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Jennifer Teems

Healthy weeknight dinner tips

Social distancing means many of us are cooking from home more than ever. Whether you're new to cooking or need some fresh ideas, let these tips make dinnertime easier.

1. Get back to the basics.

“If you have a protein, healthy starch and non-starchy vegetable, you have a meal,” says Jennifer Teems, MS, RD, LD, a clinical dietitian at Piedmont Atlanta.

Here’s a cheat sheet with a few examples:

Lean proteins:

  • Chicken
  • Tofu
  • Fish
  • Shrimp
  • Beans
  • Eggs

Healthy starches and grains:

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Brown rice
  • Quinoa

Non-starchy vegetables:

  • Spinach
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Green beans
  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots

2. Collect healthy recipes.

“I keep a big stash of easy recipes I like that don’t take much time,” shares Teems.

She suggests finding recipes for healthy versions of your favorite dishes. Visit Living Better’s recipe index to get started.

3. Use the weekend to prepare for the busy week ahead.

Teems spends some time on the weekend planning weeknight dinners. Save time during the week by planning which nights you will cook and pre-chopping vegetables. When possible, plan to make enough for leftovers you can take for lunch or freeze for dinner the next week.

4. Stock your pantry.

Keep the following staples in your pantry or cabinet:

  • Dried or canned beans (look for the lower sodium version)
  • Brown rice
  • Quinoa
  • Dried herbs and spices
  • Chicken or vegetable broth
  • Canned tomatoes
  • Low-sodium marinara sauce
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Oatmeal
  • Shelf-stable nut milk
  • Peanut butter or almond butter
  • Mustard, vinegar and oils

5. Fill your freezer.

Believe it or not, frozen vegetables are just as nutritious as fresh because they are frozen at the peak of ripeness. Not to mention they’re easy to prepare and won’t spoil, so you don't have to grocery shop as often. Be sure to choose plain frozen produce that doesn't contain cheese or sauce.

Lightly stir-fry the veggies you have in your kitchen with a healthy protein and serve with a side of rice or quinoa for a quick rice bowl dinner.

6. Rely on roasting.

Roasting your dinner – chicken and sweet potatoes, for example – can save you a lot of time standing over the stove. Just prepare or chop your ingredients, place them on a baking sheet lightly coated with nonstick spray, season with herbs and spices, and roast until cooked through.

“Preparing in advance for weeknight dinners can reduce your stress levels,” says Teems. “When you’re hungry, you’ll eat whatever you can get. Being prepared helps you make a healthier choice.”

Need to make an appointment with a Piedmont physician? Save time, book online.

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