7 Healthy Dinner Ideas for Busy School NightsBy Carole Anderson Lucia Reviewed by Briana Rodriquez, R.D. Healthy Recipe Ideas
If you’re part of a busy family, you undoubtedly know that weeknights can get a bit crazy as you wrangle kids’ homework, extracurricular activities and sports — all while trying to get a healthy meal on the table that everyone will not only eat, but actually enjoy. And while it might be tempting to head to the drive-thru on the way home from soccer practice or piano lessons, eating out too often isn’t good for your waistline — or your health.
The issue can get even more tricky if you’re on a path to weight loss. After all, you don’t want to spend oodles of time planning and cooking meals that everyone but you can enjoy.
But don’t worry: We’ve got you covered. We’ve rounded up some easy weeknight dinners you can prepare for your family in a flash — and if you’re on the Jenny Craig plan, we’ve included complementary meals you can enjoy alongside your loved ones. (Because who wants to feel left out of those all-important family meals?) Read on for seven quick, easy, healthy meals that are sure to delight the entire family!
1. Taco salad
Lettuce, tomatoes, black or pinto beans, onions, red bell pepper, cooked ground turkey and a bit of low-fat shredded cheese make for a fast, delicious, family-pleasing meal. Want extra fiber and nutrition points — and crunch? Swap out iceberg lettuce for shredded green cabbage.
2. Roasted chicken and veggies
If you’ve got about two hours to put dinner together while the kids are at soccer practice, there’s nothing simpler than roasting a chicken alongside a collection of vegetables. Broccoli, carrots, onions, parsnips: Virtually any type of veggie goes great with delicious, versatile poultry.
If you don’t have enough time to roast a whole chicken in the oven, an Instant Pot can cut the cooking time dramatically: It takes just 25 minutes or so to cook an entire 4-pound chicken (plus extra time to rest). Or, even easier: Pick up a roasted chicken from your grocery store — just make sure to remove the skin before serving as it can add unwanted calories and fat.
3. Pasta with pesto
Pesto is not only a great way to get some extra greens into your kids’ meals, but it’s super simple to make (5 minutes max), takes just a few ingredients (basil, olive oil, garlic, pine nuts and Parmesan cheese, whirled in a blender or food processor) — and your little ones are guaranteed to love it! Pair it with some meatballs and a side salad and you’ve got a healthy weeknight dinner for the family. If your goals include weight loss: Try to watch your portion sizes. We recommend a half cup of cooked pasta mixed with a tablespoon of homemade pesto sauce to keep your calorie and fat intake within a healthy range.
4. Cauliflower rice bowls
There’s a reason cauliflower rice is a thing: It’s quick, delicious, low-calorie and versatile — and it’s got more nutrients than standard white rice. Mix in some peas, onions, garlic, broccoli and a protein of your choice and you’ve got a delicious, low-calorie, family-friendly meal.
5. Baked potato bar
You’ll need about an hour to cook the potatoes unless you make them ahead of time or zap them in the microwave, but this meal is simple — and something even the most finicky of eaters will gobble up. Put out a selection of toppings (cooked, chopped turkey bacon; steamed broccoli; roasted asparagus; and low-fat cheese, to name just a few,) and let your kids make their own concoction … they’ll love it! (And research1 suggests that when children are involved in making meals, they’re more likely to eat healthfully — even their vegetables!)
Butter vs. olive oil: Which is a healthier potato bar topping? The answer is olive oil. Olive oil packs a rich flavor just like butter, but is a much healthier option as it contains healthy fats such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
6. Shrimp stir fry
Bok choy, fresh ginger, garlic, snow peas, red bell pepper and shrimp make for a super-fast dinner that everyone is sure to love. Serve it over a half cup of cooked brown rice or a cup of cauliflower rice … so delicious and so healthy!
7. Chicken or tuna salad wraps
Chicken or light tuna, shredded carrots, lettuce, celery and red onion, all wrapped in a tortilla, is an excellent choice for a warm evening. Want even more nutrition? Swap out flour tortillas for whole-wheat or spinach tortillas. Just keep an eye on your portion size (some store bought tortillas can contain over 300 calories each2) and which condiments you’re using to avoid adding extra calories and unhealthy fat. Instead of mayo, try mixing in nonfat plain Greek yogurt, or a blend of mustard, lemon juice and spices.
In addition to providing opportunities for bonding and daily check-ins, sitting down for family meals may bring demonstrable benefits for your children, including healthier eating patterns.3 We hope we’ve given you the motivation — as well as plenty of healthy dinner ideas for you and your kids — to help make those family meals as simple and delicious as possible!
Do you need more tips and tricks on how to eat healthily with your family? Your Jenny Craig consultant can help! Click here to get started today.
Carole Anderson Lucia
Carole is an award-winning journalist based in Southern California who specializes in health and wellness topics. Her work has appeared in Parents, Fit Pregnancy, Mom & Baby, Yahoo News, Viv magazine and Lifescript. She's won several national awards for her work including a National Science Award and two National Health Information awards. A frequent contributor to Jenny Craig’s Blog, Healthy Habits, she enjoys gardening, spending time at the beach and adopting far too many rescue animals in her spare time.
Favorite healthy snack: jicama dipped in homemade hummus
Reviewed by: Briana Rodriquez, RDN
Briana is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Personal Trainer for Jenny Craig, based in Carlsbad, California. She is passionate about utilizing food as functional and preventative medicine. Guided by a simplistic and optimistic approach, Briana’s philosophy is to help people improve their health and achieve their goals through the development of sustainable habits to live a healthy life. In her free time, you can find her strength training, indoor cycling, coffee tasting, and at local eateries with her husband and two dogs.
Favorite healthy snack: peanut butter with celery alongside a grapefruit-flavored sparkling water (so refreshing!)
This article is based on scientific research and/or other scientific articles and was written by an experienced health and lifestyle contributor and fact-checked by Briana Rodriquez, RDN, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist at Jenny Craig.
Our goal at Jenny Craig is to provide the most up-to-date and objective information on health-related topics, so our readers can make informed decisions based on factual content. All articles undergo an extensive review process, and depending on topic, are reviewed by a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) or Nutritionist, to ensure accuracy.
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