I'm a Dietitian on a Budget & These Are My Favorite High-Protein Dinners
Protein is trending right now, and for good reason. The essential macronutrient is crucial for numerous body functions, including building lean muscle, supporting healthy bones and promoting nourishing digestion. Getting enough protein (roughly 46 grams for adult women and 56 grams for adult men, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans) can help us feel and function at our best. However, many people think the best way to meet their protein needs is through eating meat, and lots of it, but that doesn't have to be the case. As a dietitian on a budget, I lean on recipes that use plant-based proteins like beans and eggs, more affordable cuts of meat like chicken thigh or canned fish and smaller meat portions so that I can stay full and fueled without breaking the bank. These recipes, like our Cheesy Marinara Beans and 25-Minute Sweet Potato & Bean Enchiladas, are some of my favorite dinners that boast at least 15 grams of protein per serving. For more budget friendly tips and recipe inspiration, check out our weekly Thrifty column.
Cheesy Marinara Beans
This ooey-gooey dish has baked-pasta vibes but features protein-packed beans instead of noodles. Look for dried corona beans, a larger, creamy white bean, at natural-foods stores or online. Cannellini are a good substitute. Serve with a green salad and toasted baguette.
Easy Salmon Cakes
These healthy salmon cakes are a delicious way to boost your intake of omega-3s. It is also a great way to use convenient canned (or leftover) salmon. The tangy dill sauce provides a tart balance to these easy salmon patties.
Chicken Cutlets with Sun-Dried Tomato Cream Sauce
Though a chicken cutlet may be a chicken breast cut in half, this recipe shows how to make chicken cutlets with double the deliciousness. A jar of sun-dried tomatoes does double duty for this healthy dinner recipe. The flavorful oil they're packed in is used to sauté the chicken, and the tomatoes go into the cream sauce.
One-Pot Lentil & Vegetable Soup with Parmesan
This lentil-vegetable soup is packed with kale and tomatoes for a filling, flavorful main dish. If you have it, the Parmesan cheese rind adds nuttiness and gives the broth some body.
Scallion-Ginger Beef & Broccoli
Whip up a chef-quality stir-fry recipe at home. This beef and broccoli stir-fry packs in more vegetables and nearly halves the calories of what you would find in a restaurant. And this healthy dinner takes just 30 minutes to prep, so it's about as quick as takeout too. Ginger, which adds a lively kick to this stir-fry, has long been touted for its power to settle stomachs. But that's not its only superpower: preliminary research suggests it may improve blood sugar and inflammation too.
Lemon-Garlic Pasta with Salmon
Wondering what to do with leftover salmon? This is a delicious and easy way to turn it into another weeknight-friendly, quick dinner. Don't forget to reserve some pasta water--its starch thickens the lemon-garlic pasta sauce and makes it silky-smooth.
Mozzarella, Basil & Zucchini Frittata
This vegetable-studded frittata recipe is one of the quickest meals you can make. Make it for breakfast, or serve for lunch or dinner with a tossed salad and a slice of olive oil-drizzled crusty baguette.
Salmon Rice Bowl
Inspired by the viral TikTok trend, this tasty bowl makes for a satisfying lunch or dinner. With a handful of healthy ingredients, like instant brown rice, heart-healthy salmon and lots of crunchy veggies, you'll have a filling and flavorful meal in just 25 minutes. Looking to cut down on carbs? Try swapping in riced cauliflower in place of the brown rice.
25-Minute Chicken & Veggie Enchiladas
These chicken enchiladas are great for using up any veggies you have lingering in your fridge. Our chicken enchilada recipe calls for zucchini, squash and onion, but you could easily swap in spinach, onions or potatoes.
Sheet-Pan Chicken Fajitas
One sheet pan is all you'll need to whip up these zesty chicken fajitas. They're quick and easy to make and cleanup is even faster!
Black Bean-Cauliflower "Rice" Bowl
This aromatic cauliflower rice bowl comes together in minutes and is a simple meal for one. Using frozen riced cauliflower instead of rice keeps the carbs in check--and makes for quicker prep.
Sheet-Pan Maple-Mustard Pork Chops & Carrots
You need just one pan for this satisfying weeknight dinner. A sweet and savory maple-mustard glaze livens up baked pork chops, while the carrots are jazzed up with flavor-boosting and anti-inflammatory garlic, ginger and turmeric. Rainbow carrots add colorful pizazz, but regular orange carrots are a just-as-tasty substitute. Pork dries out easily--using an instant-read thermometer ensures meat is cooked safely, but still moist.
Gochujang-Glazed Salmon with Garlic Spinach
Gochujang, a Korean red chile paste, and honey give this salmon a little bit of sweetness and a whole lot of spice.
Sheet-Pan Mediterranean Chicken, Brussels Sprouts & Gnocchi
In this healthy dinner recipe, chicken thighs, Brussels sprouts, cherry tomatoes and packaged gnocchi are all roasted on the same sheet pan for a complete meal that couldn't be easier to make. And though it's simple, this dish gets tons of flavor from Mediterranean seasonings, including garlic, oregano and red-wine vinegar. It all adds up to a dish that's ready to go into heavy weeknight rotation in your house.
Chopped Power Salad with Chicken
Enjoy this filling and colorful salad for lunch or dinner. The dressing gets made in the same bowl that the salad is tossed in, so the greens absorb every bit of flavor.
Pan-Seared Steak with Crispy Herbs & Escarole
This easy dinner takes just 20 minutes to prepare, meaning that seared steak can be a weeknight meal. Cooking herbs in the pan with the steak releases their aroma, infusing it into the meat while creating a crispy garnish. After the steaks and herbs are pan-seared, the escarole is cooked in the same skillet, so this healthy dinner requires minimal cleanup too.