POPSUGAR Fitness

42 Healthy Dinners, All Under 500 Calories

Aug 16 2014 - 6:19am

No matter when you eat your biggest meal [1] of the day, your calories should still work for you. These meals are jam-packed with nutrients — from energy-sustaining protein to disease-fighting antioxidants — while still ensuring you keep calorie counts low. Each of these comforting and filling meals are well under 500 calories, meaning you'll be full and satisfied afterward without sacrificing weight-loss goals. Check out the recipes below!

— Additional reporting by Michele Foley, Lizzie Fuhr, and Jenny Sugar

Taco Salad

The homemade cilantro-lime dressing gives this taco salad [2] a fresh and zesty flavor perfect for the warmer weather. The layered ingredients also offer almost 25 grams of both protein and fiber. This is a great dinner when you need something fast after a hectic day: prep in advance and store in your fridge for a ready-to-go dinner.

Calories: 468

Photo: Jenny Sugar

Sweet Potato Pizza

Cut the carbs but not the comfort with this high-protein, vitamin-A-rich sweet potato crust pizza [3].

Calories per serving (half a pizza): 351

Photo: Lizzie Fuhr

Vegan Bean Salad

After a hard workout, this vegan bean salad [4] is the perfect, protein-packed refreshing meal. It has more than 13 grams of fiber and nearly 17 grams to fill you up and help your muscles recover.

Calories: 349

Photo: Lizzie Fuhr

Avocado Shell Salad

No need for the oven for this refreshing dinner — avocado shell salad [5]. It has 60 percent of your recommended fiber for the day, aids in digestion, and may even diminish belly fat [6].

Calories: 468

Photo: Lizzie Fuhr

Baby Kale Sesame Salad

Kale may be a nutritious powerhouse, but its flavor is anything but timid. If you're tried of making soups, smoothies, and salads from the dark green roughage, baby kale makes an excellent alternative. The little leaves are tender, mild in flavor, and don't require the prep (chopping and massaging) required for their more mature counterparts, but it still contains the disease-fighting nutrients you need. Baby kale, baby spinach, and chard make a perfect delicate combo for this sesame chicken salad [7].

Calories: 414

Photo: Leta Shy

Crockpot Mexican Chicken

For a healthy, protein-rich meal that doesn't rely on dairy for flavor, try this delicious Mexican-style chicken crockpot recipe [8] full of fresh ingredients. This preparation results in an absolutely delicious, fall-off-the-bone piece of meat.

Calories: 381

Photo: Lizzie Fuhr

Coconut Curry Butternut Squash

This comforting, creamy coconut curry butternut squash soup [9] is cream-free and the perfect way to add a few metabolism-boosting spices like cumin and turmeric to your diet.

Calories: 372

Photo: Lizzie Fuhr

Sweet Potato Burger With Creamy Avocado Spread

So robust in flavor, these hearty veggie burgers [10] are made with the goodness of sweet potatoes, black beans, millet, and corn. The creamy avocado sauce on top adds the perfect touch.

Calories: 367

Photo: Jenny Sugar

Gluten-Free Veggie Pasta Bake

Using a mix of veggies like zucchini, spaghetti squash, and other veggies instead of penne means you can load on the cheese and still enjoy a low-calorie, ooey-gooey, cheesy bowl of steamy pasta. Even better? This veggie pasta bake [11] is gluten-free.

Calories: 208

Photo: Jenny Sugar

Oven-Fried Chicken

Fried chicken is the definition of Southern comfort, but just one piece can weigh in at over 700 calories. Skip the classic, and opt for this lower-calorie, just-as-delicious fried chicken alternative [12] that's baked in the oven.

Calories: 335

Photo: Lizzie Fuhr

Creamy Flat-Belly Soup

If your digestion needs a reset, opting for high-fiber, antioxidant-rich foods will help you feel better from the inside out. This creamy chard and spinach soup [13] is easy to make and full of belly-relieving nutrients. Leafy greens, almond butter, and bell pepper will help soothe your stomach and shrink your belly. Adding a touch of low-fat cream cheese turns this soup into a creamy concoction without adding a lot of calories.

Calories: 194

Photo: Leta Shy

Citrus Chicken Salad

This version of Trader Joe's citrus chicken salad [14] tastes better than the original and is just as low in calories. A mix of digestion-relieving cabbage and papaya and hydrating, antioxidant-rich daikon — along with a tangy, Thai-inspired citrus dressing — makes for a flavorful, filling lunch that's high in protein and low in fat and calories.

Calories: 223

Photo: Leta Shy

Spicy Sweet Potato Salad

High-fiber sweet potatoes in this spicy salad recipe [15] can regulate blood sugar and help you lose weight, while a spicy, antioxidant-rich red pepper and jalapeño dressing ties everything together.

Calories: 270

Photo: Lizzie Fuhr

Vegan Bolognese

A comforting bowl of spaghetti bolognese is often what's needed after a long day (or any day, really). Loading down on beef, however, can leave you feeling heavy and tired. Solve this problem — and cut back on calories, fat, and cholesterol — with this recipe for vegan bolognese [16].

Calories: 257

Photo: Nicole Perry

Cream-Free Potato Leek Soup

You can do without the butter and cream of the classic potato leek soup recipe and go for this dairy-free potato leek soup [17], made velvety smooth from pureed beans and potatoes instead.

Calories: 255

Photo: Jenny Sugar

Apple Cabbage Detox Salad

For a lightened-up take on classic coleslaw, whip up this detox salad [18] instead. Apples marry with the dynamic duo of red and Savoy cabbage, combining for a fiber-filled meal that aids in digestion. The addition of fennel seeds adds to the fiber factor, plus a kick of cayenne boosts your metabolism.

Calories: 289

Photo: Lizzie Fuhr

Paleo Stuffed Peppers

For a warming, quick supper, look to these Italian-style Paleo stuffed peppers [19] for inspiration. With just a few ingredients and less than 30 minutes, you can create a fresh, clean meal with more than 30 grams of protein!

Calories: 285

Photo: Lizzie Fuhr

Hemp and Cabbage Detox Salad

If you're on the hunt for a quick and tasty detoxifying recipe, this crunchy cabbage and hemp salad [20] is for you. If you haven't tried them yet, it's time to give hemp seeds a try. They're a great source of omega-3s and vitamin E for vegans and vegetarians, and the combination of the cold-pressed oil and seeds in this recipe gives this fresh salad a nutty flavor you'll love.

Calories: 381

Photo: Lizzie Fuhr

Spaghetti Squash Mac and Cheese

If you're looking to lighten things up the next time you dig into a comforting bowl of mac and cheese, opt for this twist on tradition that amps up the nutritional value as it cuts back on calories and carbs. Versatile and nutrient-rich spaghetti squash lays the base to this recipe [21], while broccoli adds more vitamin A.

Calories: 296

Photo: Lizzie Fuhr

Eggless Kale Caesar Salad

For just the same addictive taste as the original with an added bonus — vitamin A-rich superfood kale — opt for this lighter Caesar salad [22] dressing instead. This recipe omits the egg yolk and a lot of the cheese for a lower-calorie dressing that tastes exactly like the classic. Using kale instead of romaine lettuce increases the nutrients and adds texture and flavor and allows the salad to keep in your fridge without going limp.

Calories: 175

Photo: Leta Shy

Broccoli Slaw Pasta

This cheesy, garlicky "pasta" [23] from healthy chef Hungry Girl is the best of both worlds — it's just as fast to make as any simple pasta dish and doesn't come overloaded with carbs. And since it's a similarly low-calorie and low-carb pasta alternative as spaghetti squash (one whole bag of broccoli slaw is only 100 calories and five grams of carbs) without all the prep, it's perfect for any gluten-free girl on the go.

Calories: 134

Photo: Leta Shy

Cumin-Spiced Lentils

Settle in with a large, comforting bowl of cumin-spiced lentils [24]; packed with protein and fiber, this gluten-free meal satisfies no matter how hungry you are.

Calories: 370

Photo: Jenny Sugar

Tofu Scramble

Versatile, quick, and perfect for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, a basic tofu scramble is a great go-to meal. This vegan tofu scramble [25] brings the Southwest to your table, fast.

Calories: 135

Photo: Jaime Young

Panko-Crusted White Fish

This protein-packed, simply prepared panko-crusted white fish recipe [26] is the perfect post-workout dinner.

Calories: 442

Photo: Lizzie Fuhr

Blueberry, Quinoa, and Kale Salad

This colorful salad [27] has a bit of everything: blueberries, carrots, tomatoes, almonds, nori, kale, and quinoa, all blended with an Asian-inspired soy ginger dressing. Talk about eating the rainbow!

Calories: 377

Photo: Leta Shy

Toasted Quinoa and Cabbage

If you need a break from a weekend of heavy meals, then make this digestion-aiding lemony toasted quinoa and wilted cabbage [28] dish.

Calories: 348

Photo: Leta Shy

Spicy Cauliflower Lasagna

Red pepper flakes, cinnamon, and roasted cauliflower give this healthy version of lasagna [29] amazing depth of flavor.

Calories: 324

Photo: Lizzie Fuhr

Vegan Split Pea Soup

One-pot meals like this vegan split pea soup [30] definitely don't lack dimension. With plenty of spices and sweet potatoes, a large bowl will fill you up for hours.

Calories: 326

Photo: Jenny Sugar

Mac and Cheese

Yes, you can have delicious, healthy mac and cheese. This version [31] owes its low calorie count — and appropriate orange hue — to pureed butternut squash.

Calories: 285

Photo: Lizzie Fuhr

Cheddar Soup

A hearty bowl of creamy cheddar soup can soothe the soul, but it's not always so great for the waist. This healthy cheddar soup recipe [32] keeps the texture you crave but nixes calories by using cauliflower to create a creamy soup base.

Calories: 247

Photo: Lizzie Fuhr

Chirashi Bowl

A light, refreshing meal is perfect for hot Summer days. Try this chirashi bowl [33], made with fresh vegetables, brown rice, and sushi-grade tuna, to cool off in the heat.

Calories: 403

Photo: Lizzie Fuhr

Red Pepper and Lentil Bake

High in vitamin A, vitamin C, and fiber, red bell peppers make a perfect accompaniment to protein-rich lentils in this low-calorie recipe. Even better news? You'll be surprised at how large an under-250-calorie portion of this cheesy red pepper and lentil bake [34] really is.

Calories: 233

Photo: Leta Shy

Cauliflower Rice

Fried rice should definitely not be on anyone's healthy-eating menu, so get the taste — and kill the cravings — with this paleo perfect cauliflower fried "rice" [35] recipe instead.

Calories: 278

Photo: Lizzie Fuhr

Spaghetti Carbonara

Lighten up traditional carbonara with this whole wheat spaghetti carbonara [36] made with low-fat milk and, yes, a healthy dose of parmesan cheese.

Calories: 376

Photo: Lizzie Fuhr

Healthy Chicken Salad

Traditional chicken salad clocks in at 500 calories, but this healthy chicken salad [37] is 139 calories a serving. The secret? A simple swap of Greek yogurt for mayo. Serve with one or two slices of bread (like wheat bread, 220 calories [38] for two slices).

Calories (with two slices of wheat bread): 359

Photo: Lizzie Fuhr

Thai Peanut Soba Noodles

Make this Thai-inspired soba noodle salad [39] for dinner, enjoy it for lunch the next day. The flavors develop with time, making this protein-rich and fiber-full cold dish perfect as leftovers.

Calories: 424

Photo: Lizzie Fuhr

Turmeric-Spiced Mushroom Pilaf

Turmeric might just be a super spice: it's been known to boost immunity, relieve digestive discomfort, and possibly prevent disease. This turmeric-spiced mushroom pilaf [40] is made with a generous dose of turmeric added to a brown rice and mushroom mixture. The result is a mildly spicy, satisfying one-pot meal that helps you feel your best.

Calories: 201

Photo: Leta Shy

Paleo Meatballs

Serve these paleo meatballs [41] on a salad or bed of zucchini noodles, and you'll still hit your under-500 calorie goal.

Calories: 244

Photo: Lizzie Fuhr

Sweet Potato, Chickpea, and Quinoa Burger

This sweet potato, chickpea, and quinoa veggie burger [42] is perfectly spiced and completely satisfying. At 202 calories per patty, you can add a 120-calorie whole wheat bun and lettuce, tomato, and ketchup (34 calories [43]) and still come in at well under 500 calories.

Calories (with bun and fixings): 356

Photo: Jenny Sugar

Cauliflower Crust Pizza

Yes, you can eat half a pizza without guilt. This cauliflower crust pizza [44] features a gluten-free crust and fresh tomatoes, skim mozzarella cheese, and basil leaves for a healthy take on a classic.

Calories: 272

Photo: Lizzie Fuhr

No-Mac and Cheese

What's the secret to making a pasta-less mac and cheese just as irresistible as the classic? Cauliflower, the perfect vehicle for a cheesy, creamy sauce made from cheese, coconut milk, butter, and coconut flour. While this gluten-free no-mac and cheese [45] is under 400 calories, note that it's high in saturated fat, so enjoy this comforting dish in moderation.

Calories: 376

Photo: Leta Shy

Zucchini Noodles Aglio et Olio

For those days when you're craving nothing but pasta, reach for a huge bowl of this garlicky zucchini pasta dish [46]. A sprinkle of almond meal instead of breadcrumbs takes this recipe over the top.

Calories: 257

Photo: Lizzie Fuhr


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