad some intrigue and variation. Some good chewy ingredients to try adding are dried cranberries, dried cherries, raisins, farro, and cooked barley.
- Healthy fat - this helps to make the salad filling and give you energy for the long haul. I like to add olive oil, nuts, seeds, cheeses, olives, or avocado to my dinner salads.
- Protein - lean protein will also help to make the salad hearty and filling. Some examples of proteins I like to add to my salads are beans, hard-boiled eggs, lunch meat, tuna, grilled chicken or steak, salmon, nuts, and seeds.
- Umami (savory) - something savory will add depth to the salad flavor. Some common savory salad toppers are sundried tomatoes, olives, parmesan cheese, feta cheese, salt, or capers.
- Acid - the bright notes of acid will bring the whole salad together. I like to add tomatoes to my salad or dress the salad with a fresh acidic-based dressing.
- A healthy dressing -- make a quick and healthy salad dressing in a snap! Just drizzle the salad with your favorite olive oil and lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, or your other favorite vinegar of choice! Or, check out my balsamic miso salad dressing, my roasted garlic salad dressing, or my lemon tahini salad dressing.
Other recipe round-up posts you might enjoy:
- 49 Best Back-to-School Recipes
- 31 Best Salad Recipes
- 43 Favorite Pantry Staple Recipes
- Most Popular Recipes of 2019
And for a list of my favorite quick and healthy dinners..
23 Best Quick & Healthy Dinner Recipe
Enjoy all my best quick & healthy recipes in this compilation post. With everything from vegetarian, to gluten-free, and meat-based, you're sure to find family-friendly recipes to serve on almost any occasion.
An easy one pot sausage and pasta dish that the whole family will love! Make sure to purchase raw or bulk sausage and add extra salt at the end if using low sodium chicken broth.
Enjoy an Instant Pot Soup with this Pressure Cooker Spiced Butternut Squash & Red Lentil Soup. It's healthy, vegan, and cooks up in under 30 minutes!
To make this soup vegan or vegetarian, use vegetable stock or broth instead of chicken broth.
A creamy and satisfying healthy fall soup recipe.
If making this gluten-free, make sure your chicken broth doesn't contain gluten.
Juicy, umami-rich, and gingery teriyaki meatloaf the whole family will love.
To keep this gluten-free, make sure to use gluten-free teriyaki sauce and liquid aminos in place of the soy sauce.
For the quickest preparation, quick-cook brown rice is just fine to use.
If you can fine it and can swing it, grass-fed ground beef is great in this recipe. It's the most affordable way to enjoy grass-fed beef and adds loads of flavor.
A quick and satisfying Thai panang curry. Cut up all your veggies and salmon ahead of time because the cooking goes quick!
A rich and satisfying way to enjoy pesto that is big on veggies as well as flavor!
This pesto recipe makes about twice as much as you need for this amount of squash. Either halve the recipe or freeze the remaining pesto (see the directions in the recipe notes) for an easy way to enjoy it again later.
A Thai classic green curry brought to your dinner table. It's moderately spicy, lightly sweet, full of umami, and ready in under 25 minutes! Make this favorite for dinner tonight.
These are some of my favorite veggies for the curry, but feel free to sub in other seasonal veggies that you have on hand, like green beans, zucchini, green peas, or red peppers. Just make sure to cut them into the same size pieces as the rest of the veggies.
Butternut squash and sweet potatoes are also delicious in this curry. Just cut them into ¼" cubes and saute them for an extra 3-4 minutes before stirring in and cooking the rest of the veggies.
Use your favorite cut of chicken for this dish-- I love both breast and thigh -- just make sure they're boneless & skinless.
Saucy and juicy ground turkey meatballs that are easy to make, healthy, and perfect for reheating. Serve these ground turkey meatballs over pasta, on toasted sandwiches, or on their own with a green salad for a satisfying meal!
If you can't find turkey sausage, feel free to sub in raw sweet Italian chicken sausage.
To add more veggies to this sauce, add in fresh or frozen spinach after simmering the sauce and cook for another 1-3 minutes, or until the spinach is wilted (if fresh) or heated through (if frozen).
A filling stew-like soup made with lentils, sweet potatoes, carrots, kale, and harissa. This recipe has instructions for both turkey and a vegetarian/vegan option.
A quick and flavorful gluten-free pasta dish. Breaking the pasta before cooking it helps the pasta to absorb the sauce better and be easier to eat with a fork.
To make this vegan, simply omit the cheese or replace with vegan parmesan cheese.
A refreshing vegetarian chickpea salad with savory Mediterranean-inspired flavors.
Rinse the orzo with cool water after cooking it so it doesn't wilt the vegetables. To make this recipe vegan, simply omit the feta cheese from the recipe.
Stir-fried vegetables and spices over fluffy quinoa. Omit eggs and use agave syrup for a vegan option and use liquid aminos for a gluten-free option.
A hearty Italian soup that comes together in under 30 minutes, is rich and flavorful and makes the perfect leftovers.
See the cooking notes below for tips on how to de-case sausage, my thoughts on the best type of broth to use, and other handy tips.
Make a complete and healthy dinner in the pressure cooker or Instant Pot tonight. This pineapple chicken and rice is a gluten-free one-pot dish the whole family will love.
An all-star fish shines when covered with a thick, sweet, and spicy glaze in this Spicy Bourbon Glazed Baked Salmon.
Pre-heat your oven while you mix up the glaze. The salmon will only bake for 12-13 minutes so dinner will be ready in a snap!
Use your favorite bourbon in this dish. I prefer Maker's Mark or Bulleit.
Adjust the amount of cayenne pepper to your taste. ⅛ teaspoon makes the salmon a bit spicy but didn't make us reach for water or milk. ¼ teaspoon will heat it up a bit more and may make some people need to cool off their palette.
Use 93% lean or lower ground turkey for the most flavorful, and juicy burgers. Make your own jerk seasoning blend or use a good quality use store-bought version -- both are delicious!
Get a healthy & quick dinner the whole family will love on the table tonight with these Turkey Sloppy Joes!
They are easy to make, delicious, and ready in under 20 minutes! They also don’t have any processed sugar, gluten, or other processed ingredients. You will love them because the family will gobble them up but it won’t take a lot of time or stress to make them.
Whether you're looking for an easy Easter side dish or just simply a healthier comfort food the whole family will love for dinner, this Healthy Macaroni and Cheese is cheesy, comforting and 100% satisfying with less than 250 calories and more than 10 grams of protein per serving!
Serve it straight off the stovetop or bake it with a cheesy golden topping -- depending on how you like your mac and cheese. I provide directions below for either; just make sure to pay attention to the amount of cheese you need for either.
A quick dinner recipe, this Chicken and Vegetable Stir Fry is made entirely with frozen and pantry staples.
Thaw your chicken ahead of time but you can use frozen veggies straight out of the freezer. Use whatever green veggies you have on hand, though I recommend green beans, broccoli, or a stir fry vegetable blend.
Add another delicious pantry-staple recipe to your menu this week with this Instant Pot Turkey Chili. It's an easy-to-follow and healthy recipe you can get on the table in under an hour, thanks to your Instant Pot or pressure cooker.
Use whatever canned beans you have on hand and just use whatever of the hearty vegetables you have on hand. The recipe will be delicious either way!
This Tuna Macaroni Salad Recipe is a family favorite recipe passed down to me by my mom. I've made a few personal adaptations to the amounts of particular ingredients in the recipe, but the overall dish is the same. This pasta salad is creamy, satisfying, and has twice the amount of tuna as many other recipes have.
Add in green peas or diced peppers if you have them. See my notes below the recipe for my preferred way to defrost peas for this recipe.
Satisfy your whole crew with this Italian Tuna Pasta Salad.
It's easy to make but big on flavor. Don't be intimidated by the homemade dressing-- it really isn't that hard! Just measure out and whisk up your dressing ingredients and you're good to mix in the pasta, veggies, and tuna!
One of the best comfort foods made healthier, these Black Bean Breakfast Enchiladas are lower in fat and sodium than the traditional or pre-made options and are brimming with just as much flavor, zest, and melty cheese.
No longer are they just for breakfast, either! They're the perfect satisfying vegetarian dinner, too.
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