Whip Up a Fast, Healthy Dinner

Try these super-quick suppertime solutions

By Leanna Skarnulis
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

Reviewed By Charlotte Grayson, MD

Yikes! You've just looked at the clock and realized that dinnertime is fast approaching. You're already exhausted from the day's labors, and you still have to walk the dog, pick up the kids from dance class, finish that report due first thing tomorrow... You'd love to sit down to a healthy, home-cooked meal, but your stomach is growling and that take-out pizza menu is looking very tempting.

But wait just a minute. Before the dinnertime crunch convinces you to blow off your dietary resolve, wrap your mind around an important concept: "Healthy" doesn't have to mean cooking from scratch, and "quick" doesn't have to mean scarfing down artery-clogging fast food.

Whether you're a seasoned cook or a kitchen-phobe who doesn't own a cookbook, you can make healthy, quick dinners at home. Two dietitians, who balance career and nutrition demands themselves, are on your side. Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD, lives in Reading, Mass., has three children aged 4 to 7, and is the author of several books on nutrition including Healthy Foods, Healthy Kids. Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD, lives in Atlanta and is an American Dietetic Association spokeswoman as well as a WebMD Weight Loss Clinic dietitian.

A Healthy Grocery List

Ward and Zelman agree that healthy, quick, and homemade dinners start with having the right ingredients on hand. Keep these items in your pantry, refrigerator, or freezer:

Pantry

  • Pasta (Zelman prefers whole-grain, Ward says regular is fine for a family)
  • Pasta sauce (but watch out for fatty Alfredo versions)
  • Canned beans
  • Canned tuna fish, packed in water, not oil
  • Canned vegetables -- the ones you like and will eat
  • Canned fruits
  • Rice, couscous, and packaged mixes for dishes like tabouli
  • Lower-fat, lower-sodium soup (Healthy Valley is one brand)
  • Cereal
  • Bread, preferably whole grain
  • Peanut butter
  • Pancake mix
  • Nuts

Refrigerator

  • Prewashed and cut fruits and vegetables (buy them this way in a bag or from a salad bar, or do it yourself as soon as you get home from the store)
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Baby carrots
  • Prewashed salad greens, stored in their original bags after opening
  • Precooked, grilled chicken slices
  • Cheese (look for lower-fat versions or strongly flavored cheeses that let you use less)
  • Low-fat milk
  • Low-fat salad dressings
  • Eggs
  • Yogurt

Freezer

  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Pastas such as ravioli and tortellini
  • Chicken and turkey (boneless, skinless pieces are healthiest and quickest)
  • Seafood
  • Frozen diet entrees
  • Frozen soup
  • Cheese pizza
  • Waffles

The Chicken and the Egg