5 healthy but satisfying dinner ideas with 400 calories, or less

Stuck for dinners ideas when you want something tasty but not loaded with calories? Dietitian Melissa Meier shares five dinner recipes that are perfect for weight loss. 

Portion control is one of *the* most important pillars of weight loss. That’s because to lose weight, you need to create an energy deficit – so the volume of food you consume is crucial.

In case you’re not aware, the recommended energy intake for healthy weight loss is 1500 calories per day (that’s in comparison to the average daily energy intake of just over 2000 calories).

If you spread this evenly across the day and incorporate a couple of healthy snacks, you’re looking at three 400 calorie main meals and two 150 calorie snacks. To help you get started, here’s a week’s worth of delicious dinner meals that each weigh in around the 400 calorie mark.

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Monday: Lemon baked salmon and veggies, 392 calories

Salmon is incredibly nutritious, rich in heart-healthy fats and hunger-based protein to keep you feeling satisfied. Paired with quality carbs and non-starchy veggies, you’ve got a perfectly balanced meal on your hands.

For a portion-controlled dinner, chop 100 grams each of sweet potato, pumpkin and cauliflower into bite-size pieces and toss in a bowl with one teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil, then bake. When the veggies are almost done, pop one 100 gram fillet of salmon in the oven on a separate tray with a few slices of lemon underneath and ten minutes later – voila! Dinner is served.

Tuesday: Healthy fried rice, 415 calories

Fried rice is one of my go-to quick and easy dinners. To start, make a plain omelette with two eggs cooked in a dash of sesame oil, then roll, slice and set aside. Next, cook 50 grams each of onion and frozen green peas in a wok, and once softened, add 100 grams each of broccoli and capsicum. For a healthier base, opt for half a packet of microwave brown basmati rice (who has time to rice from scratch these days?!) and tie it all together with a tablespoon of oyster sauce for flavour. Return the omelette to the wok, toss and serve. Delish.

Wednesday: Prawn pizza, 433 calories

Yes, you can have pizza when you’re trying to lose weight! Making it at home is a great option to keep the calorie content under control – not to mention, you’ll save a stack of sodium, too. Start with a wholegrain wrap for your base, then top with two teaspoons of tomato paste. Next, layer your pizza with thinly sliced zucchini and capsicum to get some veggies into the meal, and scatter over 100 grams of green prawns. Top with 20 grams of reduced-fat mozzarella cheese and a sprinkle of dried oregano and bake until the prawns are cooked and the base is crispy.

Thursday: Steak and veggies, 391 calories

Although it’s trendy to forego meat these days, there’s nothing wrong with including it in small portions in a plant-filled diet – it’s actually super nutritious, offering hunger-busting protein, energising iron and zinc for wound healing.

For a healthy dinner, grill 150 grams of lean rump steak and serve it with a medium-sized baked potato, topped with a tablespoon of reduced-fat Greek yoghurt in place of sour cream. To round out the meal, steam 100 grams each of broccoli, carrot and green beans.

Friday: Homemade chicken burger, 394 calories

Burgers are typical Friday night fare – and making them yourself can really pay off in terms of calorie control. I often have an ‘open’ burger myself on a Friday night, made of a slice of wholegrain toast topped with a commercial chicken burger patty and a stack of crisp iceberg lettuce, dressed in a teaspoon of mayo. Hello weekend!

Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based accredited practising dietitian. You can connect with her on Instagram @honest_nutrition.