Five easy ideas for a healthier dinner

Whether you are cooking for yourself, your family or your flatmates, coming up with healthy ideas for dinner can sometimes get tiring. But it doesn’t have to – try these ideas for putting healthy twists on classic recipes, making preparing nutritious dinners a breeze.

1. Switch up your Spag Bol 
If fussy eaters make it hard for you to serve up everyone’s vege count for the day, try sneaking extra vegetables and legumes in where they can’t be detected - pasta sauces and stews are the perfect disguise! Make a lentil-based Bolognese that is bulked up with grated carrot for a delicious vegetarian dinner filled with iron, protein and vitamins. You could also try cooking a ragu made from black beans, which is a much cheaper alternative to meat that still provides you with essential fibre and protein. If you want to take things even further, swap spaghetti in either dish for spiralized zucchini as a gluten-free substitute that adds another boost of vitamins.

2. Opt for cauliflower rice
It’s a staple in diets all over the world, but in the last few years rice has been pushed aside by a unique alternative: grated cauliflower. Mimicking the appearance of white rice, cauliflower is a great substitute if you are looking to reduce carbs or increase levels of fibre and vitamins in your rice dishes, such as this Cauliflower Fried Rice. If you want to be extra sneaky, try using half cauliflower and half normal rice, so you can get in an additional serving of vegetables whilst still maintaining flavour and texture.

As well as acting as a perfect swap for rice, cauliflower also makes a great alternative for white sauce, especially when used in dishes such as macaroni cheese. Blend it up for a nutritious, creamy and faux-cheesy substitute that can easily be made vegan-friendly!

3. Warm up with healthier pasta bakes
Pasta bakes are a guilty pleasure for many home cooks on a chilly night, but sometimes they don’t quite cut it in the nutrition department. An easy way to improve your pasta bake’s health rating is to make it with wholemeal pasta, which contains more fibre, protein and iron than refined white pasta (find out more about that here). Or you could swap white pasta out for pulse pasta, which also has the bonus of being gluten free.

Another way to add more nutrients to your pasta bake is to include a few more vegetables in the dish. Thinly sliced eggplant, pumpkin or courgette can be layered throughout the bake to bulk up the fibre and vitamins, or try a recipe like this Creamy Broccoli, Rocket and Tuna Pasta Bake for another deliciously nutritious combination.

4. Healthier Nachos 
Everyone loves tucking into a plate of nachos, but using store-bought corn chips can add a lot of unnecessary salt to your dinner. An easy way to avoid this is to make your own chips – we love these Nachos with Homemade Kumara Chips, which also add a bonus serving of vegetables. They’re baked, not fried, and flavoured simply with a splash of olive oil and smoked paprika – delicious! You could also swap out mince for a bean topping to create a scrumptious vegetarian version of the family favourite, which will still provide you with a great boost of fibre and protein.

One more easy way to keep your nachos nutritious is to make sure you top them with fresh vegetables, so load up on homemade guacamole, salsa and grilled corn – as well as jalapenos and coriander for a healthy kick of flavour!

5. Small prep swaps
You don’t have to go drastically changing your weekly meal plan to make your dinners more nutritious – even the little swaps in the way you cook can make your meals that little bit healthier. Instead of free-pouring oil onto your tray of roast veggies, try using cooking spray oil and lightly spraying your veggies instead. Give it a go in this recipe for Crumbed Fish and Chip Bake - you can finally say goodbye to the dreaded over-pour!

Another simple swap is to pass on the butter and salt and opt instead for spices and fresh or dried herbs to ramp up the flavour factor in your meals. This Healthier Pad Thai is a great example – it utilises garlic, spring onions, bean sprouts and coriander leaves to infuse the dish with the incredible Thai flavours we all know and love.