We all get tired of coming up with new and interesting dinner ideas. When you’re trying to make the dinners healthy and you’re eliminating the standby fat-laden recipes from your repertoire, things get even more complicated. After all, there are only so many times you can eat steamed vegetables before you just can’t look another piece of broccoli in its floret.
Having a marathoner in the family (my husband) means that we have always eaten pretty healthfully. Over the past six months, however, we have really stepped up our game. Whole grains rule the carbohydrate roost and each meal and snack is typically paired with some variety of lean protein. Eating smaller portions of healthier food led to a 25-pound weight loss for me (for more details on my story, head to this post ).
Diving into a healthy eating regime is one thing, but maintaining it is an entirely different ball game (I mean, hockey game). For me, it comes down to one simple fact: I like to eat. I mean, I really like to eat. If I walk away from a meal or snack feeling gustatorially unsatisfied – you know, when the flavors just don’t tickle the taste buds the right way – then trouble may ensue.
So, I am working on building a repertoire of healthy, tasty entrees that can satisfy the whole family. Listed below are some of my family’s favorites. Please feel free to share some of your own favorites in the comment section.
Soups, Stews and Chilis
When trying to pack proteins, vegetables and grains into one meal, there’s really nothing better than a one-pot soup, stew or chili. Make life even easier for yourself by cooking a double or triple batch and freezing the extra servings in meal-sized containers. On nights that I don’t feel up to cooking, I breathe a sigh of relief when I remember that dinner is only a defrost button away.
Soups, chilis and stews typically start with a base of sautéed vegetables, such as onions, garlic, carrots, celery and/or peppers. To work in a daily dose of healthy fats, consider sautéing the veggies in olive or canola oil rather than butter. From there, the sky’s the limit. The protein part of your meal can range from chicken and seafood to lean beef and vegetarian options, such as tofu and beans. For the grains, don’t feel you need to stop at pasta. Other options can include quinoa, barley and brown rice.
Breakfast for Dinner
When I have left dinner planning until 5pm and my freezer meal supply is depleted, eggs and whole wheat waffles are my first stop. It takes no more than 20 minutes to throw together a frittata, which can be packed with a variety of vegetables, cheese and other fillings. A healthy hash, with a base of sweet potatoes, is a great way to sneak in extra vitamins with the kids barely taking notice. Serve it with ketchup or a spicy chili sauce to please everyone at the table.
The beauty of waffles is that the recipe doubles or triples easily. Let the extra waffles cool on a wire rack, then package them in resealable plastic bags before popping them into the freezer. Five minutes in a toaster oven set at 400 degrees F makes for a quick, healthy breakfast on a weekday morning.
Now we come to the no-fail crowd-pleaser, the dinner that typically satisfies everyone at the table, from the youngest noodle-slurper to the dedicated carb-loader. The actual pasta can include traditional semolina noodles, whole wheat varieties, soba noodles, rice vermicelli…really, the list is endless. Try lightening up the dishes by sticking to tomato or broth-based sauces. If you’re looking for a lower fat alternative to ricotta cheese in lasagne, consider pureeing low fat cottage cheese and mixing it with herbs for extra flavor.
Hopefully some of these dishes make their way to your dinner table. Happy and healthy eating too all of you!
Dara Michalski is the recipe developer, photographer and writer behind the blog, Cookin' Canuck. She grew up in Vancouver (and a piece of her heart remains there), but now lives in Utah with her husband and two sons. As a result of her travels and the influence of her Jamaican-raised mum, Dara enjoys incorporating international flavors into her recipes. Despite her focus on healthy eating, Dara occasionally indulges in Brie and Nutella (sometimes together). Dara can be found on Twitter and Facebook.
All images (excluding the title graphic) are courtesy of Dara Michalski