7 Healthy Dinner Ideas to Break out of a Rut

It's relatively easy to come up with healthy dinner ideas. One night, it's salmon, broccoli, and a sweet potato, the next it's a grilled chicken salad, and then it's your trusty black bean quesadilla before you start the whole cycle over again. Sure, your go-tos are delicious, quick, and easy, but it's no secret that repeating the same menu over and over again can get old fast. So how can you shake things up without throwing your dinner routine totally out of whack—and spending tons of extra time in the kitchen?

Don't worry, it's easier than you think. These seven simple ideas will help you quickly bust out of a boring dinner rut.

  1. Spice It Up

    Adding a new herb, spice, or flavor can breathe new life into a tired dish. For instance, you can wake up simple seared chicken or fish with fresh garlic and ginger. You can also add extra flavor to salad dressings with orange zest or a new-to-you herb, such as tarragon. Before roasting or sautéing vegetables, toss them with something bold like ground cumin or Chinese five-spice powder. You'll get a totally different taste—without putting in extra effort.

  2. Think Breakfast for Dinner

    There's no rule that says you can only eat breakfast foods when you first wake up. A veggie scramble with whole-grain toast, oatmeal, whole-grain pancakes with fresh fruit, or even a big green smoothie are just as delicious at dinnertime as they are in the morning. Best of all, you can pull them together in a matter of minutes.

  3. Make a Vegetable-Centric Meal

    Can't stand the thought of another plate of chicken or fish? Go with a plant-based protein instead. For instance, how about a vegetable stir-fry with tofu or tempeh, a salad topped with crunchy roasted chickpeas, or a whole-grain bowl with lentils? Your taste buds will thank you.

  4. Use Your Noodle

    Spiralized or shaved vegetables are a fresh, tasty alternative to regular pasta, and you can make them in the same amount of time it takes traditional noodles to cook. Try tossing zucchini noodles with marinara sauce, sweet potato noodles with creamy peanut sauce, or earthy beets with salty pesto.

  5. Make a Snack Plate

    Healthy snacks can be the perfect meal for dinner—especially because there's no cooking involved. Make a Mediterranean-themed plate with hummus or white bean dip, leftover roasted vegetables, whole-wheat pita bread, olives, and a few stuffed grape leaves. You could even put together a sweet cheese plate with goat cheese, fresh fruit, whole-grain crackers, and a handful of roasted almonds.

  6. Switch up Your Cooking Method

    Instead of using different ingredients, you can just change the way that you make them. For example, if you usually pan-fry your protein, try cooking it in a slow cooker, and if you normally steam your vegetables, experiment with roasting them instead. You might be surprised at how different the flavor and texture will be.

  7. Choose a Random Recipe

    Scroll through Pinterest or flip through your cookbooks and pick five to ten quick dinner recipes that you want to try. Write the name of each recipe on a slip of paper, and then fold them up or put them in a jar or bowl. When it's time to eat, pick one to find out what you'll be cooking.

Remember, coming up with new healthy dinner ideas doesn't have to mean spending more time cooking up elaborate recipes. With a few creative swaps, you can turn your ho-hum meal into something brand-new.