Tips for Easy, Healthy Dinners

Elizabeth M. Ward, M.S., R.D. demonstrates that healthy, fall dinners can be accomplished without spending hours over the stove.

Dinner can be daunting task, but a little planning can go a long way. Establishing a routine that works for you and your family is a must, but that doesn’t mean you need to eat the same meals week in and week out. The good news is that simple meals can be healthy without being bland. Nutritious dinners don’t require costly ingredients, nor do they necessarily take hours to prepare and clean up.

Here are some simple strategies I’ve learned to get dinner on the table with minimum fuss.

Go with family favorites. I find dinner is more relaxed when I know that everyone likes what I’ve made.  Of course, you can’t always please everyone in the family, but you can come close. Poll family members about their favorite dishes, and what entrees they’d like to try.  Check out the recipe below for a new family favorite in our household.

Stop to shop.  I don’t like going to the grocery store, so I shop for food just once a week.  After you know what you will prepare for weeknight meals, decide what ingredients you need. It’s much easier to “get it and forget it” when it comes to ingredients than it is to run to the store multiple times during the week. Frequent trips waste time and gasoline, and you may end up buying more than what you had intended.

Cook once, eat twice. There’s no reason to cook every night. Roast a chicken or turkey for Sunday night supper. Use leftovers to make quesadillas for Monday night and soup for another weeknight meal.  Prepare a large pot of chili or pan of lasagna and freeze the rest for two more meals in the coming weeks.

Have a Plan B.  For the times when my dinner-making plans go awry, I rely on go-to meals that take minutes to make, and are nutritious and delicious. They include:

• Portabella mushroom burgers with sharp cheddar cheese and a slab of juicy tomato on whole grain buns with fruit and a green salad.

• Spinach and feta cheese pie (I keep one in the freezer), rice, fruit, and milk.

• Frozen turkey meatballs over pasta, green salad, fruit, and milk.

Make it easier on yourself.  When you’re strapped for time, rely on produce that makes life easier, including sliced mushrooms, pre-washed salad greens, and cubed butternut squash. I always keep frozen peas,corn, and fruit canned in its own juice on hand, too.

Use a slow cooker. It’s comforting to know you’ve got dinner covered with a slow cooker dish started earlier in the day. With slow cookers, you fix the food and it’s ready when you want it. Here’s a recipe I recently tried from Everyday Gluten-Free Slow Cooking by Kimberly Mayone and Kitty Broiher, MS, RD. It’s easy to make, delicious, and my family loves it. I serve it with regular egg noodles; if you’re going gluten-free, use gluten-free pasta or rice.

Beef Stroganoff

Serves 4 (about 1 ¼ cups each)


  • 1 ¼ pounds sirloin tip steak, trimmed of visible fat and cut into ½-inch slices
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 (8-ounce) package sliced baby bella mushrooms
  • ¼ cup cold water
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon beef bouillon
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill (optional)


  1. Add the steak, onions, and mushrooms to the slow cooker crock; set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, stir together the water and cornstarch until starch is dissolved and mixture has no lumps. Pour it into the slow cooker crock; then stir in the beef bouillon, salt, and garlic. Cover and cook on LOW 8 hours (or 4 hours on HIGH).
  3. Turn off the slow cooker; stir in the sour cream.
  4. To serve, spoon the Stroganoff over noodles or rice. Garnish each portion with fresh dill, if desired.

Recipe used with permission.



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