9 Healthy Dinner Recipes On a Budget

So many women do a great job of eating healthy all day long, only to sabotage their efforts by eating an unhealthy dinner. Don’t let this happen to you!

Your nutrition is so important when you’re trying to burn fat, build lean muscle, and live a healthy lifestyle!

But by the end of a long day, you just want a quick, inexpensive, healthy meal to eat while you snuggle up in your PJs and catch up on your favorite Netflix show. I totally get that!

I’m also one for quick and healthy meals! That’s why I’ve compiled my list of 9 easy, inexpensive, and nutritious meals for those who share my attitude.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

Healthy Budget Dinner Recipes

To make it even easier for you to find the right meal to help you meet your needs, I’ve organized these recipes into 3 categories: high-protein low-carb, complex carb, and healthy fats.

High-Protein, Low-Carb Meals

Healthy dinner recipes

1. Zucchini Boats

  • 4 medium zucchini
  • 1 lb ground chicken
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 c pasta sauce
  • 1/4 c grated parmesan cheese
  • Optional: sliced fresh basil for topping

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray a 9×13 inch baking dish with cooking spray. Place a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and break it apart with a spoon. Add the salt and pepper. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until chicken is cooked through. Stir occasionally and break down the chicken into small chunks. Reduce the heat to low. Add the garlic to the chicken. Cook 1 minute stirring often. Add the pasta sauce. Cook 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. As the chicken cooks, cut the zucchini in half, lengthwise. Use a spoon to scoop the seeds and center out of each zucchini half, leaving a ¼ inch thick zucchini boat. Place the zucchini in the baking dish cut-side up. Spoon the chicken mixture into the zucchini boats. Press the mixture down into the zucchini using the back of the spoon. Sprinkle the zucchini evenly with the parmesan cheese. Cover the baking dish with foil. Bake for 35 minutes. Sprinkle with fresh basil and serve.

2. Chicken Stuffed With Mozzarella, Tomato, and Basil

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • Sliced mozzarella cheese
  • Grape tomatoes; sliced in half
  • Basil leaves
  • 2 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • Salt, pepper
  • 2 tsp. olive oil

Place the chicken breasts on a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, cut slits across the chicken breast about 3/4 of the way through the chicken breast being careful not to cut all the way through. Depending on the size of your chicken breast, you’re going to want around 6 to 8 slits per chicken breast. Stuff each slit with a slice of mozzarella cheese, half a grape tomato, and a basil leaf. Place chicken breasts in a baking dish that has been coated with non-stick baking spray. Brush each chicken breast with olive oil. Sprinkle each chicken breast with salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning. Bake in a preheated 400 degrees oven for 30 minutes or until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 160 degrees.

3. Breakfast-Dinner Protein Pancakes


In two bowls, separate the egg yolk from whites. Beat the egg whites on high for 2 minutes until they form soft peaks. Soft peaks are defined as barely holding their shape. Add the remaining ingredients to the egg yolks and beat until smooth. Add banana to other bowl and gently fold ⅓ of the egg white mixture and mix until roughly combined. Fold half of the remaining eggs whites into the mixture and finally the last portion until everything is well combined. Heat a skillet over low heat. Scoop ¼ c. of the mixture onto the skillet and cook for 60-90 seconds on each side. Serve with Greek yogurt and honey for your topping, and enjoy.

Complex Carb Meals

4. Quinoa Enchilada Casserole

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 can Old El Paso mild enchilada sauce
  • 1 can Old El Paso chopped green chiles, drained
  • ½ cup corn kernels (optional)
  • ½ cup canned black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
  • ½ tsp. cumin
  • ½ tsp. chili powder
  • Salt and pepper
  • ¾ cup shredded cheddar cheese, divided
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1 Roma tomato, diced

In a large saucepan, cook quinoa according to package instructions; set aside. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly oil an 8×8 or 2 quart baking dish or coat with nonstick spray. In a large bowl, combine quinoa, enchilada sauce, green chiles, black beans, cilantro, cumin, and chili powder; season with salt and pepper, to taste. Stir in 1/2 cup cheddar cheese. Spread quinoa mixture into the prepared baking dish. Top with remaining cheese. Place into oven and bake until bubbly and cheese has melted, about 15 minutes. Serve immediately, garnished with avocado and tomato, if desired.

5. Stuffed Bell Peppers

  • 2-4 large green bell peppers, seeded and halved lengthwise
  • 1 pound ground turkey or chicken
  • 1 can unsweetened corn (optional)
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne
  • Fresh chopped chives, for garnish
  • Finely grated asiago cheese, for garnish
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 8 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 cup uncooked white or brown rice
  • 1 cup water

Combine rice and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to medium-low. Cover with a lid and simmer until the rice is cooked and the liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Heat olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Add diced onions and cook until they soften, about 5 minutes, and transfer half of them to a bowl. Add tomato sauce, balsamic vinegar, and cayenne to the pan. Stir until combined, about 1 minute. Pour the sauce into a baking dish. In a large bowl, combine and mix turkey, garlic, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Stir in reserved onions and cooked rice. Generously stuff the 4 bell pepper halves with this mixture. Place the bell pepper halves in the baking dish over the sauce. Cover the baking dish with foil. Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking until the meat and peppers are cooked, about 10 minutes. Garnish with chives and asiago cheese.

6. Sweet Potato Carbonara with Kale

  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • ¼ tsp. Salt
  • 1.4 tsp. Ground pepper
  • 1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 strips turkey bacon, cooked and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 cups chopped kale

Put a large pot of water on to boil. Using a spiral vegetable slicer or a julienne or regular vegetable peeler, cut sweet potatoes lengthwise into long, thin strands. You should have about 12 cups of sweet potato “noodles.” Add the noodles to the boiling water and cook, very gently, stirring once or twice, until just starting to soften but not completely tender, 1½ to 2 minutes. Reserve ¼ cup of the cooking water, then drain. Return the noodles to the pot, off the heat. Add the reserved water, eggs, Parmesan, salt and pepper; gently toss with tongs until evenly coated. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add bacon and cook, stirring often, until crisp. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add kale and cook, stirring, until wilted, about 2 minutes. Add the kale mixture to the noodles and gently toss to combine. Serve topped with a generous grinding of pepper.

Healthy Fats Meals

7. Avocado Caprese Chicken

  • 2 (10 – 11 oz each) boneless skinless chicken breasts, halved and butterflied
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 6 oz. fresh mozzarella, cut into 8 slices
  • 4 avocado slices (from a firm but ripe large avocado)
  • 2 medium vine-ripened tomatoes, sliced
  • 3 tbsp. balsamic glaze
  • 1/3 c chopped basil ribbons

In a bowl mix together garlic powder, onion powder, Italian seasoning, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Sprinkle mixture evenly over both sides of each chicken cutlet. Heat olive oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken (cover pan with a splatter screen if you have one) and cook until golden brown on bottom, about 4 – 6 minutes. Rotate and cook opposite side until chicken has nearly cooked through, reducing burner temperature just slightly if needed, about 4 – 5 minutes (it should be nearly 160 in center on an instant-read thermometer) then add two slices of mozzarella to the top each cutlet, followed by one avocado slice, and 1 – 2 tomato slices. Cover pan with lid, return to heat and allow to cook 1 – 2 minutes longer until cheese has melted and chicken registers 165 in center. Sprinkle chicken with pepper, drizzle with balsamic glaze and sprinkle with fresh basil. Serve warm.

8. Almond Crusted Chicken Nuggets

  • 6 oz. raw almonds
  • 1 tsp. Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. Smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp. Garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp. Black pepper
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup water or milk
  • ½ cup flour
  • 1 ½ pounds uncooked boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • Olive oil cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper, and set aside. Add almonds to a food processor. Pulse repeatedly until the almonds are finely ground. Add the ground almonds into a small bowl, along with the salt, smoked paprika, black pepper and garlic powder. Whisk to combine. Taste, and season with extra salt and pepper or seasonings if desired. (This will be the main flavoring for your nuggets, so make sure it tastes like you want it to!) In a second bowl, whisk together the egg and water (or milk) until combined. In a third bowl, add the flour. Now set up your assembly line for coating the chicken nuggets — (1st) chicken, (2nd) flour, (3rd) egg, (4th) almonds, (5th) baking sheet. Dip a piece of the chicken completely in the flour until it is completely coated, shaking off the excess flour. Then dip the chicken in the egg until completely coated, then dip it in the almond mixture, then place it on the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining chicken. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and no longer pink inside, flipping the nuggets once halfway through cooking. (If you want a crispier coating, you can bake the chicken for 6-8 minutes, then turn on the broiler for 1-2 minutes to crisp up the crust. Just watch the chicken carefully so that the almond crust does not burn, and be sure that the chicken is cooked through on the inside.) Remove and serve immediately with your desired dipping sauce.

9. Garlic Parmesan Zoodles

  • 4 large zucchinis
  • ¼ c extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 c parmesan cheese
  • Salt to taste

Turn zucchini into noodles using a julienne peeler, spiralizer or veggetti. Put zucchini noodles into a colander and salt liberally let sit for 20 minutes (very important!). After 20 minutes, rinse and pat dry with a paper towel. Warm oil, then add minced garlic in a skillet or saute pan. Saute noodles over med-high heat for 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat and mix in parmesan cheese.

Don’t Forget to Enjoy Your Food!

Now that you have enough healthy dinner recipes to hold you over for a little while, you can focus your attention on those most important in your life, even if they’re currently on Netflix.

These meals will pair very well with your healthy lifestyle. Be sure to make meals from each category in accordance with what your body needs.

For example, if you went for a run before dinner, you’ll want a meal from the complex carbs menu. Choose a meal from the high-protein, low-carb menu if it’s your rest day, to keep your carbs in check. Just had an intense strength training session? You’ll want a meal from either the complex carbs or essential fats menu.

Make sure you’re also getting plenty of protein every day!

My favorite way to get my protein in for the day is with IdealLean Protein!

Karina Elle

Karina Elle

Fitness Model

Karina Elle is a professional fitness model and creator of the 6 Week Fit Model Fitness Challenge.

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