Tips for Quick and Healthy Dinners

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If your plate includes lots of colorful vegetables, your healthy meal is off to a good start. Include a type of whole grain, such as brown rice, whole wheat bread, or whole wheat tortillas. For protein, think lean. Good choices are grilled chicken, fish, or pork, or beans or tofu. For cooking, use healthy fats, such as olive or canola oil. Flavor your foods with herbs and lemon instead of salt.

Here are a few ideas for making quick, healthy dinners.

  • Keep your kitchen stocked with healthy basics.

    When you have foods within reach, you can pull together a quick dinner if you're pressed for time. Here are a few ideas for foods to keep on hand:

    • Frozen chicken breasts and fish fillets, without breading.
    • Frozen vegetables.
    • Frozen and canned fruits in their own juices (not with added syrup).
    • Canned beans, such as pinto beans, white beans, and black beans.
    • Low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth.
    • Tomato sauce and pasta sauce.
    • Whole-grain pasta and brown rice.
    • Onions and garlic.
  • Let the grocery store do some of the work for you.

    Look for precut, washed, ready-to-eat foods such as:

    • Packaged fresh vegetables, such as baby carrots, salad mixes, and chopped broccoli and cauliflower. These are great for making quick salads, soups, casseroles, and stir-fries.
    • Packaged, presliced fresh fruits, such as melon or pineapple. You can add these to a container of low-fat yogurt to make an easy fruit salad.
    • Precut, trimmed meat. Trimmed meat has less fat. And meat that has already been cut into strips or cubes cuts down on your preparation time.
    • Precooked chicken. Many grocery stores sell roast chicken in the deli section. You can chop or shred the cooked chicken and use it in burritos, soups, and casseroles.
  • Make "almost homemade" dinners.

    Start with one or two prepared ingredients, and then add your own fresh ingredients. Try the following ideas:

    • Pizza. A premade pizza crust and a jar of pizza sauce can be the start of a healthy pizza. Just add plenty of fresh vegetables and a sprinkle of low-fat mozzarella.
    • Vegetable soup. Make quick vegetable soup by combining low-sodium canned chicken broth, frozen vegetables, and some uncooked brown rice or whole-grain noodles.
    • Asian chicken salad. Combine grilled chicken breast slices with a bag of prewashed lettuce, canned mandarin orange slices, and slivered almonds to make an easy Asian chicken salad. A store-bought ginger-soy vinaigrette can complete the salad.
    • Fish tacos. Use frozen fish fillets, such as cod, and bagged shredded cabbage to make easy fish tacos. Place the cooked fish and the cabbage in corn tortillas. Top with salsa, lime juice, and low-fat sour cream.
    • Stir-fry. Use precut vegetables, precut and trimmed meat, and canned pineapple chunks to make a quick and flavorful dinner. Serve with steamed brown rice.

Related Information


Current as of: September 20, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board
All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.

The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.