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Looking for a healthy meal that won’t weigh you down? These light dinner ideas made with real food ingredients are flavorful and filling.
After a season of celebrating, many people are looking for the best light dinner ideas
I have always liked the saying “Breakfast like a king/queen, lunch like a prince/princess, dinner like a pauper.”
It’s the opposite of what we associate with the typical American day: skipping breakfast for 2x coffee, lunch on the run, and a big meal for dinner.
On days when I have a larger lunch, I often crave something on the light side for dinner – without too much cream and butter, rich meat, or heavy on the starches.
It is very possible to create filling and flavorful meals that incorporate all three macronutrients – carbohydrates, protein, and fat – without sending you to bed feeling like you can’t sleep on your stomach (been there, done that).
If you’re looking for some lighter meals to add to your meal plan, here is a list of the best light dinner ideas that you can enjoy year round.
They are easy to make, nutritious, and many are meal-prep friendly to enjoy any night of week — enjoy these delicious dinners!
The Benefits of a Lighter Dinner
Beyond just a preference, there are tangible health benefits to embracing a lighter evening meal.
A lighter dinner aids in improved digestion, allowing our bodies to process nutrients more efficiently and promoting a sense of overall wellbeing.
This mindful approach also contributes to better sleep quality, as a less burdensome meal doesn’t interrupt the body’s nighttime rejuvenation process.
Incorporating nutrient-dense ingredients into lighter dinner options ensures that we not only satisfy our taste buds, but also provide our bodies with essential vitamins and minerals.
15 Best Light Dinner Ideas
Mediterranean Grain Bowl Recipe
This Mediterranean Grain Bowl is great to prep in advance and assemble on the spot in less than 20 minutes. I love all of the creamy sauces! Canned artichokes are a great pantry staple to have on hand for salads or grain bowls. And cucumbers are cheap and easy to add too. Make your dressing with yogurt to fill up on protein.
Miso Noodle Soup
This soup is simple to make and full of flavor! It’s a hearty, comforting and nutrient-dense meal for cooler weather; it’s also vegan and gluten-free. Avocados add healthy fats, soba noodles make from buckwheat provide satisfying protein too.
Pesto Tuscan Kale Salad with Chicken
Craving a crunchy salad? This hearty kale salad is made with Tuscan kale massaged with pesto and topped with chicken, blue cheese, and parmesan. The ultimate light dinner recipe!
Pumpkin Farro Salad
This pumpkin farro salad combines chewy farro with a whole roasted pumpkin and a few surprises, like pomegranate seeds! It will keep in the fridge for a few days, so it’s a great one to make on prep day.
Cold Peanut Noodles
The whole family will love these cold peanut noodles with for a quick, healthy dinner. I always love this in the summer because you can make it in advance and take it on a picnic. These Nutty Noodles are another favorite. If you use soba or whole wheat noodles, you’ll get protein and fiber, and the healthy fats in the dressing will fill you up.
Salmon Quinoa Burgers with Mint Yogurt Sauce
These burgers are super quick to put together, packed with protein, and they are baked, so there’s no fear of flipping! With loads of quinoa and salmon inside, the protein and fiber will keep you full. Plus you’ll have extras for lunch time!
Salmon Buddha Bowl
I love buddha bowls in the winter time when cool salads aren’t always top of mind. This salmon buddha bowl blends the simplicity of a seared salmon and brown rice bowl with the rainbow of veggies in a Buddha bowl – it’s light and delicious, and one of my favorite weeknight dinner recipes.
Chicken Grain Bowl with Goddess Dressing
Hearty and healthy, this chicken grain bowl with goddess dressing is packed with goodness. One of my favorite light dinners and is ready in 30 minutes! It’s a great way to use chicken breasts from the freezer that need to be used up or you can use a rotisserie chicken from the store to save you lots of time. Frozen grains work well too in a pinch.
Hot Honey Quinoa Salad
This Hot Honey Quinoa Salad is spiced up with one great ingredient: hot honey! If you can’t find hot honey in a store, you can always make your own with pure honey and some red chili flakes. Served with herby grilled chicken and plenty of veggies, this salad makes a great all-in-one easy dinner.
Easy Tempeh Rice Bowls
These easy tempeh rice bowls are made with a homemade marinade of broth, soy sauce, brown sugar, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, and cornstarch. AKA all those good, strong Asian flavors! You can add whatever veggies you like, but bell peppers and fresh spinach go great with this recipe. Also try snap peas or bean sprouts!
Mexican Buddha Bowl
This Mexican Buddha Bowl recipe is packed with fresh real food ingredients like purple cabbage and avocado and drizzled with a yogurt-cilantro lime dressing. Black beans and corn provide lots of filling bites, and cilantro and fresh limes add a summery brightness.
Chickpea Buddha Bowl
This chickpea buddha bowl is packed with wholesome real food and finished with a golden honey turmeric sauce. I love the texture of roasted chickpeas plus tofu and sweet potatoes will fill you up.
Quick & Easy Mediterranean Salad Bowls
These colorful salad bowls with a Mediterranean twist have a satisfying combination of sweet and savory flavor as well as creamy and crunchy texture. Pair figs with hummus, artichokes, and pita chips for crunch. The more flavor and texture boxes I check with each meal, the better! Best of all, these bowls call for ingredients you likely have on hand in your fridge and pantry.
Herby Lentil Salad
Enjoy as dinner main with salmon or grilled chicken on top! Lentils are an underrated ingredient in salads and can instantly up the protein and fiber of any dish. I love this salad with arugula, but you can use any greens you have on hand, like baby spinach.
This recipe is a KERF take on a healthy panzanella, which means “bread salad” in Italian! It brings whole wheat bread, kale, squash, green beans, tomatoes and goat cheese together into a colorful, hearty salad. The goat cheese makes it!