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7 Days, 7 Dinners

By Joe Wilkes
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If you're trying to get in shape, then dinner can be a really dicey time. It's when a lot of us gather with family or friends, and it can entail a large home-cooked meal, a large pizza, or a bucket of chicken. No one's going to appreciate being served a scoop of cottage cheese and a mixed-greens salad when they were expecting lasagna or kung pao chicken. Here are some healthy ideas that will keep you on track nutritionally but won't get you in the doghouse with your dining companions.

Stuffed Peppers

Note: All nutritional information is for one serving.

Sunday: Turkey Chili

Turkey ChiliChili is one of the dishes that actually is fun to make and healthy to eat. If you check out Beachbody's or other fast-food guides, you'll see that Wendy's® chili is one of your healthiest fast-food options. Tomatoes for vitamins, beans for fiber, and some kind of meat or other protein source, the myriad chili recipes out there offer lots of options for a well-balanced meal. Here's a good basic recipe, but half the fun of making chili is improvisation. That's why chili cookoffs are so popular. Spice it up if you have an iron stomach, or substitute your favorite lean meat or textured vegetable protein. Experiment with different beans and legumes. The chili pot also can be a great repository for soon-to-spoil leftovers. Just try to avoid certain popular mix-ins like cheese and sour cream that add more fat than flavor. Also, when buying ground turkey, look for extra-lean or all-breast meat. Many "lean" varieties of ground turkey have as much fat as hamburger.

  • 1 lb. ground turkey, extra-lean
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 large can (28 oz.) tomatoes, crushed or diced
  • 1 can (12 oz.) tomato sauce
  • 1 can (15 oz.) kidney or pinto beans, rinsed
  • 2 tsp. chili powder (or more to taste)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a large saucepan, brown ground turkey in olive oil. Spoon out any excess fat. Add onion, garlic, and pepper, and sauee until veggies are soft, about 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and simmer 10 to 15 minutes. Can be served immediately (although leftovers are great, too). Serve with hot sauce to taste. Serves 4.

Preparation time: 15 to 20 minutes

Nutritional information (per serving):

Calories Fat Carbs Fiber Protein
296 9 grams 24 grams 7 grams 33 grams

Monday: Chicken Florentine

Chicken FlorentineThis recipe was inspired by a dish I had at Dan Tana's in Los Angeles. James Woods is a frequent guest of the restaurant and has a veal scallopine dish with spinach named after him there. This isn't that dish, but it uses a couple of elements that can make a dish healthier, including making a paillard and sauteed in broth. A paillard is a piece of veal or beef usually pounded thin for tenderization. In addition to tenderizing, it's also a great way to get more surface area out of your favorite protein. To make a paillard, wrap the meat in a high-quality plastic wrap (heavy duty, if available; otherwise, your kitchen will look like a crime scene) and pound away with a meat tenderizer or mallet until you reach the desired thinness. It's good for venting your frustrations as well as turning a small piece of meat into something that feels like a bigger portion. Sautee it in broth (in addition to oil) also is a good way of reducing calories while creating a yummy sauce.

  • 1 chicken breast, skinless and boneless, pounded thin
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth, low-sodium
  • 1 cup spinach, steamed
  • 1 slice provolone or mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In an ovenproof skillet on the stovetop, sautee© garlic in olive oil and broth. Cook until soft, but not brown. Add chicken breast and cook until done. If pounded thin enough, it should just take a couple of minutes per side (don't panic if it's a little underdone; it's going in the oven later). Remove skillet from stove and pile spinach on top. Then, place cheese on top of spinach. Put pan in oven until cheese melts, then serve. Put chicken on plate and drizzle pan broth over as sauce. This recipe is pretty low-carb, so you might serve it with whole-grain pasta if you're not watching your carbs.

Preparation time: 10 to 15 minutes

Nutritional information (per serving):

Calories Fat Carbs Fiber Protein
416 24 grams 10 grams 4 grams 40 grams

Tuesday: Fish Tacos

Fish TacosYou don't have to live by the Baja to enjoy fast and healthy Baja cuisine. Instead of tacos full of cheese, sour cream, and fat, try these easy-to-make high-protein treats featuring heart-healthy avocado. If you're not crazy about fish, add extra salsa. These are also great assembly projects for kids.

  • 1 medium tomato, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • Juice of one lime, or more to taste
  • 6 oz. whitefish like tilapia, snapper, or cod
  • 2 soft corn tortillas
  • 1/2 cup cabbage, shredded
  • 1/2 avocado, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, chopped (optional)
  • Salsa, low-sodium (optional)

Toss tomato, onion, and cilantro with lime juice, and set aside for flavors to combine (add chopped jalapeno for extra kick). You could also skip this step and use a low-sodium store-bought salsa. Cook, steam, or grill fish, or sautee© fish in a little lime juice. Warm tortillas in oven or microwave, and pile with fish, cabbage, avocado, and salsa.

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Nutritional information (per serving):

Calories Fat Carbs Fiber Protein
511 19 grams 45 grams 13 grams 49 grams

Wednesday: Stuffed Peppers

Stuffed PeppersThis recipe is always a crowd-pleaser, presentation-wise. It can also be made with ground turkey or vegetarian burger crumbles. As a time-saver, many stores now carry prepared brown rice, which saves a lot of cleanup as well. Stuffed peppers freeze well, too, so this is a good recipe to supersize for future meals.

  • 1 lb. ground beef, extra-lean (less than 5 percent fat)
  • 1 cup brown rice, cooked
  • 2 cups tomato sauce
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 6 green bell peppers

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut tops off pepper, and remove seeds and membranes. Mix all ingredients (except peppers) and stuff mixture into the bell peppers. Bake for 1 hour and serve! Serves 6 (although they're pretty low-cal, you could eat two easily).

Preparation time: 10 minutes (more, if cooking rice from scratch)

Nutritional information (per serving):

Calories Fat Carbs Fiber Protein
208 5 grams 23 grams 6 grams 19 grams

Thursday: Shrimp Stir-Fry

Shrimp Stir-FryStir-frying is fast, easy, and a great way to use up vegetables that might not make it to the end of the week. Four cups of veggies to a pound of shrimp is a pretty good ratio - although, you could always add more veggies.

  • 1 lb. shrimp, peeled
  • 1 Tbsp. ginger root, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp. sesame oil
  • 3 to 4 Tbsp. chicken or vegetable broth
  • 4 cups mixed vegetables (broccoli, peppers, carrots, celery, etc.)
  • 1 bunch scallions, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 2 cups brown rice, cooked

Sautee© ginger and garlic in sesame oil until soft. Add shrimp and cook about 3 to 5 minutes, depending on the size of the shrimp. Set shrimp aside. Add the rest of the ingredients (except the rice) to the pan and sautee© until veggies reach desired softness (I like mine a little crunchy). Use enough broth so the veggies don't burn, but not enough to make soup. Toss the shrimp back in, mix together, and serve over rice. Serves 4.

Preparation time: 10 to 15 minutes

Nutritional information (per serving):

Calories Fat Carbs Fiber Protein
303 5 grams 36 grams 9 grams 31 grams

Friday: Oven-Poached or Dishwasher Salmon

Raw SalmonThis is a great recipe to make with little to no cleanup involved. By placing foil-wrapped packet in oven, you can skip the pot- or pan-cleaning that can make cooking such a hassle. However, if you don't have access to an oven (say, at work), you can actually make this in a dishwasher. The dishwasher method is less environmentally friendly, but much more amusing. Please keep in mind, though, that it's a pretty big waste of water, so try to dishwasher-cook more than one serving at a time to help justify the carbon footprint. (Note: For dishwasher method, DO NOT USE SOAP!)

  • 1 6-oz. salmon fillet or steak
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped dill
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 2 Tbsp. dry white wine
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped scallions
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Get a big enough piece of foil (about 12 square inches) to hold the fillet as well as the other ingredients when folded. You might consider doubling the foil to prevent leakage. Put foil salmon packet in broiler and cook for 15 minutes or until salmon is pink all the way through. (If using the more controversial dishwasher method, cook for one wash and dry cycle, and we can't stress enough, no soap!)

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Nutritional information (per serving):

Calories Fat Carbs Fiber Protein
344 14 grams 1 gram 1 gram 22 grams

Saturday: Portuguese Kale Soup

Kale SoupThis is a favorite of mine to make on the weekend. It makes the house smell great, and I have lunch leftovers for days. Kale and leeks are both super-healthy, so don't skimp! You can substitute veggie sausage or leave out the sausage completely, and just add a little extra garlic and pepper for flavor.

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 to 3 large leeks, chopped, just white and light-green parts
  • 12 oz. turkey kielbasa, chopped
  • 1 bunch kale, torn and stemmed
  • 1 can kidney beans
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a large stockpot, sautee© garlic and leeks until soft. Add kielbasa and brown. Add kale, beans, tomatoes, and broth. Simmer on low heat for 30 minutes. Serves 4.

Preparation time: 30 to 40 minutes

Nutritional information (per serving):

Calories Fat Carbs Fiber Protein
377 19 grams 36 grams 10 grams 23 grams

Feel free to eat any of these dinners on any day of the week. And repeat your favorites. Most of these can be integrated into your favorite Beachbody meal plan, including P90X®. Come back next week for part four of our series and get recipes for 7 Days, 7 Snacks. Bon appetit!

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