We’re all pressed for time.
When life gets busy, often, cooking at home and eating healthfully is one of the first things that gets neglected. But what if there were a way to eat well with super easy and tasty meals that can all be made with just one pan? Such an approach might just help you get over that time hurdle and back to eating better all week long.
“One-dish meals make meal prep quick and easy even for those with limited time and resources by reducing kitchen clean up and simplifying the meal prep process,” says Kalee Eichelberger, a registered dietitian with Orlando Health-Orlando Regional Medical Center in Florida.
“Cooking everything in one pan or dish allows these meals to be packed full of flavor but still manages to remain calorie-controlled and contribute valuable sources of protein, fiber, healthy fats and nutrients.”
Here, Eichelberger and several other dietitians offer their favorite easy and healthy one-pan recipes that can help you become a dinner hero in no time flat.
1. Sheet pan tilapia and vegetables
New York City-based registered dietitian Jamie Feit, of Jamie Feit Nutrition LLC, says that while it might seem easier to pick up takeout on the way home, “when you can cook a meal by tossing all your ingredients on a sheet pan, it’s like magic. It’s super easy as all the ingredients cook together at one time, which also makes it efficient. And it’s healthier because these recipes are using clean ingredients with limited amounts of salt, sugar or fat.”
— 4 (6 ounce) tilapia filets, cut in large strips.
— 2 cloves garlic, minced.
— 3 tablespoons olive oil.
— 2 tablespoons lemon juice.
— 3 teaspoons fresh or dried parsley.
— 1 teaspoon dried oregano.
— Salt and pepper to taste.
— 1 cup baby carrots cut in half.
— 2 cups frozen broccoli florets.
— 2 cups cubed butternut squash, fresh or frozen.
— Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
— Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
— Toss all ingredients together except fish.
— Arrange all the vegetables on the sheet pan.
— Bake for 10 minutes.
— Add the fish and bake for 15 more minutes.
2. Pesto parmesan salmon with roasted golden potatoes and vegetables
Eating healthy means getting all the nutrients you need, and a key one is heart-healthy fat. This recipe, from Kailey Proctor, a board-certified oncology dietitian at Leonard Cancer Institute with Providence Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo, California, is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which promote brain health.
“The fat found in salmon is also considered heart-healthy since it reduces inflammation in the body and has been shown to lower one’s risk of stroke. The good fats in salmon can also help keep your nails, hair and skin shiny.”
In addition, this meal contains plenty of fiber from the veggies and the potato skins. Fiber promotes a healthy body weight by acting “like a balloon in the stomach keeping us full between meals so we are less likely to snack,” Proctor says. “Fiber also helps regulate bowel movements and has even been shown to reduce the risk of estrogen-sensitive cancers by absorbing extra estrogen during digestion.”
This super simple meal doesn’t even need measuring. Just toss together enough of each item to feed whomever is coming to dinner:
— Fresh salmon.
— Vegetables of your choice, like carrots, onions and Brussels sprouts.
— Yukon gold potatoes.
— Pesto, jarred or homemade.
— Parmesan cheese, grated.
— Olive oil for coating vegetables, potatoes and salmon.
— Italian seasoning blend, salt, pepper, garlic.
“Just put the ingredients in the pan or pot and let it cook,” Proctor says. Once the carrots have softened, usually about 30 to 60 minutes, “you have a healthy meal ready to go.” Add the salmon for the last 10 to 15 minutes of cooking. And you can double the recipe to make to-go lunches for the week.
3. Roasted spiced chickpeas with veggies
Emily Hayes, a Nutrition Partners registered dietitian with Stop & Shop, a major grocery store chain based in Quincy, Massachusetts, says “many of my favorite one-pan meals are plant-based.”
There are many reasons to reduce your intake of meat, from health to the environment, and Hayes notes that a recent survey from the Meatless Monday campaign found that 65% of respondents planned on trying more meatless meals in 2022. She offers several plant-based options to try out if you’re looking to add a “Meatless Monday” to your week, including this super-flavorful and budget-friendly chickpea-based delight. Chickpeas, like other beans and legumes, are an excellent source of plant-based protein. A half cup of chickpeas contains 6 grams of protein.
— 1 (15.5 ounce) can chickpeas.
— 2 medium sweet potatoes (about 1¼ pounds), scrubbed and cut into half-inch chunks.
— 1 (8 ounce) package whole baby bella mushrooms, cut into quarters.
— 1 (2 inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated.
— 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided.
— 8 to 10 mini sweet peppers, halved and seeded.
— 2 teaspoons curry powder.
— 1 clove garlic.
— ½ cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt.
— ¼ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro, divided.
— Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Drain and rinse the chickpeas. Dry very well with paper towels.
— To a medium bowl, add sweet potatoes, mushrooms, ginger and 2 tablespoons oil. Season with salt and pepper. Toss to combine. Arrange on a large-rimmed baking sheet, separating sweet potatoes from mushrooms.
— To same bowl, add the sweet peppers and 1 tablespoon oil. Season with salt. Arrange on same sheet pan in single layer. To same bowl, add chickpeas, curry powder and remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Season with salt and pepper. Toss until well coated and add to prepared pan. Spread out into an even layer.
— Roast 30 to 35 minutes, until sweet potatoes are tender.
— Meanwhile, into a small bowl, with garlic press, crush the garlic clove. Add the yogurt and half of cilantro, stirring to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. To serve, garnish with dollops of yogurt and remaining chopped cilantro.
“If you love bold flavor, this is the recipe for you,” Hayes says. “Fresh ginger and cilantro, curry powder and a garlicky sauce come together perfectly in this easy weeknight dish. I’ll usually try to chop the sweet potatoes, mushrooms and mini peppers ahead of time on my ‘meal prep day,’ so all I have to do to get this on the table is toss the items onto the sheet pan, season and roast.”
Hayes also recommends serving this dish atop a whole grain, such as brown rice or quinoa “for a hearty and warm grain bowl. I’ll also often double up on this recipe so I have enough for leftovers the next day. I like to simply throw the leftovers over a bed of leafy greens for an easy lunch.”
And if you want to boost the protein content, “you could easily cube firm tofu and toss that in the curry powder along with the chickpeas.”
4. London broil with potatoes and kale
If you’re craving red meat, on the other hand, try this simple and delicious option. Feit, who also serves as nutritional expert with Testing.com, a health information web resource, says that “by preparing lean proteins, healthy carbohydrates and vegetables at home, you’re able to control the amount of added salt and fat. Preparing food at home has been proven to be associated with increased diet quality. This can also help to manage your weight goals.”
— 1 London broil cut into cubes.
— 1 bunch kale, torn into bite-size pieces.
— 3 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced.
— 3½ tablespoons olive oil, divided.
— Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste.
— ¼ teaspoon dried Italian herb seasoning.
— Preheat your broiler on low.
— In a bowl, coat the potatoes and kale with the olive oil.
— Arrange ingredients on the baking sheet, and place the meat next to the vegetables.
— Place the baking sheet in the oven and broil for two to three minutes.
— Remove the sheet from the oven.
— Flip each piece of steak over and cook for two to three minutes more.
— Remove the baking sheet from the oven and allow the steaks to rest five minutes before serving.
5. Avocado pesto
A quick, homemade pesto adds loads of flavor to pasta or works as a spread on baguette slices. Adding avocados introduces a silky, rich consistency that can take the place of mayonnaise on a sandwich.
Eichelberger offers this simple recipe:
— 1 large bunch fresh basil.
— 2 ripe avocados.
— ½ cup walnuts or hemp seeds.
— 2 tablespoons lemon juice.
— 3 cloves garlic.
— ½ teaspoon fine sea salt.
— ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil.
— Ground pepper to taste.
Strip basil leaves from the stems and add to a food processor along with avocados, walnuts, lemon juice, garlic and salt. Pulse until finely chopped. Add oil and process to form a thick paste. Season with pepper.
6. Instant Pot walnut lentil tacos
“If you’re just beginning to introduce plant-based recipes to your family, adapting family-favorites, such as tacos, can be a great place to start,” Hayes says.
— 1 medium onion.
— 1 clove garlic, minced.
— 1½ cups dried brown lentils.
— 1½ cups finely chopped walnuts.
— ¼ tsp dried oregano.
— ½ tsp paprika.
— 1½ tsp ground cumin.
— 1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes.
— ¾ cup grated reduced-fat Mexican cheese blend.
— Medium flour tortillas, to serve.
— Diced tomatoes, chopped green onions and Greek yogurt, to serve.
— Using a box grater, grate the onion. To the Instant Pot, add the onion, garlic, lentils, walnuts, oregano, paprika, cumin and ¾ cup water. Season with salt and pepper. Pour the tomatoes on top; do not stir.
— Cook on high pressure for 20 min. Let natural release for five minutes. Stir in the cheese until melted. Serve taco mixture on tortillas with favorite toppings.
Hayes notes that if you don’t have an Instant Pot, “you could easily adapt this recipe for a regular pot on the stovetop.” To do that, start by preparing the dry lentils — combine 6 cups of water with 1.5 cups of lentils in a large pot. Next, bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cover and let simmer for 20 to 30 minutes.
When the lentils are tender, add the onion, garlic, tomatoes, walnuts, oregano, paprika and cumin to the pot and cook on low to medium heat for another five to 10 minutes, or until the mixture is completely heated through.
This particular Instant Pot recipe is a great one “because it truly is so simple and easy,” Hayes says. “I buy pre-diced walnuts and pre-minced garlic to save time, so the only ingredient that needs to be prepped is the onion. Then, all the ingredients can be thrown into the Instant Pot, and it can work its magic! In 20 minutes, your taco filling will be ready to go.”
7. Sheet pan chicken with cabbage and root vegetables
Feit also notes that “cooking quick and healthy meals at home provides you with the ability to enjoy food that is healthy for the body. Restaurants, takeout food and processed foods are high in sodium, calories and fat, which promote increased weight, inflammation and weight gain.”
You can avoid that with recipes like this delicious sheet pan chicken and veggies dish.
— 2 packages of chicken cutlets.
— 1 green cabbage, sliced.
— 4 carrots, peeled and sliced.
— 2 parsnips, peeled and diced medium.
— Olive oil spray.
— ½ teaspoon salt.
— 1½ teaspoon pepper.
— 1 teaspoon onion powder.
— 1 teaspoon garlic powder.
— 2 teaspoons adobo seasoning.
— Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
— Place chicken, cabbage, carrots and parsnips on a large sheet pan.
— Mix salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and adobo seasoning in a small bowl.
— Spray the chicken and vegetables with olive oil spray.
— Sprinkle the seasoning on top.
— Bake for one hour until chicken is cooked through and vegetables are tender.
8. Turkey chili
Is there anything more comforting than a bowl of warming chili on a cold winter’s day? Proctor’s super simple and nourishing version couldn’t be easier to make and nutritious.
Proctor says turkey is a lean protein source that’s “a great option for anyone looking to maintain or lose weight. Protein preserves lean body mass, which is important since muscle burns more energy at rest compared to fat. Protein-rich foods, like turkey, also take more time to digest versus simple carbohydrates, thus promoting satiety.” That feeling of fullness is also augmented by the fiber from the veggies and the beans in this one-pot stew.
When making one-pot meals, Proctor recommends using fresh herbs and spices to help boost flavor. “For meals cooked in a pot, the flavors tend to infuse more and have more flavor the next day. This is great for individuals looking to increase their vegetable intake as they will taste better, especially if you don’t enjoy vegetables.”
You can also add jalapeños or another spicy pepper if you want to turn up the heat on this dish.
— Lean ground turkey.
— Black beans.
— Pinto beans.
— Canned corn.
— Diced tomatoes.
— Cilantro, salt and pepper.
— Ground cumin and chili powder.
Brown onions and ground turkey in the pot and add beans, corn and tomatoes. Let simmer for 10 minutes and add spices. Simmer another 20 to 40 minutes on low to medium heat and enjoy.
Plan ahead to eat right.
Lastly, Eichelberger recommends planning ahead to keep you on track with eating healthier, no matter how busy your day may get. “It may seem easier to get take out and grab a quick bite rather than dedicating time to prepare a meal with fresh ingredients, but there are plenty of ways you can eat healthy without requiring too much time. Planning ahead can help make the process more achievable.”
Hayes agrees that thinking ahead can save critical time when you’re in a crunch. “For example, if you’re planning on making sheet-pan meals during the week, try preparing those ingredients as soon as you get home from the grocery store. You can batch cook whole grains, wash and chop vegetables, drain and rinse canned beans and marinate proteins. This way, when weeknight dinnertime rolls around, the recipe is already half completed.”
And if you’re using these one-pan meals to feed a family that includes some picky eaters, take heart, says Sara Riehm, a registered dietitian with Orlando Health in Florida. Even if your kids refuse a new food the first few times you offer it, “don’t give up! It can take up to eight to 10 tries for a child to accept a new food.”
She recommends serving new foods “mixed with or alongside a familiar food. Serving colorful foods and foods cut into fun shapes is another way to excite a child about their plate.”
8 easy and healthy one-pan meals:
— Sheet pan tilapia and vegetables.
— Pesto parmesan salmon with roasted golden potatoes and vegetables.
— Roasted spiced chickpeas with veggies.
— London broil with potatoes and kale.
— Avocado pesto.
— Instant Pot walnut lentil tacos.
— Sheet pan chicken with cabbage and root vegetables.
— Turkey chili.
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Update 03/08/22: The story was previously published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.