We love real food, and we love feeding our families well. But sometimes our schedule makes eating healthy dinners around the dinner table almost impossible.
Between school, work, carpooling kids around, after-school activities, and sports practices, from-scratch dinners feel more like a weekend affair than a daily practice.
But we all know that real food is important. We want to bring out best selves to our lives and so we need to feed our bodies the best we can with what limited time we have.
Quick and Healthy Dinners
Personally, soccer is kicking my butt right now. We have practice and games five days a week – even multiple practices on the same day but two hours apart.
Family time is important to us, and so is eating well. For this season, I’ve adjusted my expectations for dinners. We keep our meals light and easy and quick right now on busy weeknights.
With real food, this can get tricky. I’m not throwing a frozen pizza into the oven or swinging by the drive-thru on the way home. We want to eat clean protein, and we want to eat plenty of plants.
My family is “gluten and dairy light” right now, meaning we eat a little bit of gluten (mostly long-ferment sourdough) and a little bit of dairy, but not much. So whether you are gluten-free, dairy-free, or even vegetarian, you’ll find plenty of meal ideas in this list.
We’re also on a budget, so I’m not buying a bunch of pre-made “healthy convenience food,” like gluten-free chicken nuggets or vegan pizza (although there’s nothing wrong with a few convenience food items to help you eat dinner at home instead of eating out).
Healthy Dinner on the Table in 20 Minutes
Here’s what I did to create a healthy, 20-minute dinner meal plan for my family:
- Made a list of our favorite dinners that I already knew were quick.
- Capped it off at 10 meals – we don’t need to eat a different meal every day for the next 90 days. Just a few simple, reliable dinners is all we need.
- Planned 2-3 Leftover or Make Your Own dinner nights. This helps my kids practice independence (by making their own meals) and gives me a few nights off after playing taxi all afternoon.
- Frozen vegetables are my friend – I know fresh tastes best, but frozen veggies are picked at the peak of ripeness and they come pre-chopped for you. If you’re trying to save time and make meals from scratch, consider frozen veggies an appropriate and nutritious convenience food.
- Made my protein ahead of time.
That last one is really key if you want to have 20-minute healthy dinners. Protein takes time to cook. Thankfully, you can cook a bunch of it at the beginning of the week and just toss it into these meals for a quick and healthy dinner.
If you’re vegetarian – or just trying to eat a few meatless meals – try cooking some beans, lentils, or quinoa at the beginning of the week so you can toss it in where appropriate.
Healthy 20-Minute Dinners
Protein to Make-Ahead
Making a few of these at the beginning of the week will cut your dinner prep time in half!
Chicken Dinner Recipes
- Chicken, rice, salad – with make-ahead chicken, this meal comes together really quickly with a quick pot of rice and salad
- Chicken fried rice
- Salad bar with shredded chicken
- Chicken tacos with shredded chicken and your favorite taco toppings
- Nachos topped with chicken
- Chicken Broccoli Parmesan Pasta
- Quinoa salad with chicken
- 10-Min tomato soup with chicken broth
- Chicken salad snack plate – chicken salad with crackers, veggie sticks, and some fruit. Snack plates are easy and delicious!
- Potato nachos – classic nacho style with shredded chicken, made with leftover potatoes
- Egg roll in a bowl with chicken
- Vegetable soup with chicken broth
- Tostadas with shredded chicken
- Burrito bowl bar with shredded chicken
- Sandwich bar – set out your favorite sandwich fillings (with shredded chicken as an option) and let everyone make their own sandwich masterpiece. Who doesn’t love a good sandwich? (We like this easy sourdough flatbread)
- Cowboy caviar with shredded chicken
- Mediterranean snack plate – with shredded chicken, veggies, hummus or tzatziki, olives, and dates or figs.
Meal Planning Resources
Here are the meal planning services (in no particular order) that I endorse for you to pick based on you and your family’s needs!
Cooksmarts (great community of people to learn from)
Real Plans (organizer to add your OWN recipes and replicate plans)
PrepDish (prep ahead, easy meals all week)
Try out their freebies (some even have tree trials) to see what fits your personality and preferences!
Beef Dinner Recipes
- Shredded beef (either the Greek or Barbacoa), rice, salad – with make-ahead shredded beef, this meal comes together really quickly with a quick pot of rice and salad
- Salad bar with shredded beef
- Beef tacos with barbacoa or ground beef and your favorite taco toppings
- Nachos topped with barbacoa or ground beef
- Broccoli Parmesan Pasta with shredded Greek-style roast
- Quinoa salad with shredded Greek-style roast
- Homemade hamburger helper
- Egg roll in a bowl with ground beef
- Vegetable soup with beef broth
- Potato nachos – classic nacho style with barbacoa or ground beef, made with leftover potatoes
- Burrito bowl bar with barbacoa or ground beef
- Sandwich bar – set out your favorite sandwich fillings (with shredded Greek-style beef as an option) and let everyone make their own sandwich masterpiece. Who doesn’t love a good sandwich? (We like this easy sourdough flatbread)
- Cowboy caviar with shredded barbacoa
- Mediterranean snack plate – with shredded Greek-style beef, veggies, hummus or tzatziki, olives, and dates or figs.
- Cauliflower mac and cheese with ground beef
- Tostadas with ground beef or barbacoa
Other Protein Dinner Recipes
- Potato nachos with bacon or sausage, made with leftover potatoes
- Salmon patties snack plate – salmon patties with crackers, veggie sticks, and some fruit. Snack plates are easy and delicious!
- Tuna salad snack plate
- Sausage spinach pasta toss
- Cauliflower mac and cheese with sausage
- Egg roll in a bowl with ground pork
- Fried rice
- Quinoa tabbouleh
- Breakfast for dinner: eggs and toast
- Egg roll in a bowl
- Avocado toast
- Breakfast for dinner: sheet pan pancakes
- 10-Min tomato soup with vegetable broth
- Snack plate – with hummus or ranch dip, veggies, fruit, crackers or sourdough toast, and a salad
- Budget-friendly macaroni and cheese (plus variations!)
- Yogurt parfait
- Smoothie bowl
- Potato nachos made with leftover potatoes
- Cauliflower mac and cheese
- Salad bar with chickpeas or hard-boiled eggs
- Pinto or black bean tacos with your favorite taco toppings
- Pinto bean tostadas
- Nachos topped with beans
- Broccoli Parmesan Pasta
- Quinoa salad
- Vegetable soup with vegetable broth
- Burrito bowl bar with pinto or black beans
- Sandwich bar with your favorite meatless sandwich filling
- Cowboy caviar
- Mediterranean snack plate – with veggies, hummus or tzatziki, olives, and dates or figs.
20-Minute Meals for Families
I hope these quick meal ideas help you get healthy dinners on the table for your family. Real food is important because we want to bring our best selves to all those activities that keep us busy.
Let’s fuel our bodies well, decrease our stress, and keep things simple during busy seasons!
What are your favorite go-to quick meals?Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.