64 Healthy Dinner Ideas for When You Want to Keep It Light

·19 min read

Who's ready to knock out meal planning with a menu of nourishing, delicious and easy-to-make dinners?

When it comes to writing grocery lists and planning fun, new dishes for the family or for one's self, it feels like we're constantly searching for innovative, healthy meals. Well, it's time to stop searching and simply scroll, as we're here with a roundup of tasty, healthful, creative dinners. OK, so we're not counting calories or limiting carbs here, but a huge part of eating well is simply opting for wholesome ingredients. You know, the good stuff: fresh vegetables, whole grains and quality proteins.

There's even a whole section here of healthy-ish pastas, which are made with lighter ingredient swaps and other inspiring tips that bring quick weeknight dinners to new heights. Swap in some lively vegetarian-approved meals to ensure everyone is getting an abundance of veggies. Enjoy some steak here and there, but throw it on top of a nice, fresh salad or with a heaping side of seasonal squash.

However you choose to cook — or not cook (yes, there are some no-cook ideas, too!) — we hope you do so with intention and joy. After all, a great meal with good company is what it really takes to nourish us from the inside out.

Happy (healthier) eating!

Healthy recipes with meat

Baked Chicken and Ricotta Meatballs with Broccolini by Yasmin Fahr

Chicken and ricotta meatballs are lighter than their beefy counterparts and don't require a lot of work. Baking skips the time and mess of browning on the stovetop and leaves you with one mixing bowl and sheet pan to clean at the end — and, most importantly, 20 delicious meatballs to savor with a side of crispy broccolini.

Grilled Caesar Salad with Sirloin Steak by Anthony Scotto

This recipe gives a classic salad a summery makeover — on the grill — and adds a juicy sirloin steak. A quick turn on the grill gives the hearty lettuce great smokiness and char.

Steak and Veggies with Zesty Chimichurri by Hunter Lewis

Folks at the table may think you've labored away in the kitchen for hours on this restaurant-worthy steak dinner. But, in actuality, it requires only five fresh ingredients and takes 20 minutes to make. The cilantro chimichurri adds a summery pop to the grilled tenderloin, juicy yellow squash and crispy potatoes.

Valerie Bertinelli's Sheet-Pan Vinegar Chicken by Valerie Bertinelli

The sweet tomatoes beautifully balance the bracing acidity of the tangy sherry vinegar and briny olives in this easy chicken dinner that has a bright pop of flavor in every bite.

Sheet Pan Chicken Parm with Garlic Bread and Broccoli by Elena Besser

People who love chicken Parm know that it, like lasagna, is a wonderfully satisfying recipe that requires a lot of work. The process of breading the chicken, frying in oil and finishing everything in the oven can be an exhausting feat. Not this recipe! Tender chicken smothered in sauce and mozzarella, a healthy veggie side dish and garlic bread: It just takes one sheet pan but has all the goodness.

Cumin-Roasted Pork Chops and Brussels Sprouts by Melissa Clark

The best part about this dish is all the different textures! The sage chips and cumin seeds give this recipe such a great crunch and bursts of flavor. The secret to perfect pork lies in the resting period, so it reabsorbs all the juices.

Sheet-Pan Roast Chicken with Brussels Sprouts by Seamus Mullen

The spicy harissa, sweet pomegranate, crunchy walnuts and fresh mint distinguish this roast chicken from the typical rosemary, sage and thyme poultry seasoning. Also, the whole thing only takes about 30 minutes to make, which makes it an easy dinner idea that's as quick as it is comforting.

Sheet-Pan Pesto Chicken with Broccoli Rabe and Baby Potatoes by Casey Barber

Craving a comforting roast chicken dinner but don't have the time for an elaborate prep? This savory Italian-flavored meal includes the main dish, plus, all the hearty sides all in one sheet-pan. Just take 10 minutes out of your day, then let the oven do the work!

Joy Bauer's Slow-Cooker Brisket by Joy Bauer

Take it slow with this recipe: The longer it cooks, the more tender, succulent and flavorful the meat becomes. Make the gravy from the simmering liquid at the bottom of the pot and drizzle it over the finished brisket. Don't play hard to get with this recipe — it's a keeper!

Pork with Herbs au Jus by Brittany Williams

This old school, classic dinner favorite can be made in a pressure cooker on evenings when you want something quick and filling for the family. It pairs wonderfully with garlicky mashed cauliflower or green beans.

Lucky Greens and Steak Salad with Maple Balsamic Dressing by Jet Tila

According to Jet Tila, the perfect salad should have at least three of the following components: a green, grain, fruit, nut and herb. Also, greens, pomegranates, pears, lentils and tangerines are all considered to be lucky foods in various cultures around the world, making this one super lucky salad.

Turkey Taco Salad by Chungah Rhee

This salad is so satisfying and hearty, you won't miss the taco shells. It's one of those perfect healthy dinner ideas for kids, because they can help put together their own taco bowl — in advance, too. Just combine the crumbled ground turkey, pico de gallo, Greek yogurt, cheese and a lime wedge.

Curtis Stone's Roast Chicken and Veggie Farro Salad by Curtis Stone

Got any leftover roast chicken lying around? Use it to make a delectable new meal! Curtis Stone loves using leftover chicken and vegetables to make this filling dish. It comes together quickly and it's both healthy and satisfying at the same time.

Miso-Glazed Chicken and Bok Choy by Dawn Jackson Blatner

This light weeknight dinner of lean protein and roasted veggies has all the flavors of a traditional stir-fry but is even easier to make. Everything gets baked on one sheet pan in just 30 minutes.

Ratatouille Sheet Pan Chicken by Melissa Clark

"One of my favorite ratatouille hacks comes from a fashionable Parisian who taught me that the most convenient way to cook the vegetables is on a sheet pan in the oven," says Melissa Clark. "Being already committed to the sheet pan cause, it wasn’t a huge leap for me to give up Julia Child’s saucepan method, which requires the cook to stand over the stove, sautéing each type of vegetable separately before combining them all. Sheet pans in the oven are more of a hands-off affair, and the process allows vegetables with similar cooking times to share the same pan (eggplant and onion in one pan, zucchini, peppers and tomatoes in another)."

Thai Basil Chicken Bowls by Chungah Rhee

This is one of those short-ingredient-list, quick stir-fry dinners that just knocks it out of the park, every time. Serve with jasmine rice to have the easiest, simplest and heartiest dinner that you can feel good about serving to your family.

Chicken with Potatoes, Arugula and Garlic Yogurt by Melissa Clark

We love this recipe because it's just so cozy! Chicken and potatoes are a classic and jazzing it up with harissa and yogurt adds spice, tang and richness.

Healthy seafood recipes

Salmon Kebabs with Herb Sauce by Valerie Bertinelli

This is a fast and easy summer meal but can be made all year round on an indoor grill pan. It's simple but super flavorful with the addition of the herb sauce. Sure to impress with not a whole lot of stress!

Grilled Shrimp Salad by Anthony Scotto

Summer grilling is about spending time with your family, and this is a great dish everyone will love! The best part is that it takes minimal time to prepare. This salad is chock-full of wholesome ingredients and sensational, smoky flavors.

Roasted Salmon with Mango-Avocado Salsa by Gaby Dalkin

This is one of Gaby Dalkin's favorite summer dinners — and for good reason. The light, buttery protein gets a healthy boost from a zesty avocado and mango salsa. What's even better is that you can serve six people in just 30 minutes, from start to finish.

Ginger-Soy Shrimp with Broccolini and Soba Noodles by Judy Joo

Shrimp don't need much dressing up to be tasty. Here, a simple marinade and quick sauté yields a deeply flavorful and perfectly cooked result. The crunchy broccolini and earthy soba noodles are a great complement to the naturally sweeter shellfish.

Grilled Miso-Glazed Salmon with Broccolini Salad by Judy Joo

This dish is so full of flavor and healthy at the same time. White miso adds delicate sweetness while upping the umami flavors of fresh salmon. The crunchy, caramelized broccolini is a perfect foil to the tender grilled fish.

Charcoal-Roasted Shrimp by Ben Harris

This recipe takes one of the best things about South Carolina, its shrimp, and prepares it in a fun and approachable way. It's very easy to make at home and tastes like it came straight from a restaurant kitchen.

Salmon Sloppy Joes by Stephanie Harris-Uyidi

A savory salmon burger (made with canned fish!) is a crowd-pleaser that tastes like a gourmet dinner treat. It's hard to tell that it's a quick prep and takes hardly any effort at all to get onto the table.

Citrus Baked Cod by Will Gilson

Perhaps you already mastered the art of grilling flaky fish perfectly, but sometimes a foolproof method suits the mood. This simple recipe calls upon the citrus, parsley and onion to infuse the cod with a zesty sweetness that's hard to beat.

Valerie Bertinelli's One-Pan Salmon with Broccoli and Cauliflower by Valerie Bertinelli

One-pan wonders are one of the best respites from a busy day. You just put the fresh salmon and crisp veggies on a baking sheet, season everything and pop it in the oven to roast. In just 20 minutes, you've got a nourishing dinner for the whole family and only one pan to clean.

Sheet-Pan Fish with Tomatoes and Green Beans by Yasmin Fahr

In another simple and flavor-packed sheet-pan dinner, white fish is topped with a lemon-dill-mustard dressing for a bright, herby flavor that pairs well with juicy tomatoes and crunchy green beans.

Priya Krishna's Orange-Peel Fish by Priya Krishna

The secret ingredient to this easy and flavorful weeknight fish dish is one that you might be tossing into the compost — an orange peel. The peel, with its distinctly sweet, sharp flavor, lends brightness, texture and aromatics. In this recipe, it gets mixed up into a paste alongside other vivifying and balancing ingredients: garlic, ginger, turmeric and green chilies.

Valerie Bertinelli's Sheet-Pan Baked Salmon by Valerie Bertinelli

The fresh herbs and sophisticated flavors make it feel fancy, but the quick prep and cleanup make this recipe easy enough for any weeknight. It's a no-fuss dinner idea for two because you can order exactly how much salmon you need, or opt for a bigger cut and have leftovers to throw on a salad for lunch the next day.

Blackened Salmon with Pineapple-Avocado Salsa by Brittany Williams

"For me, part of becoming healthier was retraining my taste buds. I soon discovered that I actually did like some foods I thought I didn't when I found out how to prepare them in new, tasty ways," said Brittany Williams. This blackened salmon is one example. She uses fresh, wild-caught salmon, which is much less fishy-tasting than the farmed kind, and serves it with a fresh pineapple-avocado salsa.

Healthy vegetarian recipes

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chili by Gaby Dalkin

"This is my go-to vegetarian dinner," says Gaby Dalkin. "It's so easy, everyone loves it (including meat eaters), and it makes for excellent leftovers."

Zucchini and Summer Squash Gratin by Siri Daly

Ingredient swap: This dish is very versatile; you can add sliced potatoes, mushrooms or tomatoes, and try swapping Parmesan with grated Gruyere or fontina cheese. Also, if you're gluten-free, you can skip the breadcrumbs!

Chana Masala by Samah Dada

Samah Dada makes this Indian staple a bit lighter than it is traditionally prepared. The result is a fast and easy vegan dinner recipe for two, four or however many people are at the table tonight.

Jeweled Biriyani Rice Salad by Biju Thomas

This is one of our favorite everyday dishes year-round that brings a ton of color and flavor to the table. This elegant rice dish can be finished with all your seasonal grilled and dried fruit, toasted nuts, a dash of spice and my summertime favorite: crisp okra!

Giada's Sheet-Pan Eggplant Parmesan by Giada De Laurentiis

A healthier and simplified version of eggplant Parmesan is a perfect fit for a weeknight meal. Using Japanese eggplants shortens the prep time because you don't have to draw out the moisture with salt (like regular eggplants) for 20 to 30 minutes first.

Provençal Vegetable Casserole (Tian) by Daniel Boulud

Use up all those veggies you bought with this fresh, French casserole that's full of color and healthful ingredients and will make you feel like you're summering in Provence.

Portobello Mushrooms with Goat Cheese by Ali Rosen

This recipe achieves that wonderful double bonus of being quick to make and quick to reheat. Portobellos are filling while also fulfilling any dietary restrictions; they cook quickly and add a meaty flavor (plus they hold up in the freezer like a dream). In 15 minutes, you'll have a wonderful dinner (or side dish) set to go.

Sheet Pan Vegetable Coconut Curry Rice by Jerrelle Guy

When this one-pan wonder comes out of the oven, the onions will be caramelized, the raisins will be plump, the veggies will be tender and the room will fill with the smell of what Jerrelle Guy likes to call "sheet-pan potpourri." Before everyone starts digging in, make sure to hit it with a heavy sprinkling of chopped cilantro and a nice squeeze of lemon.

Mexican Quinoa Stew by Romel Bruno

Loaded with beans, quinoa and veggies, this Mexican-inspired stew is guaranteed to make your mouth water — plus, it's vegan!

Sheet Pan Aloo Gobi by Priya Krishna

Aloo gobi — potatoes and cauliflower sautéed in spices — was a staple Priya Krishna's upbringing. In this simplified version, the whole dish comes together on one sheet pan, popped into the oven.

"It’s simple to put together, pretty hands off, and its flavor to ease ratio is off the charts," said Krishna. "Also, potatoes and cauliflower are truly exceptional at absorbing and enhancing seasonings."

Sheet Pan Kimchi Fried Rice with Baked Eggs by Hetty McKinnon

Hetty McKinnon discovered that "frying” rice in the oven, on a sheet pan, is not only possible, it actually produces the perfect amount of crisping. As with all sheet pan recipes, it’s the perfect throw-it-in-the-oven dish — simply toss your cold rice with veggies, kimchi and seasonings, spread it all onto a sheet pan and let a hot oven do the "frying" for you.

Baked Eggs in Spiced Tomato Sauce (Shakshuka) by Alejandra Ramos

Eggs are a great protein to enjoy some protein at dinner time when you're not trying to fuss too much over a big roast and are eating leniently vegetarian (not vegan). In this simple shakshuka, the sauce and yolk combined make a glorious dipping sauce for crusty toast.

Gluten-Free Veggie Noodle Bowls by Kevin Curry

Kevin Curry loves making meals that work for people following different dietary restrictions. This recipe uses gluten-free noodles and it packs in a lot of protein, but it's still vegetarian. The rice noodles make the perfect base for this saucy, sweet, nutty and spicy stir-fry. Firm tofu adds some healthy, plant-based meatiness and the fresh veggies bring in some serious crunch.

Healthy pasta recipes

Mushroom Bolognese by Tom Colicchio

This is a great vegetarian alternative to a classic beef Bolognese. The mushrooms mimic the same rich, hearty feel of the original but, obviously, without the meat. The aromatics and fresh herbs round out the flavors to make this an exciting and satisfying pasta dish.

Lightened-Up Bolognese Sauce by Casey Barber

This lightened-up meat sauce cuts down on cook time and calorie count but doesn't lose any of the rib-sticking, slow-simmered comfort of a classic Bolognese sauce. How could this be? By using a mix of ground turkey and ground beef as the base, plus some beef or chicken broth, the sauce boasts a beautifully earthy, salty flavor.

Tracy's Spinach Pesto by Anthony Contrino

"Confession: After a long day of cooking on set, the last thing I want to do is cook dinner for myself," says Anthony Contrino. "I often head to my cousin Tracy's house. One of my favorite things she makes is this creamy spinach pesto — it's so easy to whip up and so delish!"

Joy Bauer's Kale Pesto Pasta by Joy Bauer

Whip up this tasty spin on traditional pesto, stat! Each bright and vibrant bite contains a blend of earthy kale, toasty walnuts, aromatic basil, EVOO, garlic and Parmesan. The end result is a flavorful sauce that's bursting with vitamin C, beta-carotene and omega-3s, three nutrients that play a key role in enriching your skin's overall appearance.

Cauliflower Alfredo Pasta by Gaby Dalkin

This light version of Alfredo sauce is perfect when it's a little chilly outside. The sauce is downright healthy compared to that of a traditional Alfredo and no one would even know the difference, it's so delicious.

One-Pot Pasta with Spinach and Ricotta by Mark Bittman

Two simple vegetarian additions turn this easy one-pot pasta into a vibrant main dish. You can customize the ingredients to suit your taste. You can use any kind of noodle you prefer or switch up the greens with chopped kale, escarole or chard instead of spinach.

Avocado Cream Pasta with Arugula and Roasted Cherry Tomatoes by Samah Dada

The avocado cream sauce is both light and refreshing — qualities rarely found in creamy sauces. This sauce also maintains an amazing brightness with the addition of fresh basil and lemon and is extremely versatile.

Herby Lemon Spaghetti with Snap Peas by Valerie Bertinelli

Wake up your weeknight dinner routine with this light and zesty pasta dish. It's quick and easy to throw together and bursting with fresh flavors.

Broccoli and Chickpea Pasta by Marc Meyer

One of Dylan Dreyer's favorite recipes, this easy pasta dish checks all the boxes for a healthy, kid-friendly dinner: veggies, starch and protein. Her son Calvin adores it so you know it will be a success with diners of all ages.

Mac and Greens by Chloe Coscarelli

Love a bowl of comforting mac but also want to get your greens? This dish has got you covered. Easy, creamy and craveable, it's 100% plant-based so it's good for you and the earth.

Lentil Bolognese by Samah Dada

It's fun to use lentils in a Bolognese in the same way that you would meat, while keeping traditional elements like carrots and onions along for the ride. The result adds a plant-based twist to a traditional and iconic pasta dish.

Lemon-Tahini Pasta with Zucchini and Tomatoes by Samah Dada

In this pasta, Dada balances earthy sesame butter with some fresh lemon juice to make it creamy, bright and tangy. It's the perfect pasta for when you want something flavorful and rich with a little bit of zing, too.

Harissa-Spiced Pasta with Chicken with Green Beans by Chris Kimball

Harissa-spiced pasta and chicken with green beans reflects the cooking and flavors of North Africa with the punch of harissa married to Italian influence with the pasta shells.

Easy Vegan Pesto by Samah Dada

Classic Italian pesto gets a healthy makeover with a big serving of spinach. This recipe is totally customizable with any toppings you choose! Add blistered tomatoes, almond milk ricotta, more olive oil and something crunchy. A gluten-free chickpea pasta is great for added protein.

Pasta Carbonara with Shiitake Bacon by Chloe Coscarelli

The creamy, indulgent sauce is made from healthy, high-protein tofu, but it tastes like it has all sorts of dairy products in it. Top it with shiitake bacon (simply thinly sliced roasted shiitake mushrooms with olive oil and sea salt) and it’s the perfect bait for your long-term mate!

Clean Green Spinach-Mushroom Lasagna by Candice Kumai

An ideal dish that often provides leftovers for later, this hearty, veggie-packed lasagna hits all the right flavor notes. Even for those used to its meaty counterpart, this dish will be a winner.

Spicy Italian Mackerel Spaghetti by Stephanie Harris-Uyidi

As a member of the tuna family, mackerel is a delectable, yet underrated fish that deserves more attention. A firm, high-fat fleshed fish, it's known for its bold, savory flavor. When mixed with salty olives, sweet, acidic tomatoes and fresh herbs, this seafood-topped pasta is a must-try.

Broccoli Pesto Pasta by Josh Mamaclay

This pesto balances the bright flavors of basil and lemon with the savory flavor of roasted broccoli. It's a really easy way to get greens in through our favorite vehicle: carbs and cheese.

Baked Lemony Broccoli and Mushroom Pasta by Yasmin Fahr

We love the combination of broccoli, mushrooms and garlic with the bright lemony flavor and kick of heat. Baking the pasta gives the pieces along the rim an extra crunchy texture that's deeply satisfying.

Thai-Inspired Shrimp Pasta by Kevin Curry

This is a 15-minute (well, maybe 20-minute if you're not a pro at multitasking) recipe that is perfect for weeknights. Plus, it uses common items like pasta and peanut butter to put together a Thai-inspired meal that warms and nourishes your body. If you have extra shrimp, use it to make Cajun shrimp chopped salad.