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Easiest Way to Cook a Healthy DinnerThe 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.  If you are trying to lose weight be sure to also follow my hunger scale.

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

Did you enjoy this non-diet nutrition blog?

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Dina Garcia, RD, LDN
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