She has a no-fuss formula the whole family will love.
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portrait of award-winning nutritionist Ellie Kreiger
Credit: Courtesy of Ellie Kreiger

Even for the most organized among us, it can feel like a Herculean task to get any dinner on the table for the family during the week, let alone a healthy one. The secret, according to Ellie Krieger, a registered dietitian and nutritionist, TV host, and author of cookbooks including Whole In One ($30, amazon.com)? Three components are key: A well-stocked pantry, a little bit of planning, and not overthinking it. "Let go of your idea of perfection and do your best," says the "It doesn't have to be perfectly healthy," she adds.

Krieger spends much of her day in the kitchen testing recipes, and by the time she gets home, she's like most of us. "I want to do as little as possible. I want dinner to be inspiring, but I don't want to work hard, and I've found you don't have to," she explains. Does that sound like you? If so, her approach to weeknight meals could be eye-opening for you. One of her secrets is menu planning, but don't let that phrase intimidate you. Your goal, Krieger suggests, is to think of three things to cook and make sure you have the ingredients for them. "I don't try to think of five," she says. "Three seems attainable and usually I have leftovers." You don't even need to have a specific recipe in mind. Instead, she says, try to think of a protein, vegetable, and either a starchy vegetable or a whole grain to make up each dinner.

What Are Her Go-To Weeknight Meals?

Like us, Krieger is a fan of sheet pan dinners, and salmon is one of her favorite options for a busy night. She often adds broccoli, edamame, and shiitake mushrooms to the sheet pan and drizzles everything with a soy-ginger marinade. You'll also find soup on her table every week, including in the summer. "It's such an amazing thing if you have a pot of soup on the stove, anyone can have a cup as a snack," she adds. Another favorite dinner is to make grain bowls with leftovers.

A Well-Stocked Pantry Is Key

With the right ingredients in your pantry and freezer, dinner is never as hard as it might seem. Here's what Kreiger keeps on hand at all times. First up? Canned tomatoes, which Krieger says are a busy home cook's best friend. "They're a great base, so nutritional and everyone loves something saucy. Plus canned tomatoes have more lycopene in them than fresh." Another canned staple? Beans. "Every variety—white beans, pinto beans, chickpeas—there are a million things you can make," Krieger says.

She also likes to have frozen seafood at the ready. The key here, according to Krieger, is to buy individually wrapped servings that you can thaw the night before. "You can pull out as many as you need, and they're often fresher than at a fish counter and more economical."

Get the Family Involved

Finally, to make weeknight dinner feel like less of a chore, Krieger likes to have people in the kitchen with her, even if they're not cooking. "When my daughter was younger she would do her homework at the table in the kitchen as I prepped, so I could answer any questions," says Krieger. "It was a nice moment together even though we were on different tasks."

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