7 Days, 7 Dinners

Monday, September 06, 2010 | 0 comments »

By Joe Wilkes

If you're trying to get in shape, dinner can be a really dicey time. It's when a lot of us gather with family or friends, and it can entail a big home-cooked meal, a large pizza, or a bucket of chicken. No one's going to appreciate being served a scoop of cottage cheese and a mixed-greens salad when they were expecting lasagna or kung pao chicken. Here are some healthy ideas that'll keep you on track nutritionally but won't get you in the doghouse with your dining companions.

Note: All Nutritional Information is for one serving.

Sunday: Turkey Chili

Chili is one of the dishes that's actually fun to make and healthy to eat. If you check out Beachbody's (or anyone else's) fast-food guides, you'll see that Wendy's® chili is one of your healthiest fast-food options. With tomatoes for vitamins, beans for fiber, and some kind of meat or other protein source, the myriad chili recipes out there offer lots of options for a well-balanced meal. Here's a good basic recipe, but half the fun of chili-making is improvisation. That's why chili cookoffs are so popular. Spice it up if you have an iron stomach, or substitute your favorite lean meat or textured vegetable protein. Experiment with different beans and other legumes. The chili pot also can be a great repository for soon-to-spoil leftovers. Just try to avoid certain popular mix-ins like cheese and sour cream that add more fat than flavor. Also, when buying ground turkey, look for extra-lean or all-breast meat. Many "lean" varieties of ground turkey have as much fat as hamburger.
  • 1 lb. ground turkey, extra lean
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 large can (28 oz.) tomatoes, crushed or diced
  • 1 can (12 oz.) tomato sauce
  • 1 can (15 oz.) kidney or pinto beans, rinsed
  • 2 tsp. chili powder (or more to taste)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
In large saucepan, brown ground turkey in olive oil. Spoon out any excess fat. Add onion, garlic, and pepper, and sauté until veggies are soft, about 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and simmer 10 to 15 minutes. Can be served immediately (although leftovers are great, too). Serve with hot sauce to taste. Serves 4.

Preparation Time: 15 to 20 minutes

Nutritional Information (per serving):
Calories Protein Fiber Carbs Fat Total
296 33 g 7 g 24 g 9 g

Monday: Chicken Florentine

This recipe was inspired by a dish I had at Dan Tana's in Los Angeles. James Woods is a frequent guest of the restaurant and has a veal scallopine dish with spinach named after him there. This isn't that dish, but it uses a couple of elements that can make a dish healthier, including making a paillard and sautéing in broth. A paillard is usually a piece of veal or beef pounded thin to tenderize the meat. In addition to tenderizing, it's also a great way to get more surface area out of your favorite protein. To make a paillard, wrap the meat in a high-quality plastic wrap (heavy duty, if available; otherwise, your kitchen will look like a crime scene) and pound away with a meat tenderizer or mallet until you reach the desired thinness. It's good for venting your frustrations as well as turning a small piece of meat into something that feels like a bigger portion. Sautéing it in broth (in addition to oil) also is a good way of reducing calories while creating a yummy sauce.
  • 1 chicken breast, skinless and boneless, pounded thin
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth, low-sodium
  • 1 cup spinach, steamed
  • 1 slice provolone or mozzarella cheese
not brown. Add chicken breast and cook until done. If pounded thin enough, it should just take a couple of minutes per side (don't panic if it's a little underdone; it's going in the oven later). Remove skillet from stove and pile spinach on top. Place cheese on top of spinach. Put pan in oven until cheese melts, then put chicken on plate and drizzle pan broth over it as sauce. This recipe is pretty low-carb, so you might serve it with whole-grain pasta if you're not watching your carbs. Serves 1.

Preparation Time: 10 to 15 minutes

Nutritional Information (per serving):
Calories Protein Fiber Carbs Fat Total
416 40 g 4 g 10 g 24 g

Tuesday: Fish Tacos

You don't have to live in Baja to enjoy fast and healthy Baja cuisine. Instead of tacos full of cheese, sour cream, and fat, try these easy-to-make high-protein treats that feature heart-healthy avocado. If you're not crazy about fish, add extra salsa. These are also great projects for kids to assemble.
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • Juice of one lime, or more to taste
  • 6 oz. white fish fillet, like tilapia, snapper, or cod
  • 2 soft corn tortillas
  • 1/2 cup cabbage, shredded
  • 1/2 avocado, chopped
  • 1 jalapeño, chopped (optional)
  • Salsa, low-sodium (optional)
Toss tomato, onion, and cilantro with lime juice, and set aside for flavors to combine (add chopped jalapeño for extra kick). You could also skip this step and use a low-sodium store-bought salsa. Steam or grill fish, or sauté it in a little lime juice. Warm tortillas in oven or microwave, and pile with fish, cabbage, avocado, and salsa. Serves 1.

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Nutritional Information (per serving):
Calories Protein Fiber Carbs Fat Total
511 49 g 13 g 45 g 19 g

Wednesday: Stuffed Peppers

This recipe is always a crowd-pleaser, presentation-wise. It can also be made with ground turkey or vegetarian burger crumbles. As a time-saver, many stores now carry prepared brown rice, which saves a lot of cleanup as well. Stuffed peppers freeze well, too, so this is a good recipe to supersize for future meals.
  • 1 lb. ground beef, extra-lean (less than 5 percent fat)
  • 1 cup brown rice, cooked
  • 2 cups tomato sauce
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 6 green bell peppers
What follows are the microwave directions. You could alternatively scramble the egg and heat the beans in a small frying pan.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut tops off peppers and remove seeds and membranes. Mix first seven ingredients and stuff mixture into the bell peppers. Bake for 1 hour and serve! Serves 6 (although they're pretty low-cal—you could eat two easily).

Preparation Time: 10 minutes (more, if cooking rice from scratch)

Nutritional Information (per serving):
Calories Protein Fiber Carbs Fat Total
208 19 g 6 g 23 g 5 g

Thursday: Shrimp Stir-Fry

Stir-frying is fast, easy, and a great way to use up vegetables that might not make it to the end of the week. Four cups of veggies to a pound of shrimp is a pretty good ratio—although you can always add more veggies.
  • 1 lb. raw shrimp, peeled
  • 1 Tbsp. ginger root, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp. sesame oil
  • 3 to 4 Tbsp. chicken or vegetable broth
  • 4 cups mixed vegetables (broccoli, peppers, carrots, celery, etc.)
  • 1 bunch scallions, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 2 cups brown rice, cooked
Sauté ginger and garlic in sesame oil until soft. Add shrimp and cook about 3 to 5 minutes, depending on the size of the shrimp. Set shrimp aside. Add broth, veggies, scallions, cayenne pepper, and soy sauce to pan and sauté until veggies reach desired softness (I like mine a little crunchy). Use enough broth so the veggies don't burn, but not enough to make soup. Toss the shrimp back in, mix together, and serve over rice. Serves 4.

Preparation Time: 15 to 20 minutes

Nutritional Information (per serving):
Calories Protein Fiber Carbs Fat Total
303 31 g 9 g 36 g 5 g

Friday: Oven-Poached (or Dishwasher) Salmon

This is a great recipe to make with little to no cleanup involved. By placing foil-wrapped packet in oven, you can skip the pot- or pan-cleaning that can make cooking such a hassle. However, if you don't have access to an oven (say, at work), you can actually make this in a dishwasher. The dishwasher method is less environmentally friendly, but much more amusing. Please keep in mind, though, that it's a pretty big waste of water, so try to dishwasher-cook more than one serving at a time to help justify the carbon footprint. (Note: For dishwasher method, DO NOT USE SOAP!)
  • 1 6-oz. salmon fillet or steak
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped dill
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 2 Tbsp. dry white wine
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped scallions
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Get a big enough piece of foil (about 12 square inches) to hold the fillet as well as the other ingredients when folded. You might consider doubling the foil to prevent leakage. Put foil salmon packet in broiler and cook for 15 minutes or until salmon is pink all the way through. (If using the more controversial dishwasher method, cook for one wash and dry cycle, and we can't stress enough, NO SOAP!) Serves 1.

Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Nutritional Information (per serving):
Calories Protein Fiber Carbs Fat Total
344 22 g 1 g 1 g 14 g

Saturday: Portuguese Kale Soup

This is a favorite of mine to make on the weekend. It makes the house smell great, and I have lunch leftovers for days. Kale and leeks are both super-healthy, so don't skimp! You can substitute veggie sausage or leave out the sausage completely, and just add a little extra garlic and pepper for flavor.
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 to 3 large leeks, chopped, just white and light green parts
  • 12 oz. turkey kielbasa, chopped
  • 1 bunch kale, torn and stemmed
  • 1 can kidney beans
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • Salt and pepper to taste
In a large stockpot, sauté garlic and leeks until soft. Add kielbasa and brown. Add kale, beans, tomatoes, and broth and simmer on low heat for 30 minutes. Serves 4.

Preparation Time: 30 to 40 minutes

Nutritional Information (per serving; 1/2 frittata):
Calories Protein Fiber Carbs Fat Total
377 23 g 10 g 36 g 19 g

Feel free to eat any of these lunches any day of the week. And repeat your favorites. Most of these can be integrated into your favorite Beachbody meal plan, including P90X®. Come back next week for part three of our series and get recipes for 7 days, 7 snacks. Bon appétit!