In Nutrition

Easiest Way to Cook a Healthy Dinner

Easiest Way to Cook a Healthy Dinner work day is over, you’re beat, and your stomach is growling at you.  You don’t even want to think about “what’s for dinner?”  People sometimes think because I am a dietitian-nutritionist that at the end of the day I zip into the kitchen and whip up an ultra-healthy dinner for the family every night.

Newsflash! Being a nutritionist doesn’t exempt me from exhaustion, stress, or a never ending to-do list.  My solution, is finding things that are super easy to prepare and take little thought (because my brain ceases to function at the end of the day).

I do try to plan out a shopping list and stick to what I’ve planned.  At least 1-2 nights a week, I default to my “never the same thing twice” skillet meal.  What I mean by that is I throw together whatever I can find but make sure I get in some protein, healthy fats, healthy carbs and plenty of veggies.  It is never the exact same combination twice.

How to Make a DIY Skillet Meal

First, choose your ingredients.  Start by choosing 1 portion from each of the following food lists.  You can combine different selections from each group.  For example, you can split the veggie portion between different types of veggies.  Note: In the amounts listed, most of these will feed a family of 4.  You can adjust the portions to meet the needs and size of your family.  Just keep the ratio of ingredients about the same.

Protein- 1 pound

  • Ground turkey/beef (90/10 or less)
  • Boneless skinless chicken breast
  • Canned tuna
  • Shrimp
  • Steak strips
  • Meatballs (made w/ lean beef/turkey)
  • Eggs (preferably a high omega-3 egg)
  • Chicken/turkey sausage
  • Tofu or other vegetarian meat alternative
  • Skip the protein & add a little extra of the other ingredients

Carb- 3-4 Cups

  • 100% whole grain penne or rotini pasta
  • Brown rice/quinoa/couscous/barley
  • Potatoes; sweet, red skinned, or regular
  • Tortellini
  • Beans, any type

Fat- serving as listed

  • Olive/canola oil, 3-4 Tbsp
  • Avocado, ¼- ½ small avocado per person
  • Nuts- ½ cup
  • Cheese/cream- choose less often & in moderation

Sauce/seasoning- as needed, being mindful of sodium

  • Dry seasoning blend/herbs
  • Garlic
  • Spaghetti/marinara sauce
  • Pesto sauce (also contains fat)
  • Marinade/sauce (may contain fat)
  • Salsa

Veggies- 6-8 Cups

  • Any fresh non-starchy veggie
  • Any frozen non starchy veggie

Second, follow these Basic Directions:

  1. Start cooking the carb 1st as it may need time to cook.
  2. Heat the oil in a skillet, or use an oil mist.
  3. Cook the protein in the skillet w/ any seasonings, herbs, garlic, etc.
  4. When the carb is ready add it to the skillet (optional to keep the carb on the side)
  5. Stir in veggies & additional sauce/seasoning and cook until veggies are desired texture.

8 Healthy & Delicious Skillet Meal Combinations:

  • Southwest Skillet Meal: Ground turkey + beans & quinoa/rice + jar of salsa + carrots & onion and avocado on the side
  • Tortellini Pesto: Cubed chicken breast + tortellini + pesto sauce + California blend veggies
  • Parmesan & Shrimp: Shrimp + penne pasta + olive oil + garlic (fresh or powder) + fresh parmesan + mushrooms & broccoli
  • Fajitas: Chicken/beef strips + fajita seasoning + peppers & onions + avocado on the side + corn tortillas to hold the meat & veggies
  • Turkey Potato Surprise: Ground turkey + olive oil + chopped potatoes (cook in microwave until 75% done before chopping) + frozen green beans + a mix of light salt, pepper, garlic powder & onion powder
  • Healthy Stir-Fry: Shrimp or cubed chicken + olive oil and/or almonds + stir-fry blend veggies + rice on the side or mixed in
  • Skillet Spaghetti: Ground turkey/beef + rotini/penne pasta + spaghetti sauce + mushrooms & zucchini + olive oil or cheese
  • Healthier Tuna Helper: Canned tuna +100% whole wheat noodles + cream of mushroom soup (preferably reduced-fat/reduced sodium) + chopped celery, onions & carrots + a small salad on the side for more veggies
  • Breakfast for Dinner:  1/2 pound chicken sausage & 6 eggs + diced potatoes + mushrooms, peppers & onions + shredded cheese on top &/or sliced avocado on the side