My Favorite Healthy Meals + My Go-To “Dieting” Tips
Here are my favorite healthy recipes, plus a few of my go-to, basic, nothing-crazy nutrition and health tips!
I am certainly not a bona fide healthy recipe blogger, but I do happen to have a couple hundred healthy-ish recipes residing on this blog, and because it seems as though every January brings forth the same tidal wave of searches for healthy recipes, I hand-picked my favorite 50 healthy recipes so you can catch them all in one place (below!).
Of course, I must give the disclaimer that some of these may not fit everyone’s definition of healthy.
I get that.
But these are, in my mind, lightened up, healthy meals that still pack a delicious punch.
I am a firm believer (and encourager) of making intuitive changes to help a recipe be even healthier or adapt it to your dietary needs.
For instance, if you are eating low-carb, make that skillet chicken taco filling and eat it over quinoa or lettuce, don’t hesitate to go easy on the cheese, swap a healthier oil for butter…you know, things like that.
I actually despise the topic of dieting, I really do.
I don’t do well when I omit whole food groups for dieting purposes – as in, I get sad, angry, and I usually fail and end up binge-eating the very thing I was supposed to go 30 days without.
I’m definitely more of a moderation type gal.
However, I certainly can’t get away with eating anything I want whenever I want (I wish!), so I have a few little standby rules that help this old, mom-of-5 body stay on track and continuously try to slim down and tone up.
1) I don’t eat after dinner (we usually finish up eating by 6:45 or 7:00 p.m.).
Sure, there’s the occasional holiday/church/friend party, birthday, or hormonal fluctuation that break this rule quicker than you can say “late night snack,” but in general, I try to live by the mantra that once dinner is finished, so am I.
2) I drink lots of water…and hardly anything else.
I shoot for the standard eight glasses of water a day and am really stoked if I can get 10. I know it sounds terribly boring, but I don’t usually drink anything other than water (besides my beloved kefir smoothies in the morning and my hot chocolate fix).
I’d much rather eat my calories than drink them.
3) I exercise to support my eating habit. My goal is 3-5X a week for 30-45 minutes.
I have more exercise videos than should be legal, and so I rotate through them (including some very, very old school ones I love more than life).
Lately, I’ve been doing weights 3X a week and fitting cardio in the other days (often HIIT or Tabata workouts).
I also love Fitness Blender for free workouts and club.teambeachbody.com to stream some of my favorite Beachbody workouts, like P90X3, T25, Insanity Max 30 (not affiliated with any of the above).
So yeah, the above tips are obviously not rocket science, but since I get asked about it constantly, those are a few rules the little angel on my shoulder always reminds me of.
Stop eating! Drink more water! Get off your lazy behind and workout!
And now that I’m done talking, I hope you love this roundup of my favorite healthy meals!
63 Comments on “My Favorite Healthy Meals + My Go-To “Dieting” Tips”
Love your blog, LOVED your realistic tips to being healthy. I’m a healthy weight mom of three – even thinner than my high school and college days – because I’ve established healthy habits but nothing crazy (moderation!), I drink a ton of water, and I work out regularly. People always want to know “the secret” … You nailed it!
Hi Mel! I tried to send a message through your website, but could never tell if it was sent or not . I saw on your Instagram awhile back that you taught some ladies (prob st RS) how to get dinner on the tables. I’ve been asked to teach a similar sounding class at our stake RS night and I feel a little clueless, ha. They think I’m capable and confident (neither of those terms come to mind, ha). Anyway, I was curious if you would be willing to share your handouts/info/documents with me? You seriously rock at this food/organization/momming thing. I’ve learned a lot from you through this blog of your. Thank you!!
Sure! Can you email me at contact @ melskitchencafe dot com?
Thanks for the tips and advice! inspiration and goals..I really have to try not to eat after dinner.
Somehow I missed signing up for the newsletters a long time ago and just did this weekend. However, I am sad I have to miss the recipe referenced above that was sent in this past Friday’s newsletter. Is there any way to access the archives of newsletters? Thank you!
Sending them all to you right now :).
I’ve been wanting to tell you that last summer I did the Whole30 and survived because I modified a bunch of recipes from your site! It felt familiar to cook things we eat often from a source I trust. It was incredibly easy to adjust things. Not at all recommending the Whole30, by the way, just saying I loved that I could still cook the meals we love.
That’s good to know, Bethany – and way to go making it through!
Hi Mel! Love the blog. I signed up twice for the newsletter–but haven’t see one yet. Could you check for me? I love the blog!
Hey Ashley – I just checked the email database and your email address is in there and it looks like all the emails (newsletters included) have made it to your inbox. They haven’t bounced or been rejected. Do you have a promotions tab? Sometimes they’ll end up in there on gmail. Check there and your junk folder and let me know if you still don’t see them.
I just registered for the newsletter, will I be able to get yesterday’s edition?
Sure, Vickie – I’ll send it to you.
I love your white bean tuna for a healthy meal!!!
Yes! I love that one, too.
I love how normal you are, Mel. Those quinoa bites caught my eye yesterday, and so I made them. Wow, they were fantastic!! Also, I am loving your newsletter. It is one of the few things in my email I actually read 🙂 Happy New Year!
That makes me so happy, Melanie! Thank you!
Love these recipes Mel! I just can’t resist commenting that I feel the Thai quinoa salad has to be on this list! Although maybe it is categorized as a side? It is one of my favorite recipes and so filling, with or without added chicken.
Yes, I agree! I love that one. I kind of slid that into a side dish category…but we actually eat it most often as a main dish, so I really should have included it. 🙂
Can’t wait for the newsletter–I keep checking my email!
I totally agree with your healthy tips.
My take: I don’t count calories and I splurge now and then, and I see water as key. I would eat my calories any day than drink them. Diet drinks are not allowed nor regular soda. I love this post and counted that I made 11 of these recipes. Love your real food that is real easy to make. Thanks for making me a rock star in the kitchen!
Thank you! 🙂
Thank you for great recipes and sound exercise advice! Maybe it will motivate me. 🙂 Do you have any idea why your blog isn’t showing up in my feedly feed anymore? The last post I saw there was the Best of 2016 one. It could be happening with other blogs — I just noticed with yours because I also get the newsletters (but usually read from feedly). Anyway, I suspect it’s nothing you’ve done but thought I’d ask if you’d heard that from others. Thanks!
Hey Laura, sorry about the feedly issue. It’s been something I’ve been working on this week to fix, and it should be good to go (there was an issue with my auto-generated feed and the XML file needed to be fixed). If you don’t see it next week, be sure to let me know!
I agree 100% about dieting. I know what is healthy, and try to eat that way generally, and when I start to feel yucky and flabby I just recommit to eating better. I’m kind of frustrated now, though, because I am pregnant and for the second time I have gone milk intolerant during a pregnancy! (This is my sixth and it also happened with my third, who ended up having a milk allergy.) I’m much better at moderation than total elimination of whole food groups, and wish I didn’t have to do it now! 🙁 But, for these precious babies, we do what we have to do, and it works out. Thank goodness.
Ugh, good luck with that, Anna! That would be hard. You are right, though, it’s worth it for those babies.
I’m with you. Moderation in all things and grumpiness when it isn’t there. Some of these are our favorite recipes. So glad for reminders of others I haven’t made in awhile.
You’re site has always been my favorite but this seals the deal! You should add your banana oat snack bars to this. I make them all the time and sometimes sub pumpkin and/or applesauce for the bananas. And always Greek yogurt. So yummy. I like to add chia seeds too. I have four boys and moved to Boise from the Midwest about the same time you did so I totally feel bonded. 😉 Did you see B.B. Is offering a whole year of streaming all their workouts? Pretty awesome. Thank you for all you do. You pretty much rock!!
Thanks, Natalie – you are sweet!
I kept this list to main dish only but I agree, those banana oat snack bars are divine! I DID see that about Beachbody…I was pretty stoked.
Thanks for these great tips! I too only drink water but definitely still don’t get enough of it. On another note: I signed up for newsletter back in dec to get your yummy cookie recipes and then tried again when I didn’t get them. I have been getting the email updates but never the newsletter. Any suggestions?
Hi Deanna, I just did a quick search of your email in the database and it looks like the last newsletter made it to your inbox (on December 23). Did you see that one? I can resend the other ones from December if you’d like.
Thanks for checking on my newsletter! It somehow slipped through the cracks but I found it! You are absolutely amazing!
Your blog is one of my favorites! I also don’t eat after dinner. And to make sure I am not tempted to snack on anything afterward, I floss my teeth and brush right after dishes are cleaned up. (I don’t like flossing enough to have to do it twice : ) It might sound silly, but it really helps!
Hey, that’s a pretty smart idea!
I’m in the moderation camp, although like Julia Child said “Everything in moderation, even moderation!” I have definitely upped my vegetable intake in recent years and also discovered that I love all kind of beans (Rancho Gordo is my fav source) and thank you Instant Pot for a great way to cook them no fuss! And I pay attention to portion sizes. Also, as you noted, I think about “do I need that much cheese or cream or whatever” in a recipe and maybe back off a bit on some ingredients to lighten up a dish.
I am not a gym/video/exercise routine fan except for a yoga DVD that stays in my computer. I like that it has some short 10-15 minute routines which work well for me from my home office – one is even called “computer break”. I keep hand weights under my desk and if in an internet meeting and I’m just watching/listening, I can do some curls, squats or lunges. But, primarily, I get outside and walk/snowshoe/pick up sticks in the yard/split firewood – whatever to get moving and get some fresh air. BUT – this works because I work from home AND no children.
Thanks for this discussion! I find it helpful to maybe adjust what I’m doing when I read what has worked for other people.
I never comment much on blogs but I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE your blog! Thank you for all your work, delicious recipes and keeping life real! Your one of my favorite resources and I tell others about your blog 🙂
🙂 Thank you, Jill!
I could have written this post myself, we are very similar, although I’ve been drinking shrubs lately and found out I love them! I am addicted to Tony Horton routines, been doing them for almost 8 years now, but also have more exercise videos than I care to admit. T25 is pretty good, Insanity a bit much, I think – I don’t care for that woman from Biggest Loser (her name escapes me), I find her nasty and unpleasant as an instructor, but I own several of her DVDs (told you I have a problem… 😉
I need to investigate Fitness Blender – am I going to regret it? 😉
BTW I reviewed on my blog all the three series of Tony Horton – 90X, 90X2, and 90X3, as well as T25. Not sure it’s ok to include a link, but in case it’s fine, here it is
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
I agree about Jillian Michaels – I’ve never been a super fan of her workouts and there are definitely some trainers I like more than others. Thanks for the tips and your reviews!
YES!!! I’ve been searching for her name in my mind, did not want to look in the net because I “NEED” to work my brains. But it was killing me…
oh, well… glad I got that out of my chest!
BEachbody has a deal right now on access to all tony Hortin WO and thousands of others.
Question: I don’t looooove my crock pot and I’m on the hunt for one that will knock my socks off. What pretty piece of slow cooking machinery sits in your kitchen??
Hi Melinda – now that I have an Instant Pot, I find I don’t use my slow cooker quite as much, but I DO have one I love (I’ve actually bought it twice, I love it so much, after I gifted the first one I had to a friend that broke hers): https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003BG0SPM/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o09_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
It’s not gimmicky or with any special features, but it cooks very evenly.
I agree that once you get an Instant Pot the Crock Pot is unnecessary. I got burned out with how everything was over cooked with my slow cooker and it all started to taste the same. I think cooking that long cooks out all the yummy spices and herbs.
Just curious, when you say you don’t eat after dinner, do you mean you don’t usually eat dessert with dinner? Or do you include dessert when you say “dinner?”
I totally agree on the water…I would way rather eat my calories than drink them! (Except the occasional chocolate milk…that’s my weakness, so I never have it in the house)
If there’s a treat…I eat it and then start the no eating rule. 🙂 Having said that, we don’t eat dessert after every meal (usually save the special desserts for Sundays), but I’m a sucker for a little piece of dark chocolate after dinner.
Thanks for the collection. And I only drink calories in a can of Dr Pepper a day. Afternoon snack lol
I very rarely comment but I had to today. This post makes me so happy!!! You are so down to earth and realistic it’s great. I have been reading your blog for about 4 years nowand it is my go blog for recipes as I know they will be good and not wasted ingredients.
Just so you know I asked for an InstantPot for Christmas because of you. I made the sweet ham today and it was so good even before adding the brown sugar mixture and baking. This will definitely be a family favorite. I am looking forward to tomorrow’s newletter recipe as well.
Thanks for all you do!!!
Thanks for the comment, Abbie! So happy you got an IP…can’t wait to share more recipes!
This is great Mel! Whenever I read your blog I feel like we are so similar. I definitely share your feelings on moderation rather than cutting out certain things, being hangry is a scary thing LOL! Also, I have 4 boys and 1 girl too I think I’ll be making the Asian chicken salad for my lunches next week. Thanks for everything, you’re the best!
Haha, amen to the hangry comment.
So would you mind sharing what those old school exercise videos are?
Not at all! The old Firm Body Sculpting Basics videos (my favorite ones are with Susan Harris).
Unlike the others, I’ve made approx 1 of those recipes. We clearly don’t lean towards the lighter side of your recipes, lol! Well have to add a few in to the rotation to feel better about all the crud we ate over the Holidays!
Another shout out for Fitness Blender. I gave up my long-standing gym membership six months ago and haven’t missed it at all. Fitness Blender offers hundreds of free videos to fit anyone’s fitness level and goals. Pick the type of workout you want based on what body parts you want to target and how much time you have. Between Fitness Blender and Mel’s awesome healthy recipes, there’s no reason we can’t get and stay in great shape!
What is Fitness Blender?
Is Fitness Blender YouTube videos you can watch anytime?
Yes, it’s all free videos you can watch anytime: fitnessblender.com
Oh how I wish broadband would come to rural Kansas so I could stream stuff like Fitness Blender!
As a fellow exercise DVD addict I’m interested in hearing your fav HIIT/cardio workouts, Mel. Preferably low impact 😉
Hi Melissa, I do a lot of the HIIT workouts from Fitness Blender (which doesn’t help you if you can’t stream workouts, bummer!) and also some from trainers like Chalene Johnson (she has an older workout program called Turbo Fire that I love). But I’ve also gotten some printable ones from Popsugar.com – you might try searching there to see if they have any that might be low impact enough!
Like Marci, it was fun to realize I’ve made lots of these recipes! I’m stoked to find that they’re on the “healthy-ish” list, because they’re so good! Those are “diet” foods I can handle. 😉
Great advice on dieting! It’s basically common sense – exercise, drink water (don’t drink your calories) and eat sensibly. My Dad always said “all things in moderation.” I look forward to your Friday instant pot recipe!
I think you’ll love the recipe, Teresa!
I’m feelin a little Julia Julia goin on here as I realize I’ve made 90% of those recipes You kill it in the veggie loaded, whole grains department. You’re amazing Mel!
Thanks, Marci. 🙂