When it comes to dinner, overeating or eating too much of the wrong kinds of food can lead to trouble sleeping. On the flip side, a meal that is less than satiating can leave you wanting more and result in reaching for an unhealthy late-night snack even closer to bedtime.
INSIDER consulted with three registered dietitians to get their input on their favorite dinner choices.
An ideal dinner features a balance of vegetables, protein, grains, and healthy fat
Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD, and author of "The No-Brainer Nutrition Guide For Every Runner," told INSIDER that these components "help you stay full and avoid late-night snacking."
"The ideal plate is one-half vegetables, a quarter protein, and a quarter starches, such as grains or starchy vegetables," said Rizzo.
She listed grilled salmon with quinoa and roasted vegetables, and a vegetable bowl with brown rice and tofu as prime examples. Healthy fats can be incorporated by cooking vegetables in extra-virgin olive oil or adding avocado.
Make your one-pot dish a hearty side for your healthier meal
As nice as it is to have fewer dishes to wash, a one-pot dinner can increase your likelihood for reaching for something else later. Kathryn Riner, pediatric dietitian and founder of Healthy Kids Nutrition, encourages people to include more than one food at dinner.
"I know mac and cheese can be a family favorite," said Riner. "[But] instead of having a one-pot meal, perhaps mac and cheese can be a side dish to chicken or salmon with broccoli. Cut up a few apples and serve milk as a drink, and you have a balanced meal the entire family can enjoy."
Other sample meals she recommended are salmon with broccoli and brown rice, and black bean and sweet potato quesadillas made with whole wheat tortillas.
Overall, your dinner should include foods you enjoy and find satisfying
Depriving yourself can lead to overeating, late-night snacking, and mindless eating and it's for this reason that Riner encourages people to indulge in "fun" foods every once in a while.
"In order to avoid late-night snacking and cravings, it is important to include some fun foods (or what one may perceive as off limits) every once in a while," said Riner. "Meaning, if we always order the healthiest thing on the menu but come home and graze on chips, perhaps we really wanted the burger and should have just enjoyed it in the first place."
This dietitian-approved vegetarian meal incorporates protein and complex carbohydrates
Meredith Price, MS, RD, CDN, a vegetarian, typically eats a big side salad (mixed greens, tomatoes, and cucumbers dressed lightly in olive oil and balsamic vinegar), two to three pieces of baked BBQ tofu, and a side of baked sweet potato fries for dinner, with a big glass of water.
"Having a balanced meal like [this] one will reduce cravings because you're giving your body what it needs — a healthy balance of carbohydrates, fats, and protein," said Price.