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Now that summer is over and you’re settling into your new routine, chances are, you’re searching for easy healthy dinner ideas. Although I love to cook and manage to get dinner on the table (almost) every night, I’m still a home chef, so I’m always searching for recipes for healthy meals that won’t cost me a ton of time or money—and I bet you are too.
Why you absolutely need easy healthy dinner ideas
Let’s get real: whether you work full-time, part-time, in an office, at home—or not at all, we all have way too much on our plates!
Despite all the images that clog up your social media feeds of moms whipping up the most amazing, healthy dinners for their kids and looking beautiful to boot, it’s simply not realistic.
In fact, a recent survey commissioned by Campbell’s Well Yes! Sipping Soups and conducted by OnePoll found moms spend 97 hours a week doing laundry, cooking meals, and drawing and creating art projects with their kids, among other parenting to-do’s.
When it comes to our spouses, no surprise here, but most aren’t doing their fair share, which makes our jobs even more difficult.
According to a February 2018 study in the journal Demography, married moms spend more time cleaning, cooking, shopping and doing laundry than single moms.
And another study found that married moms who are the sole breadwinners in the families do nearly an hour of housework on average when they get home compared to about 11 minutes that married fathers who are sole breadwinners do.
Although dads are spending more time on childcare—about 8 hours a week— moms still spend more time—about 14 hours a week—according to research by the Pew Research Center.
Oh—and let’s not forget about life. Sick kid? Special needs kid? Caring for a parent? Marital problems? Car trouble? Household repairs? Debt? You might aspire to cook elaborate meals every night but easy healthy dinner ideas are what you need.
What easy healthy dinner ideas look like
When you’re looking for new dinner ideas, there are some things to keep in mind because not all recipes are created equal.
While I don’t recommend you count calories for your kids, you should make sure that the recipes you choose strike a balance between the calories they need in their diets and the amount you’re looking for, especially if you’re trying to lose weight.
Of course, you’ll also want to be mindful of the amount of saturated fat and sugar as well.
Vegetables are the star—or at least make an appearance
One of the first ingredients you should look for are vegetables. According to the USDA’s MyPlate recommendations, a healthy plate consists of 50 percent fruits and vegetables.
If the recipe doesn’t include vegetables—or enough—be sure to serve up your own.
Vegetables are filled with fiber which will help them stay satiated and may prevent weight gain. Add a fruit for dessert and you’re all set.
Protein helps to build muscle, carry nutrients through the body, regulate hormones, and strengthen skin and bones. Making sure you include protein with dinner also satisfies your kid’s hunger, balances blood sugar and prevents weight gain.
Include protein sources like eggs, chicken, turkey, beef (grass fed is best), beans and legumes, tofu and tempeh.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans also recommend 50 percent of the grains we eat be made up of whole grains, which are a great source of B vitamins, zinc, magnesium and fiber.
Unlike white, refined grains, whole grains do a better job of satisfying hunger and balancing blood sugar. Good choices include whole wheat pasta, whole wheat couscous, brown or black rice, quinoa, farro and freekeh.
Healthy fats are a vital source of energy for our kids and help satisfy their hunger.
They’re essential for healthy cell membranes, they support kids’ brains and the growth and development of their nervous systems, and help their bodies absorb fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K.
Fat is also necessary to make hormones and immune cells and help regulate inflammation and metabolism. Healthy fats are found in foods like fish, nuts and seeds, and avocado.
What to look for in easy health dinner recipes
In addition to the nutritional value, here are some guidelines to help you choose healthy recipes.
A short list of simple ingredients
If a recipe calls for something obscure or an herb I don’t have on hand, I pass on it.
The key is to make your life easy and look for recipes that not only use the ingredients you usually have in your kitchen, but also a short list of ingredients so that you can pull dinner together quickly and easily.
30-45 minutes or less
It takes time to wash, cut and chop vegetables so I do a lot of my prep work ahead of time on the weekends, at night or in the morning before my kids wake up.
Whether you do prep work ahead of time or not, the key is to look for recipes that have a total prep and cook time of about 30 to 45 minutes or less.
Sheet pan meals and one-pot meals
One of the quickest ways to get a healthy dinner on the table is to look for sheet pan recipes or one-pot recipes. These methods are super-efficient and cut down on clean-up time too.
Use an Instant Pot or slow cooker
Although it’s pricey, one of the best appliances I use is my Vitamix. You can use it to make soups, breads, doughs, dips, nut butters, sauces, dressings and marinades, appetizers, dinners and side dishes—it’s pretty amazing.
How to find easy healthy dinner ideas
Finding new recipes doesn’t have to be time consuming or disorganized with these easy tips.
Have a cookbook on hand
Call me old-fashioned, but if you want to have easy healthy dinner ideas at the ready, keep a few of your favorite cookbooks on your bookshelf or in your kitchen pantry. Relying on a handful of recipes makes getting dinner on the table easy.
Pin recipes on Pinterest
Head on over to Pinterest and pin meal ideas to your boards for easy access.
Follow Hashtags on Instagram
If you love Instagram as much as I do for discovering healthy meal ideas, follow hashtags like #healthydinnerideas, #healthykidsfood and #healthykidsmeals for some serious inspo.
You might find what looks like a great recipe, but when a friend confirms that it’s easy and healthy (and maybe their kids even like it), you know you’re golden.
Stick with your favorite food bloggers
Once you find a favorite food blogger who has great recipes, chances are, they’ll continue to publish more of the same. Sign up for their newsletters, subscribe to their YouTube channels and follow them on social.
Easy healthy dinner ideas
These 10 easy healthy dinner ideas will get you out of your dinner rut and help you serve up healthy meals in no time.
Sheet pan dinners
1. Bursting with bright veggies, packed with protein, and made with healthy fats and whole grains to boot, these Sheet Pan Steak Fajitas are the perfect meal to make on busy weeknights.
2. I’m a huge fan of Gina Homolka’s SkinnyTaste.com and her recipe for Sheet Pan Parmesan “Fried” Chicken with Broccoli and Sweet Potato Wedges is a balanced, healthy meal for your family.
Instant Pot recipes
3. This Healthy Turkey Chili Recipe is filled with protein and fiber and the best part is that you can make it in your Instant Pot, slow cooker or stove top.
4. Brimming with the brain and heart-healthy fats kids need, this Salmon, Sweet Potato and Broccoli recipe looks delicious and is quick and easy.
5. It doesn’t get much easier than baked chicken breasts and this recipe for Oven-Baked Chicken Breasts will help you get a tender and juicy chicken on the table in minutes flat.
6. Who says you can’t get dinner on the table in 20 minutes? This recipe for Chicken, Rice and Vegetable Skillet is packed with protein and plenty of flavor.
7. Eggs are superfoods for kids and this recipe for Scrambled Egg Tacos looks amazing.
8. Beans and Greens are the ultimate easy and healthy gluten-free meal. Make a large batch and have enough for school lunches all week long.
Vegetarian and vegan meals
9. I’m always a fan of Cookie and Kate’s recipes and this one for Roasted Cauliflower and Farro Salad with Feta and Avocado is the ultimate healthy vegetarian meal. Roasted cauliflower is savory and the farro, avocado and feta make for a delicious flavor combination.
10. Lentils are a staple in my house and this recipe for Everyday Vegan Lentil Soup is a super-easy way to get more plant-based foods in your kid’s diet.