For many busy people, dinnertime is the hardest part of the day. This is especially true if you are dieting. It's hard enough to come up with dinner recipes to feed the family, but then searching for and preparing low-calorie recipes for yourself is an added challenge. The best solution is to find healthy dinners that are low in calories but hearty enough to keep the rest of your family satisfied.
Build Your Meal Around a Lean ProteinThe best way to plan a healthy and hearty meal is to start by choosing a lean protein. Chicken is a common choice, but there are other good sources. Consider one of these less common low fat meat or grain products.
- Pork. Pork chops and pork tenderloin are great dinner choices. These cuts are low in fat and can be prepared with little added fat. Grill or roast them for a delicious alternative to chicken.
- Fish. Salmon, tuna, and other meaty fish products are packed with protein and flavor. Many fish varieties also contain healthy omega 3 fatty acids. Avoid the breaded and battered varieties in the freezer section and try to get fresh cuts from the fresh seafood department of your grocery store instead.
- Eggs. While it might seem strange to eat eggs at dinner, an egg white omelet or a light (fewer yolks) vegetable quiche makes a wonderful meal at the end of the day. Many egg dishes can be prepared in advance and reheated which will save you time during your most hectic hours.
- Quinoa. This grain has become the darling of the vegetarian, gluten-free and vegan dieting communities. Quinoa has a nutty, crunchy taste and contains over 8 grams of protein per serving. Paired with grilled vegetables, it makes a hearty dinner that can be packed and reheated for the next day's lunch.
- Turkey. Whether you choose to cook the whole bird, just the breast meat, or use one of the ground varieties that are commonly available, the versatility of turkey makes it a great dinner option. But, be careful when you purchase turkey as some cuts contain more fat than others. Be sure to read the nutrition facts label to get more information.
- Beef. Beef gets a bad rap in some weight loss circles, but if you choose your cut wisely and eat it in moderation, it can be part of a healthy eating plan. Try flank steak or filet mignon on the grill. Or if you find yourself craving a traditional hamburger, you can choose 95 % lean ground beef, which has about 9 grams of fat per burger.
Load Your Plate With VegetablesAfter you choose your protein, fill up most of the rest of your plate with veggies. Fresh varieties of peppers, spinach, carrots, red chard and yellow squash add color and crunch to the meal. If you are short on time, don't hesitate to use frozen vegetables.
A good timesaving technique is to prepare your vegetables the same way you are preparing your meat. Why dirty an extra pot if you don't have to? Wrap vegetables in tin foil and throw them on the grill or in the oven to roast.
Prepare Your Meal Without Added FatYour cooking technique could make the difference between a healthy meal and a dinner loaded with unnecessary fat and calories. Grilling, roasting, or broiling your meat can be done without adding too much fat. Stay away from recipes that include breading or frying. More often than not, these techniques require you to use oil, lard or butter that won't add much flavor but will pack on the calories.
Healthy Dinner Recipes
If your family likes hamburgers, try this variation from the Jennie-O Turkey Store. At 18 grams of fat per burger it contains about half the fat of a traditional loaded hamburger. If you are looking for a lower calorie option, use a leaner variety of turkey. Extra Lean Ground Turkey by Jennie-O contains only 1.5 grams of fat per serving.Mulberry Street Turkey Burgers
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 (14 ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- salt and ground black pepper, if desired
- 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
- 1 package JENNIE-O TURKEY STORE® Lean Turkey Burger Patties
- 4 burger buns, split and toasted
- 1 cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated
Cook the patties as specified on the package. Always cook to well-done, 165°F as measured by a meat thermometer. Top bottom half of buns with patties, tomato mixture, parmesan cheese, and top half of buns.
Nutritional Information: Calories 440, fat 18 grams, protein 34 grams, carbohydrates 31gramsSpinach Mashed Potatoes
This hearty recipe was developed by Chef Anthony Stewart, Executive Chef at Pritikin Longevity Center & Spa. The full recipe serves a large group (Thanksgiving dinner?) but you can easily cut it down for a smaller family.
- 5 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
- 2 cups frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
- ¼ cup diced onion (optional)
- 2 cups nonfat milk
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ½ cup fat-free sour cream
Boil potatoes in water until soft (about 25 minutes). Sauté spinach and onion in nonstick skillet until hot. Add milk and nutmeg, and bring to a boil. Remove from heat.
In a large mixing bowl, mash potatoes with a wire whip. Add spinach mixture and sour cream. Whisk until potatoes are fluffy. Serve immediately.
Nutrition Information (per serving): Calories 80, fat 0 grams, protein 3 grams.