Skip to content

What makes a good dinner

A hearty dinner packed with wholesome food will keep you going until morning, and help you avoid snacking in the evening.  

Dinner should include foods that are healthy and that you enjoy eating. Eating a filling and nutritious dinner can help reduce night-time snacking and will keep you feeling full until morning. You should include three or four foods from different food groups. 

  • Make half your meal vegetables or salad. Include a mix of types and colours over the week as different coloured vegetables have different nutrients. Extra vegetables can easily be added to sauces, stews and casseroles.
  • Eat some wholemeal breads, pasta, rice or potatoes. Wholemeal options provide the best energy. The amount you need depends on your age, gender, size and activity levels.
  • Include a small amount of poultry like chicken or turkey, fish, eggs, nuts, beans or meat. Try to have fish about twice a week and oily fish is best. Keep processed salty meats such as sausages, bacon and ham to a minimum as too much salt can raise your blood pressure and high blood pressure is the leading cause of stroke and heart disease.

Each meal should include a drink of water or milk to help you stay hydrated. Find out more about why drinking during the day is important.

Dinner ideas

Here are some meal ideas to get you started.

  • Omelettes are great if you need to make dinner in a hurry. You can include vegetables, leftover meats or cheese as fillings. Check out our basic omelette recipe.
  • Stir-frying uses very little fat. It is a good way to use leftover meat and to include lots of vegetables in your meal. Take a look at our favourite stir-fry recipes.
  • Grilled meat or fish can be ready in 20-25 minutes. If you have a tiered steamer put your potatoes on the bottom tier and your vegetables on top and allow to steam while your meat or fish are grilling.
  • Pasta is a versatile food – on its own with tomato sauce or add different types of vegetables and meats. If you are buying pre-prepared tomato sauces, choose a variety with the lowest salt content as indicated on the label.

Cooking tips

Here are some cooking and planning ideas if you are short on time and budget.

  • Doubling a recipe or cooking more than one meal at a time then freezing portions to use later helps with planning weekly meals, reducing waste and cutting down on bills. Learn more about batch cooking.
  • Keeping your cupboard well stocked with tinned food, herbs and spices, pasta and rice means you'll always have some ingredients to hand to make meal.
  • How you cook is as important as what you cook. Grill and steam foods instead of frying or roasting with oil or fat. Get more tips on how to keep your cooking healthy.
  • Serve meals with a side salad as a quick way to increase your vegetable intake.
  • You can also try replacing potato toppings on dishes such as Shepherd’s Pie with vegetable toppings or try using half vegetables and half potatoes.

Related pages

Safefood Logo

Sign up for our family focused healthy eating and food safety news.

Safefood logo

The site content is redirecting to the NI version.