As a registered dietitian, I’m used to people making assumptions about me and my diet. It happened just last week at the dentist when the receptionist noticed the letters after my name and said, “A dietitian! So, are you, like, vegan? Vegetarian?” Nope! I’m also not gluten-free or Paleo or Keto, and I don’t do juice cleanses.
I’m also accustomed to people scrutinizing my food choices. At a recent breakfast event, a man looked at my name tag (which listed my occupation) and then at my plate and said, “A nutritionist eats eggs?” and gave me a look that said, “I party like it’s 1999 and yolks are still the enemy.” I’ve been asked on dates if I’m “allowed” to eat pizza, and somebody once even asked if I “approved” of his decision to order pasta (oh dear), but I’ve also had others roll their eyes when I order salad or fish and green stuff.
Long story short, nutrition is very individual, and our needs are all different. The big picture is about balance, and an overall healthy diet can include room for occasional indulgences. So what about those most-of-the-time healthy habits that help you stay on track with your healthy-eating goals?
What does “healthy” mean anyway?
While individual needs vary, most health experts agree that a healthy meal is generally one that provides a balance of nutrients and consists primarily of whole, minimally-processed foods. If you want a go-to healthy dinner formula that doesn’t require overthinking, aim to fill half your plate with veggies, a quarter with protein and the last quarter with a carbohydrate.
There’s a certain voyeurism that comes up around food and diet, especially when social media makes it to easy to see what others eat (or pretend to eat). When clients ask me if they should be eating what I’m eating and posting on my social accounts, I say thanks, but also remind them that everybody is different, so our nutritional needs are all slightly different. It’s also important to keep in mind that everyone curates on social media, so be mindful not to compare your blooper reel to someone’s highlight reel.
That said, I’ve also learned that a little inspiration can be helpful, especially if you’re new to making diet changes and want some healthy dinner inspiration. So what do healthy people eat for dinner? I tapped some of my fellow dietitians to share their go-to dinners and takeaway tips for keeping that evening meal healthy.
When you’ve done your #MealPrep
Amanda Field RDN, CD, of Field Nutrition, is a fan of the MyPlate method and aims for a balance of protein, veggies, carbs, and healthy fat at dinnertime. “My go-to dinner is some farro or barley that I prepped earlier in the week, mixed with pesto, topped with baked tofu or cast iron skillet salmon.” To fill the veggie side of the plate, she loves “roasted broccoli, zucchini, bell peppers, and tomatoes. Sometimes I add avocado or sauerkraut too.”
When you’re throwing it together
“When I’m really pressed for time and couldn’t meal prep over the weekend,” says dietitian Kelly Jones of Kelly Jones Performance Nutrition, “I go with either a veggie omelet with sprouted grain bread and avocado, or a wild caught salmon burger over salad topped with chickpeas. I always have frozen veggies on hand so they can be added to any meal in minutes.”
When you’re craving balance
Rebecca Clyde MS, RDN, CD, owner of Nourish Nutrition Co., is all about taking a balanced, flexible approach that works with the ebbs and flows of day to day life. “Food rules often lead to deprivation,” she says, so she recommends “turning inward to determine what is satisfying and nourishing…It’s not easy, but it’s way better than feeling bad about yourself and your food choices which almost always leads to self-loathing and often bingeing.”
“Sometimes I’m organized and have some sort of week-long meal plan that I follow, other times it’s not at all organized, and I scrounge through my pantry for pasta or grab some eggs,” she says. “I like both of these bases because they’re really versatile and act as a great vehicle for all those vegetables I have sitting in my crisper. I hate wasting food, so a dish that’s easy to add vegetables to is really great!” This Torta de Patata is one of her go-to dinners, and it’s super-versatile.
When you don’t wanna cook
Don’t have hours to spend slaving over the stove when you get home at night? Dietitian Kristina Todini, RDN gets it. “My go-to healthy and easy dinner when I’m pressed for time is roasted vegetables [made] on a sheet pan. From potatoes to Brussels sprouts, to mushrooms, it’s easy to toss cut vegetables with spices and roast for 30 minutes. Pair with your favorite protein for a super-easy weeknight dinner. This Brussels sprouts recipe is one of her favorites.