Healthy Dinner Foods
Knowing what to cook for dinner is a dilemma for those wanting to eat healthy foods but aren’t sure exactly which ones are the healthiest. By and large, it’s sometimes more convenient to order fast (and familiar) food from a nearby restaurant. Finding healthy foods, however, is not as difficult as it may initially seem.
Beth Stark, a registered dietitian nutritionist, recommends adding whole grains, lean or plant-based proteins, and a lot of vegetables to your dinner plate. By starting with these healthy foods, you lower your chances of eating highly processed foods for dinner each day.
While there are a variety of healthy food choices to try, the following are 10 foods with high nutritional value to get you started:
Salmon is a hands-down favorite when it comes to healthy foods. Lauren Manaker, registered dietician, and author describes salmon as a “multivitamin for your brain.” Maker says that salmon is “loaded with important brain-boosting nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids and choline,” and is “an excellent source of high-quality protein.” Manaker recommends looking for salmon that has the “Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) certified seal. BAP verifies that producers are following best practices in delivering farmed seafood in a safe and responsible manner.
2. Dark Leafy Greens
Spinach, Swiss chard, kale, collard greens, mustard greens, and other dark leafy greens share the superfood spotlight. While each type of dark leafy green has its own unique nutritional composition, the vegetables similarly contain fiber, iron, potassium, folate, and other nutrients, along with vitamins A, C, and K. The versatile vegetables can be used in salads, added to stews, and blended into smoothies, among other things.
Cabbage is definitely a healthy food but some find the large round vegetable hard to digest because it’s high in fiber. Nonetheless, fiber helps to improve gut health and keeps you regular. Because of its fiber and phytonutrient content, Stark says cruciferous vegetables, like cabbage, may contribute to a lower risk of various chronic diseases, including certain cancers.
Stark adds that red, green, and purple cabbage all have different antioxidant profiles, but including cabbage in any color is an “easy way to change up the nutrients you get at dinner.” Stark suggests trying cooking cabbage in different ways, too, such as roasting and stir-frying.
Chickpeas may be small, but the tan-colored legumes are packed with a load of health benefits. Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, are a key ingredient in hummus, but the buttery-flavored legume is a welcomed addition to many foods. Besides that, chickpeas contain protein and nutrients that include selenium, iron, and folate, according to Stark. The food is also high in dietary fiber and keeps blood sugar levels steady during digestion.
Lentils, which are part of the legume family, ranks at the top when it comes to listing superfoods. The small, round legume is loaded with plant-based protein, fiber, vitamins, and phytonutrients, which are natural compounds that keep plants healthy and protects them from insects and the sun. While lentils come in a variety of colors, including brown, gold, black, and reddish-orange, the legumes have different flavors but similar nutritional value. Lentils can be a side dish or featured in soups or salads.
6. Sweet Potato
Whether boiled, roasted, or mashed and baked as a soufflé with marshmallows or pecans on top, sweet potatoes are a favorite in households. The sweet potato is a naturally sweet, tuberous plant that belongs to the morning glory family and has a variety of skin colors, including reddish-orange, white, yellow, purple, and brown. The traditional reddish-orange skinned sweet potato is rich in beta-carotene, an antioxidant that the body converts into vitamin A. Sweet potatoes are also rich in vitamin B6, vitamin C, potassium, and fiber.
Tempeh, also known as tempe, is a soy product made from fermented soybeans that provides a wide range of health benefits. Tempeh contains healthy fats, iron, calcium, niacin, and omega-3s, and has more protein than tofu, according to Lindsey Pine, a registered dietitian and author of Mediterranean Diet Meal Prep Cookbook. Tempeh may also be good for digestive health, Pine said. Because tempeh is made from fermented soybeans, it contains probiotics. Tempeh, which is free of cholesterol and gluten, can be grilled or baked in strips and is often used to replace meat.
8. Olive Oil
Olive oil is one of the most versatile oils to cook with since it’s used in cooking pasta, served as a drizzle over a salad, mixed into salad dressing, or used to marinade sauces for meats and vegetables. What’s more, olive oil is an unsaturated fat that contains antioxidants and has strong anti-inflammatory properties. According to Stefanie Di Tella, a registered dietician who specializes in sports nutrition, olive oil has shown to reduce blood pressure and lower LDL cholesterol, which health care professionals consider the “bad” cholesterol.
9. Wheat Berries
Wheat berries are whole wheat kernels without the husks. These berries have a nutty flavor and chewy texture and are used as a replacement for other whole grains. Wheat berries are loaded with fiber, protein, and iron. For instance, a half-cup serving of cooked wheat berries has six grams of fiber and seven grams of protein, and fiber promotes good digestion and helps in lowering cholesterol levels.
10. Red tomatoes
Red tomatoes, whether cooked or raw, add a colorful touch to any salad, takes the chill off the body like a hot soup, or wakes up the flavor as a sauce in pasta dishes. The powerful tomatoes contain lycopene, an antioxidant that research suggests plays a role in lowering cholesterol, preventing heart disease, cancer, and other health conditions.