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Sunday Strategist: A Week of Healthy Dinners — December 19-23

Photo: Randy Mayor

Every Sunday, we publish a week of Cooking Light dinner plans filled with our favorite recipes—both from current issues and classics. Each meal is designed to be ready and on the table in about an hour so that you have more time to enjoy the food you’ve prepared and the company of those you’ve prepared it for.

If you like having a healthy meal plan but want something customized to your dietary or caloric needs, check out The Cooking Light Diet. It’s a calorie-driven weekly meal plan—breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner—based on your dieting goals and food preferences.

The Plan
Monday: Kale & Beet Salad with Blue Cheese and Walnuts
Tuesday: Western Omelet and fruit salad
Wednesday: Spiced Pork Tenderloin with Sautéed Apples and Cilanto-Kale Salad with Buttermilk Dressing
Thursday: Creamy Linguine with Peas, Carrots, and Prosciutto
Friday: Mongolian Beef and roasted broccoli
Snack Bonus: Sesame-Soy Nut and Pretzel Mix

I don't know about you, but my body needs a break from this rich holiday food. From office Christmas parties to Saturday afternoon cookie exchanges, I've really been splurging. That's why this week, I'm going to really focus on making my meals as healthy, light, and fulfilling without unnecessary calories. After all, I really need to save room for some more peppermint bark.

Monday: We're going meatless tonight (because Meatless Monday, of course) with a seasonal salad I promise you'll make a few more times before winter is over once you taste how good it is. Combine earthy baby kale, sweet steamed beets, and tangy blue cheese for a unique dinner salad in this Kale & Beet Salad with Blue Cheese and Walnuts. This salad has only 202 calories, so for me, doubling it an easy way to get my 400-calorie/meal goal, but you could also add a piece of whole-wheat French baguette or some toasted sesame crackers to finish off the salad.

Photo: Randy Mayor

Tuesday: It just feels like a brinner (breakfast for dinner) kind of night, and you'll agree once you taste how well this Western Omelet delivers the classic diner-style overstuffed package brimming with bell peppers, ham, and cheese--perfect for a light breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner. Get in another serving of fruit by mixing up a fruit salad with a little lime juice and sugar. Or just cut up your favorite fruits and enjoy them as a side to a traditional omelet dinner.

Photo: Johnny Autry

Wednesday: This one-dish Spiced Pork Tenderloin with Sautéed Apples is perfect for this time of year. Sweet spices coat lean pork tenderloin, while apples get a savory treatment with shallots and thyme. Serve with a spinach salad, or if you made the salad on Monday, use leftover buttermilk and kale to make our Cilanto-Kale Salad with Buttermilk Dressing.

Photo: Jennifer Causey

Thursday: Cream cheese makes the sauce in Creamy Linguine with Peas, Carrots, and Prosciutto impossibly creamy, coating the noodles with all kinds of silky goodness. The microwave technique we use for the prosciutto crisps it beautifully in less than 2 minutes, with less cleanup than stovetop or oven methods. If you’d rather skip that step, you could tear it into pieces or strips and toss with the pasta. A shower of shaved Parmesan echoes the salty notes of the prosciutto and makes a big impact with every bite; for the biggest flavor boost, go with Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Photo: Johnny Autry

Friday: It's Friday night, and we've reached Christmas Eve Eve. Let's finish wrapping up our gifts and skip the takeouts lines with our quick Mongolian Beef. This recipe delivers all the flavor without the insane sodium and fat levels. This vibrant, Asian-inspired dish brings just the right amount of spice to the plate. But to make it a bit more kid-friendly and eliminate the heat altogether, just leave out the chile paste. Serve this bold beef favorite over wide rice noodles to catch all the garlic- and ginger-laced sauce. To add a little more green to the plate, add a side of steamed or roasted broccoli.

Photo: Jennifer Causey

Snack Bonus: If you're anything like me, you've saved the best for last. And by best, I mean all the errands, shopping, and baking I need to finish to fulfill my holiday gifting list. That means you're going to need a lot of energy to keep going, so make this Sesame-Soy Nut and Pretzel Mix and keep handy for a grab-and-go option when your tummy starts rumbling. This is also a great option to bring with you to any holiday parties where you need an unforgettable appetizer.

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