Slim down with this 500-calorie dinner

By: Hilary Meyer  |  Friday, January 7, 2011

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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What Does a 1,500-Calorie Day Look Like?
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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