Too Busy to Cook? Here are 7 Easy-Prep Healthy Dinner Ideas

Is your stressful busy life impacting your diet? Does preparing food from scratch at home in the evening seem impossible? Yes, take-out food is easy, but it isn't always diet-friendly. Good news: with just a little planning you can put together a fast meal for one or more people.

Here are 7 ideas for quick evening meals for busy dieters

1. Smoked salmon* with sautéed vegetables

You can buy fillets of flaky smoked salmon in most grocery stores. It's ready to eat and delicious. Portion out 3 to 4 oz, depending on what you need for calories. Use pre-cut bagged vegetables like broccoli, snow peas, cauliflower, sweet peppers, string beans or summer squash. Brush a pan with peanut oil (or oil of your choice) and sauté 1-2 cups of veggies.

*alternative to smoked salmon: canned salmon or tuna, pre-cooked shrimp.

Calories: 400-500 depending on how much salmon you use and how much oil for your vegetable sauté.

2. Vegetable omelet with tossed salad

Scramble 2 eggs and cook your omelet in a pan brushed with olive oil (or oil of your choice). Fill the omelet with chopped onion, mushrooms, sweet peppers, chopped tomatoes, or minced broccoli. Sprinkle 1 Tbsp of grated parmesan cheese over the vegetables before folding the omelet over. Serve with a salad of dark tossed leafy greens with a dash of olive oil vinaigrette.

Calories: around 400, depending on how much dressing you use.

3. Burger patty with sautéed greens and mushrooms

Grill or pan fry 4 oz of ground meat of choice: lean beef, bison, turkey. Rinse a bunch of greens (chard, kale, fresh spinach, beet greens), trim off stems and slice into large pieces. Slice 4-5 mushrooms. Saute the greens and mushrooms in a pan brushed with oil of your choice. Season with soy sauce, or just salt and pepper. Serve your burger with condiments like BBQ sauce, chopped tomatoes, sliced onion, or sautéed mushrooms and peppers.

Calories: depending on what meat and condiments you choose, from 400-500 calories.

4. Soup and sides

Use a quality (low sodium/no MSG) soup, preferably vegetable or minestrone. Throw some extra frozen vegetables into the soup, such as cut green beans, peas, lima beans, edamame, chopped spinach or carrots, or 1/4 cup of canned beans like kidney or pinto. Portion out 2 oz of a high protein food of your choice: cheese, cottage cheese, hard boiled egg, deli turkey, leftover cooked chicken or canned tuna. You can add the protein food to a green side salad, or to the soup for a one pot meal.

Calories: around 400, depending on your portion size.

5. Yogurt and fruit

This option works well for hot summer evenings, especially when fresh fruit is in season. Nonfat Greek style yogurt will boost the protein content of the meal while keeping calories low. Dish up 8 oz of yogurt. Either mix fruit chunks or berries in, or make a small fruit salad.

Calories: around 400 depending on how the yogurt is sweetened and how much fruit you use.

6. Grilled chicken breast and frisée salad

Grill a chicken breast, either boned or bone-in, brushed with a tiny amount of olive oil. Make a quick frisée salad with packaged pre-shredded vegetables: cabbage, Brussels sprouts, carrots, radishes, red onion and sweet peppers are great choices. Drizzle the salad with vinegar (cider vinegar works well), salt and pepper. Add a tiny pinch of dried dill or caraway seeds for extra flavor. Flavor the chicken with a condiment of your choice, such as salsa, mustard, BBQ sauce or an Asian-style sauce.

Calories: 300-500 depending on the size of the chicken breast and which condiments are used.

7. Tossed salad

A big tossed salad, with a wide variety of vegetables, is a satisfying evening meal that doesn't need to break the calorie bank. The key is to use a bare minimum of oil-based dressing and definitely add a high protein food like leftover cooked chicken or turkey, grated cheese, feta cheese, cooked fish like salmon, shrimp or tuna, chunks of tofu, or some combination of these.

One flavorful combination is 3 oz cooked turkey plus 1 Tbsp grated Parmesan. Use a low calorie dressing if you like or use 1 Tbsp of olive oil plus vinegar, salt and pepper to boost your intake of healthy fats.

Calories: 400-500, depending on which protein foods you choose and the size of your salad.

Originally Published 24 December, 2013
Updated: August 15, 2019

Donna P Feldman MS RDN

is author of "Feed Your Vegetarian Teen", writes about food and nutrition at Radio Nutrition and is co-host of the Walk Talk Nutrition podcast series.

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Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.

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Meal Planning & Diets/Dinner

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