Do you have limited time to cook meals? Do you feel overwhelmed trying to think about healthy options to cook for dinner? What if I told you that you could prepare a healthy, filling, and savory dinner in just a half-hour?
Many of my clients have found relief using “sheet pan meals,” which of course I will break down here for you! As always you want to include a high-quality protein, any colorful veggie, and starch on a baking sheet with your choice of oils and seasonings. It’s a great way to cut down on time spent cleaning up using multiple pans and it’s delicious!
A quick tip: Grocery shopping tip sheet from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Building your sheet pan!
High-quality protein options: Shrimp, chicken breast, beef, ham, sausage, salmon, steak, turkey breast, turkey burger, fish, and tofu are just a few. Be mindful that some proteins will cook faster than others. For example, a 99% lean ground turkey burger will bake much faster than an 85%. This is also true when cooking chicken vs beef. Be sure to use the appropriate temperatures which can be referenced here to avoid unsafe meat consumption. See the updated temperatures here at the USDA’s website .
Tip: Some starches require more time in the oven and may need to be cooked before cooking with the protein. For example, baby red potatoes, sweet potatoes, and lentils.
Starchy vegetable options: All squash variations such as winter, acorn, butternut, and more. Sweet potatoes and baby reds are a huge hit as they are super sweet and delicious. Be sure to cut these into cube-like pieces or slice small enough so that they may be cooked with the protein. Decreasing the surface size will help speed up the cooking time.
Non-starchy vegetable options: Zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower, rainbow bell peppers, tricolor carrots, beets, mushrooms, brussels sprouts, kale, asparagus, onions,
Health tip: See handout on 20 ways to enjoy more fruits and veggies from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Herbs and spices for all the flavor without all the sodium! Pick out some of your favorite herbs and spices at the store! You can also reach for salt-free flavorings from Mrs. Dash or other popular shelf-stable brands! Fresh always tastes best so check out your local market for basil, curry, dill, lemongrass, cilantro, oregano, barley, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, coriander, bay leaf, cumin, cinnamon, clove, turmeric, sage, nutmeg, and cayenne pepper and Italian herb and spice.
Herbs and spices are a super way to beef up the flavor (food pun intended) without all the sodium, sugar, or fat which we all know adds flavor! Getting familiar with herbs and spices for any dish is a great way to reduce hypertension and even disease. Herbs and spices are packed with antioxidants, minerals and can help reduce inflammation! Check the study here.
- NWW heart-healthy cooking tip: You can also add citrus fruits to your sheet pan meal that will not only enhance flavor but also boost immunity and reduce the risk of cancer! Citrus fruits include lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruit, and more! See the study here.
Be sure to choose your favorite oil: Using oils that have a lower smoke point can be beneficial for low and medium-heat cooking. Olive oil, flaxseed, grapeseed, and sesame are great as well! Vegetable oil can be confusing just to keep in mind most “vegetable oils” available on the market include a blend of canola, corn, soybean, palm, and safflower. I encourage my clients and those I work with to select olive oil due to the many health benefits. Be sure to educate yourself on the various oils to meet the needs of you and your family.
Check out the American Heart Association link here to understand more about the various health benefits associated with your favorite cooking oil.
Cooking oil conclusion: Adding oil to your sheet pan meal helps support a very moist and crisp dish with all the flavors!
Sheet Pan Roasted Chicken and Carrots!
- 4 chicken thighs
- 1 ½ pounds carrots, peeled and trimmed (see my Instagram page for rainbow carrot ideas)
- 1 head of garlic
- 1-2 large onions, peeled and cut
- 3-4 tablespoon of olive oil
- 1 ½ tablespoon Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon coarse salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
- 2 lemons squeezed
- 1-2 diced tomatoes or cherry tomatoes (add-in at 15-min)
- Balsamic glaze
- Preheat the oven to 425°F.
- Arrange the carrots and onion in a layer on a greased baking sheet.
- Slice the top of the head of garlic
- Drizzle olive oil over the veggies and season with herbs
- Top with the chicken thighs. Rub each chicken thigh with 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil, and season with pepper and salt
- Roast in the oven until you can see the chicken skin is golden and temp to 165°F!
- Add in diced cherry tomatoes/broccoli as you see fit (use the veggies you love)
- Carrots should be tender in 15-20 min. Be sure to slice them thinly to cook in time.
- Add balsamic dressing or glaze as you see fit (optional)
Remember, a healthy plate is a colorful plate! Eat the rainbow and be sure to share this recipe with others who may need some ideas on healthy meals with a tight schedule!
Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN, LD, CISSN
Wendi Irlbeck, is a registered dietitian nutritionist, a certified international society of sports nutritionist, and fitness coach. Wendi utilizes evidence-based science to tailor nutrition programs for athletes to optimize performance, minimize health risks, and enhance recovery from training while focusing on injury prevention. She partners with parents, sports performance staff, and special needs and recreational athletes to offer nutritional guidance and optimal athletic performance and lifestyle plans. Wendi provides virtual services including telehealth. Wendi works with clients of all levels and ages across the US as well as Canada and the UK. You can find more about Wendi and schedule an appointment with her on her website.
Testimonials of Wendi’s expertise from colleges, coaches, parents, young athletes, and high school administrators can be found at the testimonial link on her website. You can also follow Wendi on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for more nutrition information