Healthy Living

Prep a healthy dinner in 15 minutes

I know. The last thing you want to do at the end of a workday is make dinner. It can feel like yet another time-consuming task after punching the clock.

Not all home-cooked dinners take half (or even a quarter) of your night to prepare though. See the Kale Stir Fry and its accompaniments below for proof.

And believe it or not, spending an hour – or longer – on creating a meal can be relaxing, especially if you listen to soothing music. If you’ve got a full house, or a noisy one, skip the music and train your attention to the prep and cooking to feel yourself unwind. But first, a few tips to help along your dinner plans.

Mind the time

Don’t eat right before heading to bed. It’s not great for digestion, says Laurie Mitchell, RDN, a registered dietitian and nutritionist who oversees Unum’s corporate wellness programs.

Mitchell recommends wrapping up your meal a couple hours before hitting the sack. “And if someone has acid reflux, they should definitely avoid large meals and eating close to bedtime,” she says.

Keep it light

Avoid a very fatty meal. It will take a while to digest and can make you feel pretty miserable while it’s happening.

Harvard School of Public Health’s “Healthy Eating Plate” is a good tool for charting your culinary course, Mitchell says. You might as well take advantage of seasonal vegetables to do it: beets, sweet potatoes and parsnips, for example. Or try cutting a juicy, sweet pear onto a salad.

A stir fry is one of Mitchell’s favorite ways to eat one of her favorite foods, kale. You can munch on the dish along with quinoa and baked chicken for a mighty nighttime meal. Here’s how to make it:

Kale Stir Fry, Quinoa and Chicken

Kale has lots of vitamin K, great for your blood and bones. Vitamin K is fat soluble so the olive oil will help you absorb more of it. Kale also has calcium, which – surprise – your body is likely to absorb better from the leafy vegetable than from dairy products.

Prep time
Active: 15 minutes
To clean kale, place it in a mixture of white vinegar and water for a couple minutes then rinse with water.
Passive: 20-30 minutes (quinoa and chicken)

Kale Stir Fry

1 or 2 bunches of kale

½ cup pine nuts (more or less, as desired)

2 or 3 cloves of garlic

Olive oil or canola oil for sautéing

• Remove hard stems then chop kale.

• Lightly brown pine nuts on stovetop or in oven or toaster oven (pay close attention; they brown very quickly). If browning on stovetop, remove from pan and set aside.

• Slice garlic then sauté in oil until golden using a large pan or wok.

• Add kale and sauté until wilted.

• Toss in crispy pine nuts.

Quinoa takes two minutes to rinse and mix with water. Next all you do is let it simmer in a stovetop pan until all the water is absorbed (follow package directions).

Chicken breasts can get a coat of heart-healthy oil (and lemon or lime, if you’d like) and be placed in an ovenproof dish to bake at 375-400 degrees for 20-30 minutes, depending on their size. No more effort required.

After you’ve nourished yourself, take a walk for about 15 minutes, Mitchell suggests. It will make your digestive system happy, not to mention calm your mind and give your bod light exercise to help you nod off for the night.

Connect with journalist and wellness writer Mitra Malek at

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