Having a ton of healthy dinner ideas at your fingertips can mean the difference between grabbing bad-for-you fast food in the drive-thru lane or settling in for a family dinner and good conversation at home. That’s why we’ve rounded up the top eighteen healthy dinner ideas, whether you’re vegetarian, paleo, or somewhere in between.
These recipes are crowd-pleasers, guaranteed to inspire your cooking and jazz up any old weeknight. And don’t forget to check out our guide to healthy dinner ideas at the end of this article for great tips and tricks for making dinner a breeze. Enjoy!
How We Choose Our Ratings
Dinner is stressful enough without having to worry about whether or not the recipes work, so we’ve made sure to only include the best, tried-and-true recipes on this list. They all have five stars for a reason--they’re all winners. Plus, most of them are easy to customize and make substitutions for so you can accommodate even the most discerning eaters.
Top 18 Best Healthy Dinner Ideas
Because every family is so different, we’ve included healthy dinner ideas in a wide variety of categories, including low-calorie, vegetarian, paleo, and more. Discover the perfect meal for dinner tonight; here are our favorites:
Image from Gimme Some Oven
Gimme Some Oven is full of delicious, crowd-pleasing dinner ideas, but not all their recipes are vegetarian. This delicious twist on the classic tortilla soup, however, is vegan and perfect for those nights when you’re craving Mexican food!
Don’t forget to add tons of avocado, cilantro, and crushed tortilla chips for extra flavor and pay special attention to the broth--the most important of any good tortilla soup recipe.
Image from Pinch of Yum
This recipe from Pinch of Yum stars a simple, delicious staple: rice. You can use white rice or for extra nutrition, use rich, nutty brown rice. If you’re in a hurry, you can even rely on precooked rice (look for it in the refrigerated or frozen section) or use leftovers from the night before.
Image from Cooking Light
A vegetarian take on a classic, this lentil chili recipe combines the flavors of culinary powerhouses like ancho chili powder, sherry vinegar, and brown sugar for a combination you won’t be able to resist, with nary an animal product in site. Plus, lentils cook in a second and are packed with fiber, protein, and other vital nutrients.
Image from Cook Eat Paleo
If you’re missing pasta on your Whole30 or paleo diet, you’ll leap for joy at these zucchini noodles, which have a similar starchy texture but are much more nutritious and of course gluten-free. Add buttery shrimp roasted in garlic, and you’ve got a five-star meal that cooks up in a flash.
Image from Joyful Healthy Eats
You won’t miss the bun at all when you bite into this incredible stack of deliciousness! This paleo burger called for a quarter pound of high-quality ground beef nestled on a tomato slice and lettuce and smothered in smokey balsamic caramelized onions and thick slices of creamy avocado. Is your mouth watering yet?
Image from The Kitchn
This savory breakfast-for-dinner (brinner) or brunch recipe is satisfying and delicious. It utilizes sweet potatoes, which contain minerals like calcium, iron, and selenium, and eggs, which are rich in vitamin B2 as well as vitamin D, B6, B12, and selenium. Plus, you can even make it ahead of time for a ready-in-a-jiffy weeknight meal.
No sacrificing flavor here; this delicious flatbread recipe uses butternut squash and fresh herbs to keep things bright and appealing without adding tons of extra calories. Use refrigerated pizza dough to bring the entire recipe together in just a few minutes.
Image from Womans Today
By subbing spaghetti squash for pasta, cottage cheese for ricotta, and skipping the meat entirely, this delicious lasagna meal manages to be both delightfully hearty and low-calorie. Plus, thanks to the broccoli and spaghetti squash, you’ll get tons of vegetables. And, even better than traditionally-made lasagna, it bakes in less time.
Fish is a great option when it comes to low-calorie healthy dinner ideas, but if you’re tired of your same-old salmon, this recipe is just what you need! A cedar plank and honey-ginger dressing take them to a whole new level without piling on the calories. Add delicious veggies like broccoli or asparagus and a side salad, and you have a meal that’s easy, satisfying, and super healthy.
Not only is this recipe easy and savory (hello, sage!) but it’s also inexpensive: potatoes and chicken thighs are some of the most inexpensive foods you can grab at the grocery store to feed a hungry crowd. Using fresh sage leaves brings the flavor profile to a whole new dimension, but feel free to use dried sage if that’s all you have.
Image from Killing Thyme
If you love sheet pan dinners when it comes to healthy dinner ideas but need a shakeup from your normal chicken-and-potatoes combination, try this beautiful salmon with honey and citrus from recipe blog Killing Thyme. Salmon, as it turns out, is not only low-calorie, delicious, and packed with brain and heart food, but it’s also the perfect candidate for cooking in the oven. Combined with a sweet-spicy sauce, you can’t go wrong.
Image from Eazy Peazy Mealz
Avoid both the unhealthy frying and the extra work of the classic Philadelphia hot sandwich by utilizing this brilliant sheet pan recipe to make the Philly cheese steak you’ve been craving! Toss the bell peppers, onions, and mushrooms on the pan right alongside your steak cut (the recipes recommends using flank steak) for a mouth-watering dinner.
Image from Food Network
What makes these bell peppers so easy is that you can prep them ahead of time, and then simply slide the pan into the oven as soon as you get home from work. One hour later you’ve got a piping hot pan full of stuffed yumminess, topped with oozing, melting cheese. Sounds like a win!
Image from Delish
Buddha bowls are popular all over the internet right because they’re a quick, easy to whip together mix of your favorite foods--grains, proteins, and greens and other veggies. It’s easy for them to become dry and tasteless, however, which is why we love this recipe from Delish.
You’ll whip together garlic, peanut butter, lime juice, soy sauce (use coconut aminos if you’re gluten-free), and honey for a sweet and savory dressing that keeps dinner fresh, interesting, and super quick.
Image from Food Network
This recipe from The Food Network is a crowd favorite, no doubt in part because it only takes forty minutes from start to finish. Quick-cooking pork chops are breaded with crispy panko breadcrumbs and then fried up, while Brussels sprouts caramelized in the onion and then are tossed in a delicious honey-sriracha sauce. Yum!
Image from Brit + Co
Instant pots are dearly loved for their ability to take a frozen piece of meat and turn it into dinner in less than an hour, and this recipe capitalizes on that. While carnitas traditionally takes hours and hours to cook on the stovetop and then the oven, you can get delicious, fall-apart-in-your-mouth, savory pork tacos in half an hour with this recipe.
Image from Julie Harrington
Takeout from your favorite Chinese recipe is certainly delicious, but you can make the same much healthier and for much less at home thanks to your Instant Pot! This recipe combines chicken with a few basic ingredients to make something magic. Don’t forget to steam rice and broccoli while the chicken’s cooking!
Image from Gimme Some Oven
No list of healthy dinner ideas is complete with a nod to this delicious Tuscan-inspired soup. You don’t need an Instant Pot for this recipe, but it will make dinner a cinch, and you’ll be rewarded by the richly-blended flavors of sausage and tomatoes, plus the bright, crisp greens and the creamy white beans.
Your Guide to Healthy Dinner Ideas
Creating healthy dinners is part art and part science, but fortunately, it doesn’t have to be difficult! Here are our top tips for stretching your dollar, saving you time, and finding delicious ways to eat healthy without sacrificing flavor or your favorite foods.
1. Keep a List of Your Favorite Recipes
2. Keep the Staples on Hand
Utilizing pantry staples is one of the best ways to be prepared for whatever your week might throw at you. Some of our favorites include canned beans, soy sauce, canned tomatoes, rice, and condiments like harissa, mustard, and sriracha.
Counter favorites include onions, avocados, and sweet potatoes, while fridge go-to’s include eggs and kale or some other kind of sturdy green that will hold up for a while. Not only do these foods stay fresh for a long time, but they’re often inexpensive ways to add protein or flavor to a meal.
3. Cut Corners
One of the tricks chefs know when cooking at home is that you can cut corners when you need to. A high-quality pasta sauce, for example, is identical to what your grandmother makes (sorry, Grandma!) and there’s no need to make broth yourself when you can purchase so many different kinds of organic, high-quality broths on the grocery store shelf.
Don’t want to waste time chopping garlic or onions? Buy pre-chopped ingredients--including pre-chopped veggies--as often as you can to save time!
4. Get the Right Tools
Don’t be afraid to invest in the tools you need to make healthy dinners. Sheet pan recipes are inexpensive ways to get dinner on the table quickly, while Instant Pots, though they’re an upfront investment, can save you a huge amount of time (same goes for slow cookers).