For most of us, dinner is our final meal of the day. And pending any late-night snacking, it’s our last chance to make good food decisions before going to bed. It’s also the meal when the ravenous, overworked public tends to overeat.
Fortunately, making good choices doesn’t have to mean ending your night hungry. For some real-world examples of healthy, home-cooked dinners, we asked five registered dietitians what they typically eat for dinner.
See below for some inspiration, and then consider adopting some of their tried-and-true principles — and meals — into your own evening diet.
“I’m a big fan of the ‘breakfast for dinner’ concept for a quick weeknight meal. A few times a month I’ll clean out the fridge and cook up a variation of this power greens breakfast skillet. It’s a 10-minute meal if you caramelize a couple onions in advance or have leftover roasted veggies that need to be eaten. It’s one of my go-to meals because it’s fast, packed with quality protein and nutrient-rich veggies and doesn’t really require any planning or advance preparation.”
—Elle Penner, RDN, nutrition consultant, recipe developer and writer
“If my oven ever broke, I’d be a sad lady. This is my favorite way to cook vegetables. My favorite: Oven-roasted broccoli marinated with olive oil, plus a generous helping of garlic, sprinkled with salt and pepper. I also like experimenting with different spices with my veggies, like a cauliflower/broccoli mix seasoned with coriander, turmeric, thyme, salt and pepper. Staple veggies I have in my fridge are squash, cauliflower and/or broccoli, shredded carrots, red onions, corn and tomatoes. In the freezer, I will keep edamame to add to a salad or use as a snack.
“For my protein/carb: quinoa with cumin, paprika, salt and pepper, plus corn and low-sodium black beans. (I cook my quinoa in low-sodium chicken broth.) If I make pasta, I will always include a vegetable in there and use leftover spinach or arugula, plus onions.”
—Louise Chen, Dallas-based registered dietitian
“Many people choose to make dinner their largest meal, which is OK, but it’s important to be mindful of what you eat here, knowing that you are about to hit the bed and sleep (and be inactive) for the next 6–10 hours. Too little food and you may wake up hungry; too much and you’re forcing your body into active-digestive-mode during a time it should be resting. Avoid caffeine, too much alcohol, sugar and high-fat foods (which take a long time to digest), and aim for a balance of plant-based foods like root vegetables and leafy greens, lean proteins (I love salmon — it’s rich in protein and heart-healthy fats) and unprocessed whole grains, which keep blood-sugars steady. Avoid eating 2–3 hours before bedtime to give your body time to digest and reset.”
—Sydney Fry, MS, RD, writer and recipe developer
“I like any meal that takes less than 30-minutes to make because, like most urban dwellers, I have a long, tedious commute to work. I’m not picky and will often eat the same dinner many nights in a row. The plan is to batch cook grains (e.g., quinoa, brown rice or whole-wheat pasta) and marinate meats on the weekend. Weeknights are for quick pan-seared meats. I stir-fry the veggies, too. My trick to getting veggies to cook quickly over the stove top is to pre-cook them in the microwave.”
—Trinh Le, MPH, RDN, and blogger at FearlessfoodRD
“If out with friends, my dinner is often a salad and a cheese plate full of nuts, cheese and fruit. If they have salmon, I am definitely adding it. If at home, my meal is more roasted veggies and protein. I work to make dinner a smaller meal and eat more during the day, but you can be sure that a few times a week red wine accompanies my dinner. After all, everyone needs some heart-healthy resveratrol!”
—Amy Goodson, RD and nutrition consultant based in Dallas
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