6 Healthy, Satisfying, Dietitian-Approved Dinner Ideas

You know the story: 3 pm rolls around and with it comes the age-old question... What's for dinner? You've still got work to get through before you clock off for the day, and never quite come up with the answer, and maybe deep down you know you'll just end up ordering delivery. Again.

It's a costly endeavour both financially and nutritionally, but there's enough going on elsewhere in life that planning healthy dinners ahead of time doesn't always make it to the top of your list of priorities. 

With the pandemic affecting our daily routines but making them no less busy, the ease of opening up our favourite food delivery app or picking up takeaway on the way home can be all too enticing, even if every morning we wake up with good intentions to do better that night.

I've been there, and I'm sure you've been there; it's all too common an experience—and I'm speaking as an accredited practicing dietitian myself. To help, I've put together some simple, nourishing and ready in 15-minute meals that will hopefully take some of the work out.

Here are six healthy, satisfying, dietitian-approved dinner ideas for you to consider next time you're about to order the same Thai takeaway for the third night in a week. Go ahead and bookmark this post for easy access next time you're grocery shopping.

Dinner #1: Quick Veggie Lo Mein 

Why I love it: There's something so satisfying and comforting about noodles, and after a hard day's work this quick veggie lo mein recipe certainly fits the bill. I like this recipe because it uses sesame oil, which is a "good fat", and reduced sodium soy sauce, and both of these ingredients are better for heart health than the alternatives.

My favourite go-to dinners will always be quick, veggie-packed and colourful like this one. It makes it so much easier to fit in our "five a day", and with that tasty sauce it's far from boring. Diets rich in vegetables are associated with reduced risk of diseases like heart disease and stroke, some types of cancer, as well as eye and digestive conditions, so we really want to fit them in where we can. This dish is full of flavour, super simple and best of all, there will probably be leftovers for lunch!

Notes: This recipe does contain nutrient-dense edamame beans, which are a great source of protein, though if you'd like to bulk the meal up further adding in some tofu or chicken gives you a perfectly balanced, filling meal.

Dinner #2: 15-Minute Mediterranean Couscous

Why I love it: The Mediterranean Diet is a way of eating based on the diets and traditional foods of those countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. This style of eating is considered one of the best ways of eating for heart health but also associated with reduced risk of Type 2 Diabetes, some cancers, dementia, non-alcoholic fatty liver and improvements in mental health.

When speaking to clients about this style of eating, I often hear that it can feel difficult to implement, particularly if it's far from your normal style of eating. But this recipe is so quick and simple, and still touts all the foundations of a Mediterranean meal: extra virgin olive oil, seafood, wholegrain and vegetables.

Notes: For good measure, I'd add in some lentils, too, Heart healthy in 15 minutes, why not give it a try.

Dinner #3: Lentil Pasta

Why I love it: Who doesn't love pasta for dinner? It always feels like a warm hug at the end of the day. I've chosen this dish though because there's a twist—it uses lentils! Legumes, including lentils, are nutrient powerhouses. They're packed with protein, minerals like iron, zinc and calcium, and contain B vitamins, good fats, phytonutrients and fibre.

We don't often include enough legumes in our diet, though having three or four serves of legumes per week can reduce our risk of heart disease by ten per cent. They can also aid in cholesterol and blood sugar management while reducing our risk of some cancers like bowel and breast cancer. See, I told you: powerhouses.

Notes: If you're a meat eater and wary of the idea of Bolognese using only lentils, try doing half and half with mince on your first go.

Dinner #4: Vegan TVP Tacos

Why I love it: This dish is a staple in my house. It's so quick, easy and, of course, really tasty. I've chosen to include this recipe because it uses TVP (textured vegetable protein) and lentils. TVP is a really exciting ingredient that I think is often overlooked. It is also THE EASIEST ingredient to start using if you're looking to cut down your meat intake.

What is it exactly? Well, TVP is defatted soymeal, which I know sounds less than appealing but stay with me. TVP is a cheap alternative to mince, and it takes on the flavour of whatever you cook it in. I enjoy using it as it's high in good quality protein, iron and fibre (the protein and fibre make it very filling). It's also low in carbohydrates and fat, in case that suits your needs even further.

Notes: To easily fit this option in within 15 minutes, throw everything on the stove to cook away and while that's happening, you can put your taco shells or tortillas in the oven. The other ingredients you'd use like shredded cheese (or vegan cheese), lettuce and tomato are easy to grab during this time too. It's ready in no time!

Dinner #5: Healthy Roasted Chicken and Vegetables

Why I love it: Okay, I love a good sheet tray meal. If you're sick of all the overworked recipes online that promise quick meals, but forget to mention you'll need to be in the kitchen for an hour or more, I'm with you.

A sheet tray meal literally means you chop everything up, throw it on a baking tray, pop it in the oven, and walk away until you hear that beautiful little oven alarm go off. Super simple, super easy, super fuss-free. Perfect for a fridge clean out, when you've just got to use whatever vegetables you have left at the end of the week. Now, I'm going to be honest: this one takes 20 minutes, but 15 of those do not require you to be in the kitchen. So, I'm counting this as a win.

Another reason this recipe is great is the colour! You've heard the saying "eat the rainbow" haven't you? (And no I'm not talking about Skittles.) Eating a rainbow refers to eating a wide variety of coloured fruit and vegetables, and the benefits of eating a rainbow has to do with phytochemicals. What are they? Well, phytochemicals are really incredible plant compounds that give vegetables their vibrant colours, and the types do vary with the associated colour. Each "colour" has its own associated benefits, such as green vegetables (and their phytochemicals) having anti-cancer properties and benefits for eye health, while purple/blue vegetables are beneficial for heart, brain and bone health, as well as reduced risk of stroke.

Notes: This is an easy dish to provide a wide variety of nutrients and phytochemicals, with really little effort. Throw a cup or two of rice in the microwave while this cooks and you've got yourself an easy, balanced meal!

Dinner #6: 10-Minute Pizza

Why I love it: Want to get away with having pizza more often? The secret to eating pizza all the time is simple: instead of dough, use flatbreads or wraps. Buying a flatbread and topping it with lean proteins and vegetables is an incredibly fast way to make a lower calorie and more nourishing option for the whole family. Making pizzas at home will often be lower in saturated fats, sodium and free from all the calorie-dense sauces and toppings. It will even be ready sooner than if you ordered! 

Notes: This recipe is a perfect example of how to make a homemade pizza that requires little energy, is quick, easy and will keep everyone happy, since it's so easy for each person to tailor their toppings according to their food preferences or dietary restrictions. Enjoy!

Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition. 

For more from Hollie, you can follow her at @holliejamesdietitian or visit her website.

Enjoyed this? Here's What Happens When You Eat Dinner Late at Night, According to Dietitians.

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