20 simple, gut-healthy dinners with lots of protein

By | April 13, 2024

Reviewed by dietitian Jessica Ball, MS, RD

Enjoying one of these delicious dinners is a great option for a healthy gut. They’re packed with probiotic-rich foods like yogurt and kimchi, in addition to prebiotic foods like beans, legumes, whole grains and vegetables. These ingredients provide healthy bacteria and fiber to support your microbiome and digestion. Plus, each serving of these dishes contains at least 15 grams of protein, a nutrient that can help promote satiety, muscle recovery and bone health. It takes just three steps or less to get flavorful and satisfying recipes like our Best Veggie Enchiladas and Broccolini, Chicken Sausage & Orzo Skillet on the table.

Salmon Rice Bowl

Ali RedmondAli Redmond

Ali Redmond

Inspired by the viral TikTok trend, this salmon rice bowl makes for a tasty lunch or dinner. With healthy ingredients such as instant brown rice, salmon and vegetables, you have a tasty meal in just 25 minutes.

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Broccolini, chicken sausage and orzo skillet

We love this quick skillet meal for busy nights. The sausage and orzo simmer together in chicken broth, resulting in a creamy, risotto-like dish in less than 30 minutes.

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The best vegetarian enchiladas



<p>Photographer: Jacob Fox, Food Stylist: Holly Dreesman, Prop Stylist: Joseph Wanek</p>
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Photographer: Jacob Fox, Food Stylist: Holly Dreesman, Prop Stylist: Joseph Wanek

These vegetarian enchiladas are packed with sweet corn, onion, peppers, zucchini and beans and are topped with store-bought enchilada sauce to save time on preparation. Enchilada sauce ranges from mild to hot. We love the earthy flavor of red enchilada sauce, but green enchilada sauce works well too. For a slightly different twist, replace the zucchini with yellow squash and the bell pepper with a poblano.

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White bean, spinach and sun-dried tomato orzo from one pot with lemon and feta



<p>Photographer: Jen Causey, Food Stylist: Julian Hensarling, Prop Stylist: Julia Bayless</p>
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Photographer: Jen Causey, Food Stylist: Julian Hensarling, Prop Stylist: Julia Bayless

This one-pot pasta dish with white beans, spinach and sun-dried tomatoes is bright and vibrant and makes for easy cleanup. Roasting the orzo before adding the stock adds another layer of flavor. Another dark leafy green such as chopped kale or chard can replace the spinach, but it may take longer to wilt in the pan. If using a firmer vegetable, add it to the pan during the last 5 minutes of cooking time.

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Bowl with black beans and quinoa



<p>Photography: Carson Downing, Food Stylist: Holly Dreesman, Prop Stylist: Gabe Greco</p>
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Photography: Carson Downing, Food Stylist: Holly Dreesman, Prop Stylist: Gabe Greco

This black bean and quinoa bowl has many of the usual hallmarks of a taco salad, minus the fried bowl. We loaded it up with pico de gallo, fresh cilantro and avocado, plus an easy hummus dressing to drizzle on top.

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Salmon Stuffed Avocados

Canned salmon is a valuable pantry staple and a practical way to incorporate heart-healthy, omega-3-rich fish into your diet. Here we combine it with avocados in a simple, no-cook meal.

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Vegan shepherd’s pie

Lentils take the place of ground beef and vegan butter adds creaminess to the mashed potatoes in this easy vegan shepherd’s pie recipe. If you want to shorten the cooking time, use pre-cooked lentils and omit most of the vegetable stock. Only add some if the mixture seems dry.

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Stuffed sweet potato with hummus dressing

Hearty yet easy to prepare, this stuffed sweet potato with black beans, kale and hummus dressing is a fantastic lunch with 5 ingredients for one!

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Baked Feta & Tomato Chickpeas



<p>Photographer: Fred Hardy, Food Stylist: Jennifer Wendorf, Prop Stylist: Lydia Pursell</p>
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Photographer: Fred Hardy, Food Stylist: Jennifer Wendorf, Prop Stylist: Lydia Pursell

This simple baked feta casserole recipe turns cherry tomatoes, feta cheese and chickpeas into a hearty, protein-rich vegetarian meal. After baking, a savory-sweet tomato-olive oil sauce is created, ideal for spreading on pita bread. Feta cheese in brine melts more easily than dry, crumbled feta, so it’s worth looking for. For another variation, replace the chickpeas with creamy white beans.

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Creamy Farro risotto with mushrooms and tomato

Instead of arborio rice, this creamy grain dish has the bold nutty flavor of farro, which pairs nicely with the black pepper and Parmesan cheese. The cherry tomatoes add a nice touch of juicy sweetness, and the cremini mushrooms give a “meaty” feel to this vegetarian main dish.

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Stuffed Peppers with Parmesan Chicken and Quinoa

Chicken Parm gets a fun low-carb and gluten-free twist with these cheesy stuffed peppers with chicken and quinoa. Serve with a salad for a healthy dinner that is also easy to prepare.

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Harira (Moroccan tomato, lentil and beef soup)



<p>Photographer: Rachel Marek, Food Stylist: Lauren McAnelly, Prop Stylist: Gabriel Greco</p>
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Photographer: Rachel Marek, Food Stylist: Lauren McAnelly, Prop Stylist: Gabriel Greco

Harira is a tomato-based soup that takes center stage on many Moroccan tables during the month of Ramadan. It is often eaten as part of iftar, or the meal served every evening to break the fast, along with dates, milk, hard-boiled eggs, semolina pancakes and chebakia (sesame cakes). This version features chickpeas, lentils, beef and noodles in a fragrant tomato broth, but there are endless variations on the soup.

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Bowl of brown rice shrimp with tomatoes and avocado

This quick and easy bowl combines brown rice with cooked shrimp, tossed in a ginger-soy-sesame sauce, to create a flavorful dish in no time. Tomato and avocado topping adds color and nutrients. Use leftover brown rice or buy a package of pre-cooked brown rice at the grocery store to keep this meal without cooking.

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Salmon from one frying pan with fennel couscous and sun-dried tomatoes

Sun-dried tomato pesto and lemon work double duty to flavor both the salmon and couscous in this healthy one-pan dinner recipe. Serve the salmon with extra lemon wedges and a dollop of yogurt, if desired.

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Pesto Tuna Noodle Dish



<p>Photographer: Grant Webster, Food Stylist: Holly Dreesman, Prop Stylist: Lexi Juhl</p>
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Photographer: Grant Webster, Food Stylist: Holly Dreesman, Prop Stylist: Lexi Juhl

A creamy pesto sauce with sweet shallots and wilted spinach puts a light and bright twist on the classic tuna noodle casserole. Albacore tuna is an ideal choice because it retains its texture well once blended, although any tuna with water will do the job. For best results, we recommend using chilled pesto because of its fresh flavor that enhances the dish as a whole.

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Caesar salad with salmon

This simple Caesar salad combines creamy Greek yogurt and buttermilk with the traditional egg yolks and olive oil and mixes it with slightly bitter radicchio in addition to the classic romaine. With just a small amount of flavorful Parmigiano-Reggiano, you’ll also shave calories and sodium.

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Sheet-Pan Harissa Chicken & Vegetables

This one-pan dinner gets a hit of flavorful heat from harissa, the popular North African chili-and-garlic paste. For this recipe we use harissa paste from a tube. It has a concentrated chili flavor that makes an excellent seasoning rub for chicken and adds a subtle spiciness to a refreshing spiced yogurt sauce.

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Whole wheat orzo tuna salad with broccoli

This pasta and tuna salad mashup gets a boost of color and texture from broccoli. Lots of Kalamata olives provide a salty bite. Be sure to closely monitor the cooking of the pasta, as orzo can go from al dente to porridge in a minute. If in doubt, let it drain a little earlier; it will soften even more in the lemon dressing.

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Yogurt-Curry Marinated Chicken Thighs

This healthy chicken thigh recipe is tender and packed with flavor thanks to a yogurt-based marinade. The recipe for the healthy yogurt marinade also works well with pork, shrimp, firm fish or tofu. (If marinating 1 pound of chicken thighs, divide the recipe in half.)

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Creamy garlic pasta with shrimps and vegetables

Mix a garlicky, Middle Eastern-inspired yogurt sauce with pasta, shrimp, asparagus, peas and red pepper for a fresh, satisfying summer meal. Serve with: Slices of cucumber and tomato, mixed with lemon juice and olive oil.

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