Eating to lose weight isn't just about the calories. In this week's meal plan, 400-calorie dinners feature foods that research has shown help make weight loss easier. Low-calorie spaghetti squash is swapped in for pasta, filling fiber-rich beans are added to give your dinner more staying power, and satisfying omega-3-rich fish helps to quell appetite-related hormones. These naturally-slimming dinners make healthy eating and losing weight a delicious endeavor.
As a bonus, we added in meal ideas using dinner ingredients for healthy 350-calorie weekday lunches. Take a look at our other satisfying low-calorie lunches.
Watch: Weight Loss Tips That Really Work
Chicken Tacos with Tangerine-Lime Crema:
This spicy chicken taco recipe gets fresh orange flavor from both the crema and crunchy slaw toppings. The lean protein from the chicken and the low-calorie slaw make this a satisfying, filling meal. Serve with tortilla chips on the side.
Curried Cauliflower Steaks with Red Rice & Tzatziki:
Gone are the days when your rice choices were limited to white and brown. In this healthy vegetarian dinner recipe, the aromatic flavor of red rice or brown basmati jibes deliciously with fragrant curry powder. A 2016 study in Food and Nutrition Science, found that people who eat grains weight, on average, 7 1/2 pounds less and have waists that are nearly 1 1/4 inches smaller than non-grain eaters.
Because you need 2 whole heads of cauliflower to get 4 cauliflower steaks, you'll have leftover cauliflower florets to use up. Roast the florets alongside the steaks, then toss them with some chickpeas and tzatziki sauce for a healthy lunch.
Turn leftovers into a Curried Cauliflower Salad for lunch: Combine 6 Tbsp. leftover tzatziki with 1 sliced scallion and 1/2 tsp. curry powder. Chop the reserved roasted cauliflower florets; stir into the sauce with 1/3 cup diced cucumber and 1/4 cup rinsed canned chickpeas. Serve garnished with cilantro, with a 6-inch whole-wheat pita.
Ancho Chicken Breasts with Black Beans, Bell Peppers & Scallions:
In this healthy chicken recipe, the meat is rubbed with ancho chile powder, a spice made from dried poblano peppers, which gives the dish a mild smoky flavor. The spiced black beans are the real star of this meal. According to a 2011 study from The European Journal of Nutrition, eating a low-calorie diet and simply adding four weekly servings of cooked beans or lentils can result in a 2-1/2-percent greater weight loss compared to just eating a low-calorie diet, without legumes.
This recipe makes an extra 1/2 cup of the black bean mash—try it wrapped into a burrito for lunch or as a taco filling.
Turn leftovers into black bean tacos for lunch: Spread the 1/2 cup leftover beans on 2 corn tortillas. Top each taco with 1/4 cup each chopped romaine lettuce and tomato, 1 Tbsp. each shredded Cheddar cheese and tomato salsa and a squeeze of lime juice. Serves 1.
Orange-Sesame Salmon with Quinoa & Broccolini:
A quick Asian orange sauce gives this healthy salmon dinner recipe bright flavor. Salmon has long been recognized as a "superfood" with it's high heart-healthy omega-3 content—now there's another benefit to add to the list. A study in Appetite reported eating three 5-ounce servings of salmon weekly (or taking a daily 1,300 mg omega-3 supplement) may help you to feel fuller and less hungry after meals.
Researchers think omega-3s have a positive effect on appetite-related hormones. If you want to turn this dinner into lunch for tomorrow, cook an extra 4-ounce salmon fillet to make the salmon & spinach sandwich.
Turn leftovers into a salmon & spinach sandwich with wasabi mayo for lunch: Whisk 1 Tbsp. reduced-fat mayonnaise with 1 tsp. wasabi powder. Spread on 1 toasted whole-wheat burger bun. Top with a leftover portion of salmon and 1/4 cup baby spinach.
Vegetarian Taco Salad:
Nobody will miss the meat in this colorful, zesty vegetarian taco salad. The satisfying rice and bean mixture can be made ahead and the salad quickly assembled at mealtime. This healthy makeover salad saves you around 500-calories when compared to a traditional restaurant-made taco salad.
Turn leftovers into lunch: Recreate this salad for lunch by storing the lettuce and bean mixture separately until you're ready to eat. To make it a 350-calorie lunch, leave out the tortilla chips.
Spaghetti Squash with Roasted Tomatoes, Beans & Almond Pesto:
Looking at a tangle of spaghetti squash tricks your brain into thinking you're about to eat a big plate of starchy noodles, when in fact, you get a nice calorie and carb savings in this healthy recipe. Giving tomatoes a stint in a hot oven makes them candy-sweet. Penn State researchers found that swapping in big-volume,low-calorie foods (i.e. fruits and veggies) for higher-calorie ingredients downsize a meal's calories by roughly 20 percent, without sacrificing flavor of that satisfying sense of fullness.
Turn leftovers into a pesto-turkey sandwich for lunch: Spread 1 1/2 Tbsp. leftover pesto on 2 slices toasted whole-wheat bread. Top with 3 oz. sliced deli turkey, 2 lettuce leaves and 2 tomato slices.
Vietnamese Grapefruit & Pork Salad (Pork Goi Buoi):
Goi buoi is a Vietnamese salad typically made with pomelo, a thick-skinned but super-sweet citrus fruit. In this healthy salad recipe, we use grapefruit because it's easier to find. Plus, it lends a tangy, acidic flavor to balance the vegetables. The lean pork and 3-cup serving of salad makes this colorful, citrus salad a filling dinner.
7-Days of Low-Calorie Dinners
7-Day Meal Plan to Lose Weight: 1,200 Calories
7-Day Meal Plan to Lose Weight: 1,500 Calories
7-Day Meal Plan to Lose Weight: 2,000 Calories