On the one hand, dinnertime is often the highlight of a weekday. It’s when you get to stop thinking about work, put on your comfy clothes, and maybe spend some quality time with friends or family. Also: food. On the other hand, coming up with fast, easy recipe ideas that are also delicious and healthy can sometimes make dinner feel like less of a pleasure and more of an extra stress.
To help you out, we asked some of our favorite R.D.s about their go-to weeknight dinner recipes. They spend the majority of their days talking about healthy food and good eating habits, so they’re experts on what qualifies as a well-rounded, satisfying dinner. But also, they’re busy people who don’t always have a ton of time to cook during the week. Below are some of their tried-and-true dinner ideas.
“Simple dinners are always the best. I love this Easy Kale Taco Salad recipe because it takes minutes to prepare and it’s filling as all hell. It also makes me feel warm and cozy inside knowing that I’m nourishing my body with all those vitamins, minerals, and fiber.”
“Quinoa enchilada dip…say what?! Those were my exact words when my BFF and business partner posted this recipe on our healthy eating Web site, Food Heaven Made Easy. I immediately made it for dinner that week, and it’s been a part of my healthy dinner repertoire ever since. I love that it’s balanced with complex carbs, protein, veggies, and fats. Plus, there are chips involved.”
I’m a huge fan of whole grain bowls. They are my go-to for simple and quick weeknight dinners. This version uses sorghum but you can also make it with another whole grain like farro, quinoa, or barley. I use canned beans for protein to make things super fast, or you can quickly cook up some lentils. Paired with veggies and olive oil you have a well-balanced meal with fiber, protein, and healthy fat. I like to make enough for three or four meals and use leftovers for lunch.
—Alissa Rumsey, M.S., R.D., C.S.C.S, owner of Alissa Rumsey Nutrition and Wellness
“This is one of my favorite weeknight recipes. I love that it’s a paleo recipe so uses very “clean” ingredients- the spaghetti squash is filling but low calorie and it’s packed with protein from the chicken and eggs. And I like anything with a kick, so the peppers in this recipe are perfect! It’s also super easy to prep and is great as leftovers too!”
—Brittany Kohn, R.D.
When I want something flavorful, comforting, and vegan, this Creole Vegan Jambalaya is one of my go-to dinner dishes. I was inspired to develop this recipe during Mardi Gras; but it’s delicious to my tastebuds any time of the year!
“I either make this on the weekend to reheat later in the week, or if I didn’t plan ahead, I make it in the Instant Pot. Even on busy weeknights it’s so easy, and there are directions for both methods in the recipe. I wrap mine in chard leaves with avocado and veggies, and my kids like theirs over rice with diced cucumbers, shredded carrots and slivered almonds.”
—Jessica Beacom, R.D., blogger at The Real Food Dietitians
READ MORE > 12 SLOW COOKER CHICKEN DINNER UNDER 370 CALORIES
“The Instant Pot makes this curry dish unbelievably quick and flavorful. Serve it over cauliflower rice for a hearty meal that’s even more delicious the next day.”
“I always find myself making turkey meatballs once a week because they are versatile, healthy, and delicious! Dinner is a snap later in the week when I freeze half the batch I whip up. They’re also a great vehicle for sneaking in veggies such as spinach, sweet potatoes, carrots, and mushrooms. These turkey meatballs are simmered in beer on the stovetop for an extra special flavor, but they are also delicious when baked in the oven.”
—Lindsey Pine, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D, C.L.T, owner of Tasty Balance Nutrition
“I love this [vegan, gluten-free] recipe because the Thai sauce is to die for! Plus, it’s a healthy one-dish meal. It has veggies, a plant-protein, and whole grains. Everyone loves it, even carnivores!”
—Sharon Palmer, R.D.
READ MORE > EASY WAYS TO EAT MORE PLANT PROTEIN
10. BLACKENED SALMON
“This is one of my all-time favorite recipes. My husband and I created it together, and we literally enjoy it at least once every week! I think you will find that it’s super easy to make (dinner in 20 minutes, anyone?), has just a few (of the right) ingredients, and the combination of the juicy salmon with the spicy-sweet seasoning rub is a match made in recipe heaven. Plus, it is packed with heart healthy omega-3’s and protein. I like to serve it over a simple green salad.”
—Sarah-Jane Bedwell, R.D., L.D.N., host of Cooking with Sarah-Jane video and blog series
“These Spicy Fish Tacos with Tangy Mango Cream have all the flavors of the deep-fried versions without all the greasy fat. Give it a try for yourself, and I think this recipe will become a regular in your Taco Tuesday rotation!”
If you’re an athlete, this super high-protein pasta dish might be your new favorite weeknight meal. [Tara Ostrowe], M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., runs the performance nutrition program for the New York Giants, so she knows about post-workout eats. This pasta, from the cookbook Recipes For Champions is one of her favorites.
“What I love about these easy-to-make fish tacos is that they’re super nutritious and tasty—two street tacos have only 170 calories and provide 17 grams of protein and 5 grams of healthy unsaturated fat. Plus, the small size makes them fun for kids or to serve at parties when finger foods are easier to eat.”
—Patricia Bannan, M.S., R.D.
“My super quick and tasty turkey burgers offer an awesome surprise filling in the middle that everyone loves! Served on a whole wheat bun with your favorite toppings—such as sliced avocados, tomatoes, salsa, and arugula—each burger is only 360 calories and provides 33 grams of protein.”
“In my house we refer to this dish as the ‘brain food’ frittata, in part because the Brussels sprouts look like mini brains but mostly the duo of Brussels sprouts and eggs pack this frittata with choline—a micronutrient that’s known as the heart helper, mom’s best friend, baby brain builder, and a builder of memory blocks.”
— Rebecca Scritchfield, M.A., R.D., H.F.S, author of Body Kindness
“I love zoodles! They are such an easy, low starch, veggie-rich way to bulk up my meals. I love a lot of volume when I eat, but I hate the heavy feeling I have after pasta or starchy foods, particularly at night. This zoodle dish Savory Lotus is one of my favorite recipes—easy, flavorful, filling, and light!
—Lauren Minchen, M.P.H, R.D., C.D.N.
“I love burgers, meatballs, and patties. They are such fun ways to combine different flavors and textures. These salmon patties do just that with a combo of canned salmon, quinoa, chia seeds, peppers, and spices. They are a true protein powerhouse!”
—Kath Younger, R.D., blogger at Kath Eats Real Food