10 Secret Ingredients for Quick Dinners, According to a Dietitian

If you do most of your meal planning on the drive home from work (because planning ahead is easier said than done), keep these 10 ingredients on hand for quick weeknight dinners that are healthy, too.

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Grilled skewers of meat, sausages and various vegetables on a grill plate, outdoors, top view. Grilled food, bbq

Fully Cooked Chicken Sausage

I love chicken sausage for a few reasons: It’s available in a lot of flavors, you can buy it pre-cooked and it’s healthier than traditional pork sausage. Since it just needs to be heated through, cooked chicken sausage is perfect for kabobs on the grill since veggies like mushrooms, tomatoes and zucchini don’t take long to cook. Here are more healthy sausage dinner ideas.

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Shutterstock/Alexander Prokopenko

Frozen Ravioli

Keep a stash of your family’s favorite in the freezer at all times. They’re hearty, comforting and so easy to doctor up with wholesome ingredients like sauteed veggies and pesto sauce or diced tomatoes with fresh herbs.

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Toast with scrambled eggs and cherry tomatoes
Shutterstock/Martin Turzak


Try breakfast for dinner on busy nights. Scramble up a batch of cheesy eggs with bell peppers and green onions and tuck it into a whole grain pita or serve in a tortilla with salsa and sliced avocado for a fast dinner that will fill you up.

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Combine lightly mashed black beans with salsa and top with cheese for a faster-than-fast taco. I also like to make a simple version of red beans and rice with onions, peppers and canned diced tomatoes served over heat-and-eat brown rice.

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Homemade Southwestern Mexican Quinoa Salad with Beans Corn and Cilantro
Shutterstock/Brent Hofacker

Seasoned Quinoa Mix

Use a healthy side dish mix as a base for an easy entree. Make the mix and stir in leftover meat and veggies. Serve in a bowl with complementary toppings and you’ve just made yourself a restaurant-style “bowl” for supper in less than 20 minutes.

Here are 50 more ideas for quinoa.

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Fresh vegetables prepared and displayed in a basket for serving
Shutterstock/David Kocherhans

Cut-up Fresh Veggies

Keeping a container of ready-to-eat fresh veggies on hand means there’s no excuse for skipping a veggie side, even when time is tight. So, even if I don’t take the time to make a veggie side dish recipe, there’s always bell pepper strips, baby carrots, sliced zucchini, broccoli florets and more just waiting to paired with ranch dip or hummus (we love this recipe) to get our veggies in. They come in handy to use in main dishes, too.

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Quesadilla Mexican food

Whole Wheat Tortillas

Let me count the ways I love whole wheat tortillas: breakfast-for-dinner burritos, hummus and veggie wraps, (leftover) chicken quesadillas, tortilla pizzas, refried bean tacos, turkey club roll-ups and so much more.

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Chicken rice soup with vegetables in bowl and bread from above
Shutterstock/Elena Elisseeva

Chicken Stock

Whether it’s store-bought or a homemade version kept in your freezer, it’s an essential base for super-fast soup recipes. I especially love homemade soup on Friday nights during the cold winter months. It’s an empty-the-fridge kind of combination that’s fast to put together and uses up leftovers for less food waste at the end of the week.

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Open tin of chopped tomatoes with whole fresh unfocused tomatoes behind. Wood surface
Moving Moment/Shutterstock

Canned Diced Tomatoes

I keep plain diced tomatoes and flavored diced tomatoes on hand at all times. If I use flavored for convenience, I typically include a can of plain, no-salt-added tomatoes to cut down on sodium (flavored varieties are typically high in sodium). They come in handy for easy soups, sauces, casseroles and one of my favorite quickie dinners—cozy chili recipes!

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That’s right, it’s not just for college students. Who says a bowl of wholesome cereal for dinner now and then is a bad thing. Top it off with fresh berries and dinner’s done in a matter of seconds. Or, make a bowl of oatmeal with cinnamon, raisins, a spoonful of peanut butter and sprinkling of brown sugar—it’s filling for breakfast and makes a great supper, too, when time is tight.

Peggy Woodward, RDN
Peggy is a Senior Food Editor for Taste of Home. In addition to curating recipes, she writes articles, develops recipes and is our in-house nutrition expert. She studied dietetics at the University of Illinois and completed post-graduate studies at the Medical University of South Carolina to become a registered dietitian nutritionist. Peggy has more than 20 years of experience in the industry. She’s a mom, a foodie and enjoys being active in her rural Wisconsin community.