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Jennifer Teems

Healthy weeknight dinner tips

The benefits of cooking at home are huge – you control the ingredients and portion sizes – but finding the time to prepare a healthy dinner on a busy weeknight can seem almost impossible. Fortunately, with a little bit of planning and preparation, you can fix a healthy meal in the time it takes your favorite takeout place to deliver.  

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 Hospital.

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 and shopping for her weeknight dinners.

“Most of us don’t have time to grocery shop after work,” she explains.

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

5. Fill your freezer.

Believe it or not, frozen vegetables are usually 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 during your busy workweek.

Teems stocks up on frozen peas, spinach and Brussels sprouts.

“Fresh vegetables are great, but frozen is good to have one hand,” she says.

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, 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.”

For more healthy lifestyle ideas, visit Living Better’s Health & Wellness page. 

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

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