Our award-winning dietitian shares why these one-dish wonders are always in rotation at her house—and why they should be at yours, too.
Credit: Photo: Brian Woodcock

Want to know an easy trick for simplifying dinner prep? Incorporate more one-dish meals into your menu! While the concept is open to some interpretation, to me a one-dish dinner is one that combines all you need for a meal—protein, veggies, and maybe some complex carbs—in a single skillet, pot, or sheet pan. Focusing on a single dinner recipe means less planning and prep work, but it also means less clean up!

Thankfully, working on the Cooking Light Diet over the past several years has allowed me to try lots of one-dish dinners. I now have a handful of tried-and-true favorites at my house, so I wanted to share the why behind those recipes—why, as a dietitian and mother, these are my go-to options.

Check out my favorite one-dish dinners below!

All of these recipes can be scheduled into your Cooking Light Diet meal plans. Subscribe to the Cooking Light Diet today and receive customizable meal plans—breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner—for less than $2 per week.

Broccoli-Quinoa Casserole with Chicken and Cheddar

[pictured above]

I love trying new foods, but the other people at my table don't always feel the same way. In fact, I've struggled to find whole grains (other than brown rice) that my kids would eat. Quinoa was never a big hit—until I tried this recipe, which combines quinoa, chicken breasts, and broccoli in a light cheese sauce. The end product is healthy comfort food at its best, and most of it can be prepped in advance so that the only step before serving is baking.

Black and Blue Steak Salad

Credit: Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner

This steakhouse salad is my go-to when I'm craving a light but filling meal. The recipe features flank steak, which is a lean cut of beef that cooks quickly on the grill and is a great source of B vitamins, iron, and zinc. A little sprinkle of blue cheese adds flavor without being overpowering, and avocado adds some richness to peppery arugula. Don't have a grill? No problem! I've also broiled the steak in the oven using the same directions and the results were just as good.

Spaghetti Squash Lasagna with Spinach

Credit: Photo: Jennifer Causey; Food Styling: Torie Cox; Prop Styling: Mindi Shapiro Levine

Spaghetti squash is my favorite lower-carb substitute to use in place of pasta, and this is one dinner where I actually prefer it. The cheesy Italian-inspired dish delivers more than 2 servings of vegetables and around 40% of daily vitamin C and calcium needs per serving. To keep dinner prep simple, I like to cook the squash earlier in the day and then let it cool. After that, I can assemble the lasagna layers whenever I'm ready to bake.

Sheet Pan Beef and Black Bean Nachos

Credit: Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner; Styling: Missie Neville Crawford

"Because I feel like I'm cheating when it comes to healthy eating and cooking dinner!" That's what I told a friend when sharing why this is one of my all-time favorite sheet pan dinners. Crispy corn tortillas are topped with taco-seasoned ground beef, black beans, and a homemade queso. The meal comes together quickly on a sheet pan that you can serve from, so cleanup is virtually nonexistent. Want more greens with this meal? No problem—serve the nachos over a bed of shredded lettuce to squeeze in more veggies.

Maple-Mustard Roasted Chicken with Squash and Brussels Sprouts

Credit: Photo: Jennifer Causey

This one-dish dinner is proof that simple doesn't mean boring. This is thanks to a quick glaze made using maple syrup, Dijon mustard, and fresh sage. Then the vegetables are tossed in a little butter and oil, so they caramelize nicely when roasted. And on top of that, they pack in a hefty dose of carotenoids, which are bioactive compounds that offer protection against free radicals (comparable to antioxidants).

Salmon with Green Beans and Smashed Potatoes

Credit: Caitlin Bensel

Omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial no matter what your health focus, be it weight loss, heart health, mental health, or chronic disease management. So they're something we all need to incorporate more frequently. Salmon is a top omega-3 source, and this sheet pan dinner is an easy, family-friendly way to eat more salmon. Baby yellow potatoes are steamed in the microwave before they're added to the pan which allows the entire meal to be done at the same time.

Sheet Pan Shrimp Fajitas

Credit: Caitlin Bensel

Need a last-minute dinner? These 20-minute fajitas have saved me from the drive thru more than once. The dish requires minimal prep and cooking time, so that's one thing I love about it. But I also like the versatility they provide when serving. I'll elaborate: I've served them as written, on warm corn tortillas and dolloped with lime-cilantro crema. But I've also served the shrimp and vegetables on top of cooked brown rice or cauliflower rice, as well as over crisp salad greens with a few tortilla chips. No matter how you serve it, though, this recipe is sure to win over your hungry family!

All of these recipes can be scheduled into your Cooking Light Diet meal plans! Subscribe to the Cooking Light Diet today and receive customizable meal plans—breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner—for less than $2 per week.

Carolyn Williams, PhD, RD, is the author of Meals that Heal: 100+ Everyday Anti-Inflammatory Recipes in 30 Minutes or Less, and a culinary nutrition expert who specializes in simplifying food and nutrition information. She received a 2017 James Beard Journalism award, and her work is regularly featured in or on respective websites for Cooking Light, RealSimple, Parents, Health, EatingWell, Allrecipes, MyFitnessPal, eMeals, Rally Health, and the American Heart Association. You can follow on Instagram (@realfoodreallife_rd) or on carolynwilliamsrd.com.