I’ve been a vegetarian for close to 20 years now, and there are still days I just want to crack open a box of Easy Mac or chow down on a peanut butter and jelly – hey, there’s tons of protein in peanut butter! – with a side of Cheez-Its. Not exactly healthy dinner ideas. I usually fall prey to these whims when I don’t feel like cooking and don’t have anything healthy already made in the fridge.
To save you from my carb-tastic fate, I’ve rounded up some healthy dinner ideas for you to try. Once you get a few simple recipes under your belt, this eating-more-veggies thing won’t feel quite as daunting.
Veggie-packed healthy dinner ideas
Roasted brussels sprouts
OK, hear me out. I know Brussels sprouts are responsible for ruining many a childhood, but dang, they are delicious! Roasting brings out a whole new level of taste in the much-maligned veggies, with caramelized undertones and wonderful, crisp little pieces. I like Ina Garten’s recipe – and not only because she likes them salty, like french fries.
When I really want to gross out my 12-year-old daughter, I make avocado toast, perhaps the most delicious food ever. I especially like it for breakfast, but it makes an excellent snack or lunch when paired with some soup or salad. I mash together half an avocado, a handful of chickpeas, a splash of Sriracha and a pinch of kosher salt and slather it on a piece of toasted Ezekiel bread. If you really want to step up your avocado toast game, check out the California Avocado Commission’s recipe for margherita avocado toast. All you need is some fresh mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, avocado and basil.
These protein-packed beauties make a healthy, crunchy, completely addictive snack when you roast them in the oven with a little salt, olive oil, and whatever savory spices you’d like to add. I like them with just salt and pepper, but some people do curry, some go flaming hot, some give them a Middle Eastern flair with a little cumin. Mark Bittman has a great recipe from his book “How to Cook Everything.” (I highly recommend his companion book, “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian,” for a comprehensive list of no-fuss veggie recipes.) These keep for a few days in a covered container, but I find they’re best right from the oven, as they tend to lose some of their crunch in storage. Need some quick and healthy dinner ideas? Toss them on top of a salad or into a stir-fry for added crunch.
Tofu can be a little intimidating. There are all different kinds – soft, silken, firm, extra firm, seasoned, yadda yadda yadda – it’s sorta slimy, you’ve got to press it, etc. But once you’ve done it once or twice it really is simple. Bonus: It’s packed with protein and easily picks up the flavor of whatever sauces and spices it cooks with. This recipe for crispy tofu from Whole Foods takes a half-hour to cook, and you when it’s done you can make some really healthy recipes for dinner: Throw it in a stir-fry or a salad, or eat it on its own with some dipping sauce, sweet potato fries and steamed broccoli. Voila.
In my college days, there was a place on campus that made stellar falafel. The owner would grab a golden-brown orb, dip it in tahini, and hand one to whoever happened to be walking through the door. Which was often me. For a girl raised on meat and potatoes, this was crispy, exotic fare at its finest. I became a devotee of the fried chickpea patties – a love affair that continues to this day. This recipe from Delish.com will make you a believer as well. Just grab a can of chickpeas, some herbs and tahini, and you’ll have a Middle-Eastern feast on your plate ASAP. Mix them with lettuce, tomatoes and fluffy pita bread and you’ve got one heck of a healthy dinner idea for Meatless Monday (or Tuesday, or Friday) on your hands.
Maple-roasted root vegetables
There is something so delicious and yet so simple about this dish from Fountain Avenue Kitchen. Every time I make it, my daughter and I have seconds. It’s so tasty. And there’s nothing better than roasting a sheet pan full of sweet potatoes, turnips, carrots and butternut squash come fall. You could even throw some roasted apples in there as well. Are you drooling yet? But the glaze is the best part. A mixture of maple syrup (real is best if you have it), Dijon mustard, olive oil and vinegar (I use balsamic) turns the veggies into savory, sweet, roasty nirvana.
Quinoa and black bean stuffed zucchini
This recipe is a great healthy dinner idea for a hot summer day, when zucchini is bursting from nearly every garden in the neighborhood. Tasteslovely.com takes hollowed-out zucchini, fills it with black beans and quinoa (both protein powerhouses), corn, enchilada sauce and cheese. The result is a bubbling, veggie-loaded dish that would be just perfect with a crisp summer salad made with garden-fresh tomatoes.
Have a few favorite healthy dinner ideas that you would like to share? Tell us in the comments.