On days when you have to work late and your kids have after-school activities, you might face the temptation of driving through a fast-food line. We’ve all been there. Takeout is a quick-and-easy option on those crazy busy school nights, but wouldn’t you rather have a healthier alternative for the family? When you’re crunched for time, how do you whip up a dinner in about 30 minutes that doesn’t skimp on the nutrients — or worse, comes with a lot of fat and sodium?
It can be tough to come up with tasty meal ideas, especially when so many kid-friendly dishes are packed with cheese, butter, and other yummy stuff that’s super satisfying but isn’t nutritious. We’re not even going to touch on how much more difficult it is when you have a picky eater in the mix. Don’t stress though. We’ve got a delish list of 1,000-calorie meals that are super healthy and won’t take long to get to the table.
Dinner menus get boring pretty quickly, and kids always want takeout. Thank goodness there are nutritious, budget-friendly, and tasty dinner options. If you’re looking for 1,000-calorie meals that don’t skimp on taste, let’s get cooking.
Pasta dishes are always a meal you can get on the table in 30 minutes. For this simple dish the kiddos will love, all you need is a package of chicken tenders, olive oil, and a box of your favorite pasta. While the pasta is cooking, saute diced chicken tenders in olive oil in a skillet. When the pasta is finished, drain and add to the pan. Mix in and season to taste using salt, pepper, and Italian season. For extra nutrients, add spinach, peas, or broccoli.
Turkey enchilada stir-fry with couscous
For an international flavor spanning the globe, prepare turkey enchilada stir-fry with couscous. At only 438 calories per serving, this dish is a fast and healthy meal that doesn’t require a lot of prep. Couscous only takes 5 minutes to boil. For an additional timesaving hack, you can cook the ground turkey ahead of time. Try adding sliced avocado and Pico de Gallo for a tasty garnish.
Middle Eastern chicken burgers
Sandwiches rank high on the list of under-1,000-calorie meals for families and this healthy favorite sits at the top. Middle Easter chicken burgers offer a fun, fast, and lean dinner for a busy weeknight. You combine ground chicken and plain yogurt with coriander, chopped onion, Kosher salt, pepper, and garlic. Then, you’ll form the mixture into patties and fry in olive oil over medium heat. Serve them on toasted buns and garnish with thinly sliced tomato, red onion, and lettuce.
Cauliflower fried rice
Another popular under-1,000-calorie meal for families is cauliflower fried rice. It’s easy, nutritious, and yummy. Cauliflower fried rice offers a lot of flavor and versatility, and your family won’t believe that it’s not really rice. Although this easy dish only contains 222 calories, you’ll find it to be one of the most delicious. To make the recipe heartier, add chicken, pork, or tofu. For quicker prep, try using frozen riced cauliflower (not thawed) along with a cup each of diced carrots and peas. Throwing in a dash of honey, soy sauce, ginger, and garlic adds an extra tangy flavor to the dish.
This is an easy meal where you can cook the filling ahead of time and store it in a sturdy, plastic storage bag or a covered container in the refrigerator. Prepare the chicken or turkey filling by cooking it with ginger, garlic, and onion. Throw in some toasted cashews or almonds for an added crunch. Then, add some grilled veggies, like zucchini, squash, or asparagus to the mix. Bell peppers are a perfect pick too. The type of lettuce leaves that work best for holding the filling are iceberg, butter, or romaine. Serve these wraps over a bed of rice or quinoa, and you have a fast and healthy meal for an evening when you’re pressed for time.
Shrimp scampi with ribbon pasta
Using pre-cooked shrimp makes this one-skillet meal a breeze to prepare. Plus, replacing regular spaghetti with edamame noodles shaves a few minutes off the boiling time and adds a savory flavor. For an additional source of protein, you might consider trying chickpea or red lentil pasta, which has the same texture as its wheat counterpart. Along with the pasta, you’ll mix in ribbons of squash by using a potato peeler. Combined with cherry tomatoes and pepper flakes, sauté this mixture in olive oil for a quick, low-calorie treat.
Casseroles can be a hero on those busy weeknights. Some might need to be prepared ahead of time and then baked on a weeknight, and others take just 30 minutes to throw together and cook. Here are a few casseroles to light up the dinner table.
Frozen zucchini, pre-made sauce, and no-boil lasagna noodles will save you valuable minutes in prep time for this healthy comfort food. Either cottage cheese or ricotta works well with this family-friendly dish. Finish it off with a sprinkle of mozzarella cheese on top.
Zucchini tomato bake
Frozen or fresh zucchini also work for this 30-minute casserole. All you have to do is toss the veggies, herbs, and parmesan cheese together and bake.
Healthy chicken broccoli casserole
Skipping the canned soup, you can easily whip up this casserole using whole wheat or veggie pasta. This is a great way to use leftover chicken or turkey.
Stuffed cabbage rolls
What makes this meal fast and easy? The leftovers, of course! You’ll combine leftover ground turkey or pork with brown rice from a previous meal with chopped cabbage along with tomato sauce and a plethora of herbs.
Need a bit more inspiration for the dinner table? Try these quick recipes that are healthy and tasty.
- Spaghetti and meatballs are always a hit. Make the meatballs in the crockpot to save time. Use regular spaghetti or go for vegetable pasta. Jar sauce is a time saver, too.
- Sloppy Joes are another easy dish that’s an under-1,000-calorie meal. You can use ground beef, turkey, or chicken in this sloppy Joe recipe that’s ready to eat in 30 minutes.
- Kids love pizza, but takeout pizza isn’t super healthy and is high in calories. Instead, take a loaf of Italian bread, your favorite jar sauce, and mozzarella cheese, then slice the bread and spread a light layer of sauce on top with the cheese. Bake at 350 degrees until the cheese is melted. Pair with a side salad for a complete and nutritious dinner.
At last, evening time won’t find you in a bind for fast and healthy dinners. A few other hacks to keep in mind include cooking meats during the weekend to store in the refrigerator and chopping veggies ahead of time or sticking to the frozen options. Planning meals for the week helps to save time—and trips to the grocery store. Finally, feel free to get creative with this list of under-1,000-calorie meals for families and make some modifications that suit your family’s taste.
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