As a dietitian juggling the demands of a busy household with three hungry teens, I've learned some practical mealtime tricks for easy midweek dinners that help me skimp on cooking time but never on nutrition or flavor. Because, contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to choose one over the other. Here’s how.

Must-Have Simple Ingredients

My favorite easy family dinner recipes include these must-have simple ingredients I try to incorporate these four essential ingredients in every meal to ensure my family gets the nutrition they need.1

Colorful Burgers

Colorful fruits and veggies

Excite your palate with a rainbow of color! From pale white to bright orange, fruits and veggies boast health-promoting phytochemicals, delivering vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants.

Beef & Vegetable Fried Rice

High Fiber Carbohydrates

Provide your whole family with the energy they need and the fiber to help keep them full longer, promoting a happy gastrointestinal tract.

Indian Steak & Rice Bowl

High Protein Foods Like Lean Meat

Including protein at each meal can provide your family with multiple benefits. High-protein diets aid in weight management, support muscle growth and repair, and may contribute to healthy aging by preventing age-related muscle decline. Plus, incorporating protein at every meal will also help you feel full and satisfied.2-5

FY23 BIWFD Recipes, Lime-Marinated Flank Steak with Stuffed Poblano Peppers

Healthy Fats

Add healthy fats to support your family's heart health, reduce inflammation, and as a bonus, gain a little extra fiber from food sources like nuts, seeds and avocados.

Easy to Cook Dinners Can also provide affordable family meal recipes, too.

Don’t underestimate the potential of convenience foods for easy family meals – they can be your ally in the race against the clock. Choosing straightforward ingredients like pre-bottled sauces or frozen and canned veggies can not only make dinner prep faster but also keep your wallet smiling. Let's face it, simplicity isn't just a time-saver; it can also be a budget-friendly choice. So, embrace the art of quick, wholesome meals to ease the time crunch and reduce stress around your family's health.

2014 Millennial Lifestyle Photos

Here are some of my favorite affordable meals that are also wonderful family meal ideas.

From Sizzling Asian Stir-Fry to Beefy Sweet and Sloppy Joes, this week's meals are covered. Time-saving tips, lean cut suggestions and nutrition hacks included!

Sizzling Asian Stir-Fry

Top Sirloin Steak strips take a dip in a flavorful marinade before being stir fried with plenty of vegetables! Serve with brown rice and roasted peanuts for crunch!

To save time: opt for time-saving store-bought sauce; aim for an option with lower sodium and fewer sugars.

Other lean cuts to consider: flank steak or top round steak. Freeze steak for 30 mins; use a sharp knife for thin slices against the grain.

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FY23 BIWFD Recipes, Sizzling Asian Stir Fry

Beefy Sweet and Sloppy Joes

This is a kid-friendly recipe with a great name. Sweet bell peppers give it the sweet, and, the sloppy, well, that’s the whole sandwich. Who doesn’t like to bite into a Sloppy Joe? This Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. recipe is certified by the American Heart Association®.

To save time: use pre-chopped, frozen bell peppers and onions

Nutrition tip: serve with a side of your favorite canned or frozen veggie.

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Sweet & Tangy Sloppy Joes

Cuban Crispy Shredded Beef

A few simple ingredients can take leftover Pot Roast to the next level. Traditionally known as Vaca Frita, sautéed beef with bell pepper, onion and lime juice, commonly served with rice and black beans. Delicious!

Lean cuts to consider: arm roast, brisket or bottom round (rump) roast

Nutrition tip: increase your veggie intake by adding an additional bell pepper

To save time: this quick guide walks you through how to cook a roast in the slow cooker for delicious shredded beef you can use all week long - How to Batch Cook Shredded Beef

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Cuban Crispy Shredded Beef

Mediterranean Beef Meatball Kabob

Lean Ground Beef, fresh parsley and cumin are formed into meatballs and served in flatbreads. Customize with your choice of chopped veggies and tzatziki sauce.

To save time: double the meatball recipe, cook, and freeze the meatballs for multiple meals. Thaw them in the refrigerator overnight for a quicker weeknight meal.

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Mediterranean Beef Meatball Kabob

Ground Beef and Pasta Skillet Primavera

This Italian-inspired recipe is a one-pot, fun to make and eat dish that combines ground beef, pasta, fresh zucchini and yellow squash. This Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. recipe is certified by the American Heart Association®.

Nutrition tip: add frozen, chopped spinach during the last 2 minutes of cook time for even more color!

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Ground Beef & Pasta Skillet Primavera


1.  U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. Available at 

2. Westerterp-Plantenga MS, et al. Dietary protein, metabolism, and body-weight regulation: dose–response effects. Int J Obes 2006;30:S16-S 23.

  • Paddon-Jones D, et al. Protein, weight management, and satiety. Am J Clin Nutr 2008;87:1558S-61S. 
  • Paddon-Jones D, et al. Role of dietary protein in the sarcopenia of aging. Am J Clin Nutr 2008;87:1562S-6S. 
  • Wolfe, RR. The underappreciated role of muscle in health and disease. Am J Clin Nutr 2006;84:475-82. 
  • Devkota S, Layman D. Protein metabolic roles in treatment of obesity. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care 2010;13:403-7. 

3. Leidy HJ, et al. Beneficial effects of a higher-protein breakfast on the appetitive, hormonal, and neural signals controlling energy intake regulation in overweight/obese, "breakfast-skipping," late-adolescent girls. Am J Clin Nutr 2013;97:677-88. 

  • Westerterp-Plantenga MS, Luscombe-Marsh N, Lejeune MPGM, Diepvens K, Nieuwenhuizen A, Engelen MPKJ, Deutz NEP, Azzout-Marniche D, Tome D, Westerterp KR. Dietary protein, metabolism, and body-weight regulation: dose–response effects. Int J Obes 2006;30:S16-S23. 
  • Leidy HJ, Bossingham MJ, Mattes RD, Campbell WW. Increased dietary protein intake consumed at breakfast leads to an initial and sustained feeling of fullness during energy restriction compared to other meal times. Br J Nutr. 2009;101:798-803. 

4. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. 2015. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 28. Available at: 

5. Layman DK, et al. Dietary protein and exercise have additive effects on body composition during weight loss in adult women. J Nutr 2005;135:1903-10.

  •  Mamerow MM, Mettler JA, English KL, Casperson SL, Arentson-Lantz E, Sheffield-Moore M, Layman DK, Paddon-Jones D. Dietary Protein Distribution Positively Influences 24-h Muscle Protein Synthesis in Healthy Adults. J Nutr. 2014 Jan 29