What you should be eating for dinner, according to dietitians

Jeff Greenberg / ContributorWhen it comes to making a healthy dinner, it’s all about balance.
  • Overeating or eating the wrong foods can lead to trouble sleeping.
  • Three registered dietitians shared their specific dinner recommendations.
  • A balanced meal consisting of foods you actually enjoy will keep you satiated and less likely to reach for a late-night snack.

When it comes to dinner, overeating or eating too much of the wrong kinds of food can lead to trouble sleeping. On the flip side, a meal that is less than satiating can leave you wanting more and result in reaching for an unhealthy late-night snack even closer to bedtime.

INSIDER consulted with three registered dietitians to get their input on their favourite dinner choices.

An ideal dinner features a balance of vegetables, protein, grains, and healthy fat

SalmonJeremy Keith/FlickrGrilled salmon provides omega-3s and protein.

Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD, and author of “The No-Brainer Nutrition Guide For Every Runner,” told INSIDER that these components “help you stay full and avoid late-night snacking.”

“The ideal plate is one-half vegetables, a quarter protein, and a quarter starches, such as grains or starchy vegetables,” said Rizzo.

She listed grilled salmon with quinoa and roasted vegetables, and a vegetable bowl with brown rice and tofu as prime examples. Healthy fats can be incorporated by cooking vegetables in extra-virgin olive oil or adding avocado.

Make your one-pot dish a hearty side for your healthier meal

Mac and cheeseLarry Jacobsen/FlickrConsider serving mac and cheese as a side dish rather than the main course.

As nice as it is to have fewer dishes to wash, a one-pot dinner can increase your likelihood for reaching for something else later. Kathryn Riner, pediatric dietitian and founder of Healthy Kids Nutrition, encourages people to include more than one food at dinner.

“I know mac and cheese can be a family favourite,” said Riner. “[But] instead of having a one-pot meal, perhaps mac and cheese can be a side dish to chicken or salmon with broccoli. Cut up a few apples and serve milk as a drink, and you have a balanced meal the entire family can enjoy.”

Other sample meals she recommended are salmon with broccoli and brown rice, and black bean and sweet potato quesadillas made with whole wheat tortillas.

Overall, your dinner should include foods you enjoy and find satisfying

Burger chipsJonathan Knowles / GettyIt’s OK to occasionally treat yourself to your favourite foods.

Depriving yourself can lead to overeating, late-night snacking, and mindless eating and it’s for this reason that Riner encourages people to indulge in “fun” foods every once in a while.

“In order to avoid late-night snacking and cravings, it is important to include some fun foods (or what one may perceive as off limits) every once in a while,” said Riner. “Meaning, if we always order the healthiest thing on the menu but come home and graze on chips, perhaps we really wanted the burger and should have just enjoyed it in the first place.”

This dietitian-approved vegetarian meal incorporates protein and complex carbohydrates

Sweet potatoAnna Hoychuk/ShutterstockSweet potatoes make a healthy side to a protein-filled meal.

Meredith Price, MS, RD, CDN, a vegetarian, typically eats a big side salad (mixed greens, tomatoes, and cucumbers dressed lightly in olive oil and balsamic vinegar), two to three pieces of baked BBQ tofu, and a side of baked sweet potato fries for dinner, with a big glass of water.

“Having a balanced meal like [this] one will reduce cravings because you’re giving your body what it needs – a healthy balance of carbohydrates, fats, and protein,” said Price.

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