When it comes to dinner planning, there tends to be a lot of different boxes one must tick. Coming up with a satisfying meal each evening means taking into account the dietary restrictions and preferences of different family members, staying on budget, working with whatever amount of time is available for cooking and shopping, keeping nutrition in mind, and not to mention ensuring that the dinner actually tastes good!
All of these conflicting factors can make it all too easy to get stuck in a cooking rut, making the same few less-than-healthy dinners night after night. Or worse, calling for takeout because it’s all just too overwhelming and hey, people need to eat!
To help you break out of your routine and start to shift some of those unhealthy eating patterns, we’re sharing our top 40 easy healthy dinner ideas. With our guide, you’ve got the perfect jumping off point for revolutionizing your meal time, any time!
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Getting Healthier Meals on the Table: An Important Issue
Not only are the concepts of healthy meal planning and food education at the forefront of day-to-day life of families in every community, but there is actually a holiday in which these issues are given special attention!
The official host of Food Revolution Day--which occurs every year on May 15th--is none other than Jamie Oliver, celebrity chef, restaurateur, and philanthropist. As a professional in the food industry, he is faced firsthand with the worldwide problems of unhealthy eating habits and diet-related illnesses. Food Revolution Day is just one day out of the year to focus on taking action towards improving these issues.
40 Easy Healthy Dinner Ideas to Revolutionize Your Meal Routine
Thankfully, a bit of education and cooking inspo go a long way in the fight against these preventable problems. We are here to join the fight for a Food Revolution, providing you and your family with the tools and information needed to change your meal routine for the better.
We’ve gathered together our favorite recipes for healthy dinners that the whole family will enjoy, learn from, and hopefully feel inspired by.
Below you’ll find ideas for all meal situations whether you are looking for something new to expand your existing knowledge of dishes and ingredients, or just you want some healthier dinner choices for busy weeknights. We’re even covering a few wellness-inspired after dinner treats because what dinner is truly complete without a little something sweet afterwards!
Think of this as our “healthy dinner cookbook”, organized into the following chapters: Healthy Dinners in a Hurry, Make-Ahead Healthy Meals, Light Fare–Heavy on Flavor, Comfort Food Classics–With a Healthy Twist!, Super Inspiring Meal Ideas, and After-Dinner Treats That Aren’t Cheating.
Without further ado, let’s get cooking!
Healthy Dinners in a Hurry
Making a delicious meal shouldn’t always call for long hours in the kitchen. Sometimes there’s simply no time for that, and other times, there’s simply no energy for it either!
For these reasons we have compiled our favorite quick-cooking and of course healthy recipes. These options will be especially ideal for weeknight dinners, or any meal for which you find yourself with a bit less time on your hands. Because out of all things, being a bit short on time shouldn’t be a barrier in the road to food revolution!
From start to finish, this healthy dinner recipe takes only 30 minutes and the combination of hearty red snapper, chickpeas, and cherry tomatoes is oh-so satisfying.
This recipe calls for plenty of good quality olive oil, meaning each portion is also full of plenty of healthy fats and antioxidants!
These zucchini noodles are an excellent low carb answer to your pasta cravings, and when tossed in our simple sauce made of peanut butter, honey, soy sauce, and sesame oil--this is one dish that will knock out any takeout hankerings as well!
This whole meal takes just 20 minutes to prepare, and you can either make your zucchini noodles by using a spiralizer, or you can even spiralize your zoodles without any fancy equipment. Just check our guide on how to make zucchini noodles without a spiralizer.
Yet another way to get dinner on the table in a mere 20 minutes, our Creamy Sun Dried Tomato Pasta is as luxurious as it is easy. It all boils down to the sauce, as where many creamed sauce recipes call for the addition of heavy cream and butter, this healthy alternative pasta sauce gets its thick velvety texture from almond milk thickened with a corn flour based roux.
The rich sauce is perfectly punctuated by the sweet-tart taste of those sun dried tomatoes while nutritional yeast delivers the cheesy flavor to the table, all while keeping the recipe entirely vegan!
Out of all animal protein sources, shrimp is hands down one of the healthiest! It provides plenty of complete protein as well as minerals like selenium and phosphorus and heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
Not a cilantro lover? Use fresh parsley instead! These two fresh herbs are certainly different from one another but if you’re one of those folks to whom fresh cilantro tastes like soap, different is not a bad thing! This Cilantro Lime Shrimp only takes 20 minutes to make, and you can serve it over rice or polenta to make it into a complete meal.
Breakfast for dinner? Yes, please! Especially when it’s as filling as our take on a Greek Omelette. Sliced onions, crumbly feta cheese, briny black olives, and nutrient dense cherry tomatoes come together to make this humble egg mixture into a serious meal.
The art of omelette making is always made easier by using solid and well-cared for nonstick cookware, which allows you to flip and fold your omelette as needed!
Contrary to popular belief, homemade soup is not something that needs to simmer all day. This Vegan Ramen recipe takes just 20 minutes and leaves you with a bowl of soothing, deeply flavored soup. The trick is using store bought vegetable stock and boosting it with coconut milk--for that rich mouthfeel--and red curry paste.
Along with the noodles of course, this recipe also calls for sugar snap peas--one of many different types of peas!--as well as mushrooms, carrots, ginger, and cilantro. If you feel like making this meal a bit heartier, feel free to add cubed tofu or any other protein of your choice.
It’s one of the best kept secrets of the food industry that home cooking doesn’t mean you have to cook absolutely everything yourself. The most important thing is to buy fresh, good quality products which you can easily tailor to your tastes and put your own spin on.
Our Ravioli with Sautéed Asparagus and Walnuts recipe demonstrates just that, as it is based on store bought ravioli which is jazzed up and health-ified by the addition of fresh asparagus and omega-3 rich walnuts!
Make-Ahead Healthy Meals
We get it, the idea of meal prep can be such a pain! However, having a set of delicious and easy make-ahead meals is one of the best ways to help meal time go smoothly on busy nights, or whenever you need a home cooked meal with minimal effort. Premade meals are also an excellent tool to help fight against those takeout urges.
Here are some healthy dinner recipes that you can make ahead of time, stow in the freezer or fridge, then reheat when you need to eat--thereby allowing you to get dinner to the table without any kitchen nightmares!
Up for a little legume love? Our Vegan Moroccan Lentil Soup calls for both green and red lentils, each of which imparts different texture and flavor characteristics into the soup. Take note that lentils are decidedly different from split peas, so be sure not to get these two legumes mixed up in your soup making process!
This soup is a fantastic slow cooker option, but before you get cooking, be sure to check out our Top Tips for How to Use a Crock Pot! Crock pot cooking is extra useful if you are doing this as a make ahead meal. Just go ahead and refrigerate the soup in containers, then heat and garnish when it’s time to eat.
If you’ve never made your own empanadas before, now is your chance! We take you step by step through the process of making empanada dough by hand, or you can use your favorite food processor to hasten things along.
These festive empanadas pack big flavors with just the right combination of sweet pumpkin, savory leeks, and salty feta cheese. They’re one of the best make-ahead meals as once your empanadas are formed, you can pop them right into the freezer and pull them out whenever you need a fast weeknight dinner!
Who knew that this green veggie could make for such a satisfactory meat substitute! The secret to success with these Zucchini Meatballs is to ensure that you remove as much water as possible from your grated zucchini before mixing it with the other ingredients. Doing so helps to produce meatballs which will hold together more readily and take on a crispier exterior as they cook.
Once cooked, these meatballs can be refrigerated for several days or frozen for up to 3 months. When it’s finally time to enjoy them, simply smother them in marinara or tomato sauce and hit them with a nice shower of grated parmesan cheese.
Some folks might think that chili is one of those dishes that must be lovingly labored over in order to be delicious, but we’re out to prove them wrong with this recipe for Vegetarian Chili! Ready in just 35 minutes, this recipe takes advantage of canned or otherwise pre-cooked kidney beans and chickpeas as well as great tasting canned diced tomatoes.
The whole mess is seasoned with garlic, cumin, lemon juice, and paprika (or a suitable paprika substitute!) and once cooked, can be cooled down and refrigerated or frozen. Or if you’d like an alternate make-ahead technique, simply chop and prep all of your ingredients ahead of time and refrigerate the individual components until you are ready to cook!
Most types of tacos are an excellent make-ahead meal, and healthy tacos are no different! With Pulled Mushroom Tacos, you can prep and cook your taco “meat” mixture, then store it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. You can even slice and dice your desired toppings such as shredded lettuce, sliced radishes, chopped cilantro, or diced onion.
You may use any style of taco shells you like, whether you prefer soft flour or corn tortillas or crispy crunchy taco shells. A wise move would be to stock up on extra taco shells and keep them in the freezer so that you can be ready for taco night on a moment's notice!
Buddha bowls are the ultimate all in one meal as they combine protein, starch, vegetables, and a flavorful dressing all in the same dish! The problem is, however, that all of these different components take a bit of time to prepare.
This makes it all the more useful that our Vegan Buddha Bowl has several items that can be made in advance. You can cook your rice ahead of time (we recommend using a rice cooker for maximum ease!) and whisk up that dressing in advance as it can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week.
This baked chicken recipe is an excellent weapon in the make-ahead arsenal as you can marinate your chicken pieces overnight. When the next day’s meal time rolls around, you simply need to toss the chicken in the oven!
In order to make the marinade, Jamie Oliver instructs to use a mortar and pestle to grind the aromatics and spices. After marinating, the chicken will bake for about an hour, then you just need to serve it with some fresh cilantro leaves, flatbread (if desired!), and a dollop of yogurt or sour cream.
Light Fare, Heavy on Flavor
Days when you’ve had a big lunch or otherwise aren’t in the mood for a heavy stick-to-your-ribs meal in the evening are no excuse for skimping on the nutrition--or enjoyable flavors!--in your dinner. The following healthy food ideas are perfect for serving as a light dinner as you can enjoy as much as you like without feeling weighed down into food coma territory.
Many of these healthy meal options are adjustable as well, meaning you can opt to add or remove certain ingredients to suit your tastes, or toss in protein if you suddenly find yourself in the mood for something a bit heartier.
This hearty salad tastes unbelievably light and fresh, but still packs plenty of protein thanks to those amazing chickpeas. It also includes a rainbow’s worth of polyphenol rich veggies such as yellow bell pepper, crunchy green cucumber, bright red cherry tomatoes, and purple onion.
The whole salad is tossed in a flavorful vinaigrette of lemon juice, honey, garlic, and oregano which requires nothing more than a whisk and a bowl to whip up!
Our recipe calls for feta cheese but you could easily omit this (and the honey) in order to make this recipe vegan, or go ahead and add diced chicken breast or flaked tuna if you eat meat and would like to up the hearty ante!
From the Food Revolution Day creator himself comes this Sweet & Sour Stir Fry recipe, loaded with plenty of crunchy bean sprouts, snap peas, and pineapple and served over thin rice noodles.
You can use any large frying pan or skillet to whip up this dish, but if you have a well-designed wok, now is the time to break it out! The key is to use the same pan for cooking all of the different ingredients, as this is what truly builds up those complex flavors.
These fish cakes require a few different steps, but are well worth your efforts. To start with, you must cook and cool a fresh cod fish fillet, or you may use any type of meaty white fish you like the best. Once cooled, the fish is flaked and mixed with seasoning and binding ingredients before being shaped and baked in the oven!
Of course, if you’re feeling decadent you may also shallow fry your fish cakes in a pan of oil. If you opt for this route, your meal will likely be disqualified from our “Light Fare” category, but don’t worry, this is still worlds healthier than any fried fish you’d get in a restaurant and we won’t tell anyone!
This healthy chicken recipe may taste rich, but is actually nothing more than pure protein and veggies--not a starch in sight! The lightweight marinade of olive oil, Cajun seasoning, and lime juice (make sure to store your limes properly so they yield as much juice as possible!) helps the grilled chicken to take on that rich, charred flavor as it cooks.
Using lean chicken breast here as opposed to chicken legs or chicken thighs will decrease the overall fat content of the recipe as well as boost the amount of protein you’re getting in each and every bite!
It may say the word “lunch” right there in the title but rest assured, this bowl of Mediterranean style goodness can make for a wonderful and easy dinner option as well! Hearty whole grains are topped with fresh veggies like tomato and cucumber, along with fruity Kalamata olives. Note: this is not the time for cracking that can of generic black olives as they offer a completely different flavor and texture experience as compared to Kalamatas!
Our version of this lunch bowl calls for cooked quinoa but you can use any type of whole grain you like as the basis for this tasty meal. Try bulgur wheat, brown rice, millet, barley, or wild rice if you like.
Traditional fried rice, especially those takeout versions, are typically far from light and healthy--but oh how it tastes so so good! That’s why we love this cauliflower based version of fried rice, as it gives you all of the flavor without the carb overload!
You can use store-bought cauliflower rice (look for it in the freezer section or produce department!) or you can make your own by tossing cauliflower florets in your trusty food processor and pulsing until finely ground.
Quinoa strikes again, except this time with a flavor profile that is worthy of a full-blown fiesta! The Mexican Quinoa Salad brings big flavors of onion, jalapeno, and lime juice to the party along with plenty of fresh ingredients like corn kernels and avocado.
Cooked black beans give this salad a source of protein, but you could successfully substitute any other cooked legumes, beans, or pulses that you have on hand.
Comfort Food Classics–With a Healthy Twist!
Upon hearing the words “healthy dinner recipes”, one might immediately think they’re in for a limited list of salad and lean protein options.
However, as important as it is to limit the number of heavy fats and carbs in your weekly dinner rotation, it’s equally as important to have healthy meal ideas you can reach for when those comfort food cravings strike. This collection of comforting dinner recipes includes all of those warm, cozy, hearty meals that nourish our souls as much as our bodies--each with a healthy twist of course!
Oh how exciting is it when soup season rolls around each year, although to be honest, soup-eating is a year round affair here! Out of all soup varieties, we think that creamy pureed soups have got to be some of the most comforting and this homemade cream of mushroom soup is an example of just that.
This soup recipe calls for a ton of sliced mushrooms, so it’s definitely the occasion to bring out your biggest and best stock pot! We also recommend that you use an immersion blender here but if you don’t have one, you could also use an upright blender, just be sure to clean your blender thoroughly after using it to make this rich soup!
There’s no debating the fact that mac and cheese is a favorite pasta meal for kids and adults alike! Traditionally though, macaroni and cheese is far from healthy eating, so we’ve taken a new approach with our Cauliflower Mac and Cheese.
No pasta, no heavy cream, just cauliflower florets smothered in a creamy sauce made of calcium rich whole milk and sharply flavored cheddar cheese. For best results, you’re going to want to broil your Cauli Mac at the end of cooking, so reach for the cast iron skillet if you have one. While you’re at it, make sure you know how to properly clean and care for your cast iron after all of that golden-brown bubbly cheesy goodness has been devoured out of it!
We ask you, what screams comfort food louder than “pizza”? Not much! It might seem a little daunting to think about making your own pizza from scratch--yes, including the dough!--but rest assured, this pizza recipe is easy as pie.
The dough is made from extremely basic ingredients: just whole wheat flour, brown sugar, yeast, and salt. The toppings include protein rich cashew cheese, pesto, pomegranate arils, and of course: pumpkin!
Making homemade pizza is a great way to get the entire family involved in the dinner making process, especially if you have fun pizza making equipment like a pizza peel and a pizza stone. Seeing as educating kids on cooking skills is one of the key tenets of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution Day, Vegan Pumpkin Pizza might just be the most perfect thing to make!
Even if you have never even heard of banh xeo before, we bet you can agree that these savory Vietnamese stuffed crepes most certainly hit the comfort food button!
We used a filling of fish, shrimp, and plenty of vegetables in our version but you can certainly use meat, tofu (press your own if you’re feeling ambitious!), or make them entirely veggie centric!
This healthy chicken casserole style meal is deeply flavored by red chilies, fresh eggplant, spicy cinnamon, and piquant little capers. Jamie Oliver recommends serving it over a scoop of his Lemon Couscous, but any other grain would do the trick as well! You might even try some mildly flavored vegetables such as roasted cauliflower florets or spaghetti squash.
This recipe calls for just a few sprigs of fresh basil, but chances are you’re going to have to purchase a whole bunch or in some stores, a whole small plant! If you have leftover fresh basil and no way to use it up, you might try turning it into dried basil using one of our 4 methods.
If dishes like sweet and sour chicken or honey barbecue wings are your idea of comfort food, this is the recipe for you! We’ve swapped out the chicken and instead replaced it with low calorie cauliflower, which is dunked in a flavorful cornstarch based batter before being baked as opposed to fried.
Once golden and crispy, you can toss your golden and crispy cauliflower florets in a simple soy sauce and pineapple juice glaze, then serve over rice with a shower of toasted sesame seeds and sliced scallions!
Sweet potatoes are inherently creamy in texture, therefore they only need a bit of coconut milk to reach their full velvet-like potential. Using an immersion blender is your best bet here, but you also could use an upright blender if you don’t have one.
Did we mention that this soup is packed with the bold flavors (and health benefits!) of assertive spices like cumin, turmeric, and cinnamon? Crunchy cashews make for the perfect garnish, and if you are up for it, this soup is the perfect place to dunk a chunk of crusty bread.
Super Inspiring Meal Ideas
A key concept behind Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution Day is to get kids and adults alike excited about the foods they are eating. When people are enthusiastic about their meals, they’re more likely to make good and informed decisions which in turn translate to healthier eating!
This highlights the importance of diverting from those routine foods we all know and love and to, from time to time, reach for recipes that may call for unfamiliar ingredients, cooking styles, or unexpected flavor profiles.
The following healthy dinner recipes all feature some degree of uniqueness in one form or another. If you’re looking to be a bit more adventurous in your meal time revolution, we’ve got you covered!
When it comes to making curry, starting with the right ingredients is nearly half the battle! Shopping for the ingredients in this Thai Green Curry with Naan may require a trip to a specialty grocer to find items like shrimp paste and Thai green chilies.
Rest assured, your efforts will be rewarded once you are faced with a bowl of curry, chock full of bell peppers, snap peas, coconut milk, and of course all of the spicy flavors you could ask for.
Yes, burger night can be healthy too! These homemade veggie burgers take all of the nutrient dense health benefits of fresh beets and turn them into rich and juicy burger patties--without the meat of course!
When paired with our fresh Herbed Guacamole and Parsnip Fries, the result is a fully balanced plant-based meal that might just give you a new view on how good burgers and fries can be.
Not only does one pot cooking make your cleanup tasks easier than ever, but it also can elevate the flavor profile of your meal as it allows all of the involved tastes to mix and mingle into one cohesive, delicious recipe.
Our One Pot Honey Balsamic Chicken recipe is a sweet and savory way to pack in a high protein meal (providing about 50 grams per serving!) and fresh vegetables like carrots and broccoli. Seeing as one pot meals are all about convenience though, feel free to substitute any veggies you have on hand, even a bag of frozen peas will do the trick!
This recipe is a super easy dinner option, but it does contain one ingredient that may be a newcomer to your shopping basket: halloumi cheese! This chewy, brined cheese hails from the island of Cyprus and boy are we glad it found its way across all of the world’s oceans and seas.
The beautiful thing about halloumi is that it can be cooked without melting, therefore you can sear the edges of your cheese cubes or slices to a pleasant crisp while the inside stays springy and tender. It adds a nice richness to otherwise plant based dishes like our Couscous with Tandoor Vegetables, as well as a boost of protein.
Allow us to introduce you to your new favorite salad dressing equation: strawberries + sriracha!
That’s right, these two jewel colored ingredients complement each other in all of the best ways. The spicy chili sauce punches up that mellow berry flavor while the strawberries provide a welcome relief from all of the heat.
We use a pile of super nutritious spinach mixed with arugula for the base of this salad, but feel free to use any leafy green you like!
This healthy dinner recipe is veggie centric, but it truly eats like a cut of meat! When cauliflower is whole roasted, as instructed in our Roasted Cauliflower Piccata, the exterior takes on a delightful golden brown coating while the inside stays tender, steamy, and juicy!
The sauce pulls together all of those classic piccata flavors including a few pats of butter, whole garlic cloves, capers, white wine. The recipe calls for cracked black pepper, but we think this is a good place to experiment with the different flavor profile of white pepper as well!
If you’ve been feeling intimidated by the idea of making your own pasta, fresh gnocchi is a great place to start! The study combination of starchy potato mashed and pureed wilted spinach is easy to work with and once you’ve rolled a few gnocchi, you’ll quickly get the hang of how to produce the shape you’re looking for.
After-Dinner Treats That Aren’t Cheating
It’s true, a bit of indulgence from time to time is not only unavoidable, it’s also entirely healthy for us! Treats and sweets spark joy, encourage togetherness, and help to solidify memories. Think about sharing that favorite candy with your companion at the movie theater or coming home to a freshly baked batch of cookies.
Some of our strongest emotions around food have to do with desserts and therefore, it’s as important to honor these associations as well as it is to incorporate some newer, healthier treat options into our lives!
Protein packed, nutrient dense, and deliciously fudgy--honestly, what more could you want in a brownie! Thanks to the natural sugar content of sweet potato, this brownie recipe doesn’t call for any refined sugar and is also totally gluten free. Instead, we use ground almonds to form the structure of these decadent treats.
Though you could certainly use store bought dark chocolate to make these brownies, if you opt to use your own homemade dark chocolate, all the better!
Speaking of sweet potatoes, they play a starring role in our next healthy dessert: Sweet Potato Pudding! With this recipe, you’re just six short ingredients away from a luxuriously creamy dessert, as it calls for eggs, brown sugar, sweet potato mash, almond milk, vanilla extract, and cinnamon.
All of these delicious flavors come together in such a way that will leave you scratching your head over how something so tasty could be less than 200 calories per serving!
This Pan Fried Cinnamon Bananas recipe is our healthier version of bananas foster--you know, those buttery, boozy bananas that are served over ice cream!
To make this sweet and satisfying dessert, sliced fresh bananas are tossed in a pan with plenty of honey, a bit of butter, and a dash of ground cinnamon (or one of these excellent substitutes!). Finish things off with your choice of a creamy topper such as whipped coconut cream or serve your potassium-rich Pan Fried Bananas atop a fresh homemade waffle!
We love recipes that only call for a few ingredients. Not only are they easier to whip up and shop for, but they also tend to be healthier as they don’t contain excess sugars or any preservative-laden additions.
Grab a bag of the best frozen strawberries for your next batch of this simple Strawberry Fro Yo, then follow our instructions for mixing them with Greek yogurt and honey to make this refreshing frozen dessert!
After indulging in this combination of blueberries and chocolate, you’ll be well on your way to antioxidant paradise!
This irresistible dessert couldn’t be any more delicious, nor any easier to make. Simply dunk or drizzle fresh blueberries in the best chocolate you can find, then spread them on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and pop them in the freezer!
Final Thoughts on the Top 40 Healthy Dinner Ideas
As you can see, there's no shortage of healthy meal ideas to help to get more nutrition into your diet, inspire kitchen creativity, and help you pull off dinnertime with greater ease!
As Food Revolution Day reminds us, it's up to each of us to share knowledge of healthier eating options, thereby educating each other on cooking techniques, ingredients, and recipes that nourish.
Help us spread the healthy eating message far and wide by sending this article to a friend, or sharing your favorite recipe with them!