Hilary Meyer

I work in the EatingWell Test Kitchen and I make decisions about food every day. When I get home, I like to put my feet up and relax, but I often find that I'm still on duty, making choices about what to eat-this time for dinner. I'm tired of thinking about it, as are many people whose healthy-eating and diet resolutions quickly fall by the wayside. And I'm tired of making unhealthy choices (like ordering pizza two nights a week) and then watching the numbers on the scale creep up as time goes on. Ideally, the numbers would be moving in the opposite direction.


I could take the easy route and watch my calories by eating prepackaged frozen meals-or even slug down dinner in the form of a shake from a can. But eating, even if you're trying to losing weight, should still be enjoyable, and the joy is lacking in both those options.

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Or I could go out. Applebee's, for example, is promoting their 550-calorie-or-less menu. It's a step in the right direction toward healthy eating, but some of those meals have upwards of 3,250 milligrams of sodium-far more than you should consume in one day and far from my definition of healthy. Plus it's going to cost me more money than making a meal from scratch at home. As far as my wallet is concerned, that's not a sustainable option.

So I've come up with an easier, more affordable and more delicious option. Next week, I'm going to make up my own 500-calorie menu out of the EatingWell 500 Calorie Dinners cookbook. I'll get a delicious meal, the calories are already counted and the dinner is all laid out-so there's very little decision-making required.

Recipes to try: Get Dozens More 500-Calorie Dinner Menus Here

Not only do I have my main dish covered, but my side dishes are all laid out for me, too-even dessert and an occasional glass of wine. They're balanced and nutritious meals with tons of variety to suit any taste-everything from soup to steak (even my beloved pizza). And I'll likely shed a few pounds while doing it. If I do, I may even feel inspired to create some of my own 500-calorie dinners with the EatingWell Menu Planner. (Think how much you could lose if you did it 5 nights a week! Give it a try: take EatingWell's 500-Calorie Dinner Challenge!)

If you're like me and want someone else to plan dinner, or if you're looking to lose a few pounds, the 500-calorie dinners are a great place to start.

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Here's the 500-calorie dinner menu I'm going to start with:

Lemon Chicken Stir-Fry

To round out your 500-calorie menu, serve this with 3/4 cup cooked whole-wheat pasta (131 calories) or 3/4 cup brown rice (164 calories) and either Fast Strawberry Frozen Yogurt (100 calories) or a glass of white wine (116 calories).

Fast Strawberry Frozen Yogurt
Active time: 10 minutes | Total: 10 minutes

Even without an ice cream maker, you can still enjoy homemade frozen yogurt.

1 16-ounce package frozen unsweetened strawberries (about 3 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup sugar, preferably instant-dissolving
1/2 cup nonfat plain yogurt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1cup diced frozen or fresh strawberries for garnish

Combine strawberries and sugar in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Combine yogurt (or buttermilk) and lemon juice in a measuring cup; with the machine on, gradually pour the mixture through the feed tube. Process until smooth and creamy, scraping down the sides of the workbowl once or twice. Serve immediately.
Makes 6 servings, about 1/2 cup each.
Per serving: 100 calories; 0 g fat (0 g sat, 0 g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 26 g carbohydrate; 1 g protein; 2 g fiber; 13 mg sodium; 115 mg potassium.
Nutrition bonus: Vitamin C (56% daily value).


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