Low-Calorie Dinner Ideas

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Low-Calorie Dinner Ideas

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Everyday across America there is one question asked thousands of times over: “What should we have for dinner?” Breakfast and lunch are simpler – why? Food is becoming more expensive, even the staples, time is always ‘crunched’ and creativity takes a backseat to convenience and ease of preparation. Throw in weight loss and calorie specifications and it seems impossible. Luckily there are hundreds of healthy dinner recipes and ideas you can (and should) try. What is a ‘low-calorie’ dinner? Since the true definition of ‘low-calorie’ is an item providing 40 calories or less per serving, a better title might be ‘calorie-controlled dinners’ or ‘diet-friendly supper ideas.’ Knowing the calorie content (per serving) makes calorie counting for weight loss easier. There are many ways to say it, but hundreds of ways to do it, without falling into the processed, sodium-packed ready-meals traps. Start with these five family-friendly, calorie-controlled dinner recipes.

Low-Calorie Dinner Recipes

Skinnier Mac ‘n’ Cheese

Yield:  10 servings


  • 2½ cups elbow macaroni (try ½ whole-wheat, ½ white pasta for more dietary fiber)
  • 2½ Tbsp ‘light,’ trans-fat free margarine
  • ¼ cup plus 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp powdered (dry) mustard
  • 1/8 tsp white pepper
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • 4 cups 1% milk, heated
  • 1 cup reduced-fat cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup low-fat cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 2 Tbsp each grated parmesan cheese and fresh whole-wheat bread crumbs


Preheat oven to 350° F.  Cook macaroni in boiling water until firm-tender, about 8 minutes.  Drain and rinse with cold water.  In a medium-sized sauce pan, melt margarine over low heat.  Add flour, mustard, white pepper, and paprika to the melted margarine and cook for 2 minutes, stirring continuously. Don’t brown.  Slowly add warm milk, whisking frequently.   Cook over low heat, whisking until mixture is smooth and thick.  Add cheddar cheese and parmesan cheese to the white sauce.  Stir over low heat until cheese melts.  Remove sauce from heat and add cooked macaroni.  Mix well and place in a greased 13”x9” baking pan.  Cover with foil and bake for about 30 minutes.  Sprinkle the bread crumbs over the casserole.  Bake uncovered for 3-5 minutes to lightly brown. Serve each portion with ½ cup green beans.

Nutrient Analysis (3/4 cup)

  • Calories 219
  • Total fat 7.5 g
  • Saturated fat 2.9 g
  • Cholesterol 15 mg
  • Sodium 239 mg
  • Carbohydrates 26 g
  • Protein 12 g
  • Dietary fiber 1 g

Crispy oven-fried chicken

Yield:  5 servings


  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • 1 tsp poultry seasoning
  • 1 cup corn or bran flakes, crushed
  • 1½ Tbsp onion powder
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
  • 2 tsp each black pepper and dried hot pepper, crushed
  • ½ tsp grated (fresh) ginger or 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 4 large (whole) chicken breasts (around 450 grams total), skinless
  • ½ tsp vegetable oil (to grease baking pan)


Preheat oven to 350° F.  Add ½ tsp of poultry seasoning to milk.  Combine other spices with cereal crumbs and place in plastic bag.  Rinse chicken and pat dry.  Dip chicken into milk, allow excess to drip off and quickly shake in bag with seasoning and cereal crumbs.  Refrigerate for about 1 hour. Remove from refrigerator and place chicken (evenly spaced) on a greased baking pan.  Cover with aluminum foil and bake 40 minutes.  Remove foil and baking for an additional 35 minutes or until the meat can be easily pulled away from the bone with a fork.  Do not turn chicken during baking. Serve with baked sweet potatoes and a green vegetable.

Nutrient Analysis (about 1/2 breast)

  • Calories 220
  • Total fat 7 g
  • Saturated fat 2 g
  • Cholesterol 81 mg
  • Sodium 146 mg
  • Carbohydrates 9.6 g
  • Protein 28g
  • Dietary fiber 1 g

Spicy Baked Fish

Yield:  4 servings


  • 1.5 lb cod (or other fish) fillet
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp commercial spicy, seasoning, salt free or Hot ‘N Spicy Seasoning mix
  • As needed nonstick cooking spray


Preheat oven to 350° F.  Spray casserole dish with nonstick cooking oil spray.  Rinse fish and pat dry.  Place in a dish.  Drizzle with oil and sprinkle seasoning over the top.  Bake uncovered for 15 minutes or until fish flakes with fork. Serve with a green salad and steamed rice (preferably whole grain).

Nutrient Analysis

  • Calories 165
  • Total fat 4 g
  • Saturated fat 1 g
  • Cholesterol 60 mg
  • Sodium 281 mg
  • Protein 30 g

Super-Fast Vegetarian Chili

Yield: 6 servings


  • 1 16-oz cans each red kidney beans and stewed tomatoes
  • 1 cup of plain water
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • 1 TB dehydrated onion flakes
  • 1/8 tsp each dried oregano AND dried basil
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp reduced-sodium beef bouillon


Mix kidney beans, tomatoes, water, garlic, onion flakes, oregano, basil, chili powder and bouillon in a large pot. Simmer uncovered over medium heat for 15 minutes, stirring frequently. (If desired, add veggie ‘crumbles,’ found in frozen food section, near veggie burgers ~ have the texture of ground beef).

Nutrient Analysis (about 1/5 recipe or 275 g)

  • Calories 330
  • Total fat 1.3 g
  • Saturated fat 0 g
  • Cholesterol 0 mg
  • Sodium 33 mg
  • Carbohydrates 61 g
  • Protein 20.5 g
  • Dietary fiber 15.4 g

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