Nutritionists can make helpful suggestions to solve the dilemma of what to make for dinner. A little forethought and advance planning goes a long way and helps prevent consumption of empty calories.

We’ve all been there. You come home from a long day at work and you’re exhausted and hungry, so you start munching on a bag of chips as you plan dinner. Before long, you’ve snacked yourself full. Luckily, implementing the nutritionist tricks that follow can help you throw together fast, simple and healthy meals on even the busiest nights. Pretty soon, using them will become second nature, and the “What should I make?” dinnertime crisis will become a thing of the past.

Nutritionists Have Tips for Healthy Dinners

Time Magazine interviewed nutritionists and solicited their ideas about how to have dinner partly prepped in advance so you don’t come home starving and end up eating junk food.

1) Stock your freezer with fish

The American Heart Association recommends eating at least two servings of fish per week. Vicki Shanta Retelny, a registered dietitian Chicago nutritionist, suggests buying fish that can go from your freezer straight to your oven. Typically, frozen fish should be thawed before cooking, but “some brands are marinated, individually wrapped, and can be cooked from frozen.” Look for phrases like “no need to thaw” or “from freezer to oven” on the package. Another alternative is to pick up a bag of cooked, peeled, and deveined frozen shrimp, which is a great source of low-cal protein, to quickly heat up and add to pasta dishes, stir-fries, and salads.


2) Do just a little prep work

Amy Gorin, a registered dietitian nutritionist and owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition in the New York City area has a practical approach. “If you love getting all your veggies, proteins and grains cooked for the week ahead, more power to you. But if it’s something you dread, skip it. She says it’s easy to get overwhelmed with meal prep, but you can take it down a few notches by pre-chopping the ingredients you can incorporate into meals during the week. For example, keep sliced mushrooms and onions on hand for stir-fries or omelets. That will simplify making weeknight dinners.


3) Embrace shortcuts

Lindsay Livingston, a registered dietitian in Columbus, Ohio offers another practical suggestion. No one really likes to peel and cube butternut squash, mince garlic, or chop Brussels sprouts. That’s why store-bought prepped produce can be a lifesaver. “They may be a little pricier, but they can save time and help you eat healthier at home in the long run.” If you want to be a bit creative with your veggies, jazz up meals with spiralized carrots and zucchini, shredded Brussels sprouts, or bagged cauliflower rice.


4) Keep these go-to foods on hand

There are days when you come home and are so starved you need to eat ASAP. Retelny advises always having quick-cooking 10-minute grains like bulgur or barley on hand. Then just toss them with ready-to-eat bagged salad, and a pre-seasoned package of tuna or salmon. This meal comes together fast, so you can eat well no matter what. More staples to keep in the house, according to nutritionists, include eggs, canned beans, frozen cooked chicken, jarred spaghetti sauce, hummus, veggies, noodles and frozen pizza.

Click here to read nutritionists tips for healthy dinners requiring minimal prep time.