Easy Weeknight Recipes for Busy Families

Health Professional, Medical Reviewer

It’s tough to prepare healthy meals each night of the week. Here are a few of my favorite recipes that make weeknight cooking a breeze.

Shrimp Burrito Casserole

Buy frozen or fresh shrimp that are already shelled and deveined. I like to double this recipe and put one pan in the freezer for future use.  It’s a great dish to bring to a potluck since it cooks so quickly.


1 diced green pepper

1 diced red pepper

1 diced onion

1 diced tomato

½ teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon dried cilantro

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1 pound cooked shrimp (shelled and deveined)

10 whole-wheat tortillas

1 cup salsa

Low-fat sour cream

Low-fat grated cheddar, Colby, or Monterey Jack cheese

Sliced green onions to garnish, if desired


1. Preheat oven to 350°. Over medium heat, sauté the peppers and onion until tender. Stir in the tomato, seasonings, garlic, and shrimp. Sauté for two minutes and remove from heat.

2. Spray a 13 x 9-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Spoon the filling into each tortilla and roll tightly, placing the seam side down into the baking dish.

3. Pour salsa over tortillas and bake for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with grated cheddar and return to the oven for five more minutes. Top with sour cream and green onions and serve.

4. One filled tortilla contains approximately 200 calories, 15 grams of protein, 23 grams of carbohydrate, and 5 grams of fat.

Cabernet Meatloaf


This meatloaf topped with a wine glaze outshines traditional meatloaf. I also like to double this recipe and freeze a loaf for future use. When cut into one-inch thick slices, this meatloaf makes great sandwiches for the next day. Lean ground turkey breast also works well in this recipe.


1 ½ pounds 95 percent lean ground beef

1 cup bread crumbs

½ cup chopped onion

1/3 cup ketchup

¼ cup shredded Parmesan cheese

¼ cup chopped fresh basil

1 egg, beaten

1 tablespoon minced garlic

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

2 tablespoons red wine

2 tablespoons ketchup

2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese


1. Preheat oven to 350°. Using a large bowl, combine ground turkey, bread crumbs, onion, 1/3 cup ketchup, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, basil, egg, garlic, salt, and pepper. Mix thoroughly.

2. Press meatloaf into an 8 x 4-inch loaf pan that has been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Bake in the oven for 50 minutes. Combine the wine and 2 tablespoons ketchup in a small bowl. Brush the meatloaf with this mixture. Continue baking in the oven for approximately 20 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 160°. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese. Slice and serve.

3. Each 1-inch slice contains approximately 220 calories, 27 g of protein, 11 g carbohydrate, and 8 g of fat.

Tex-Mex Casserole


I’ve made this simple recipe for years and still get lots of requests for it, especially on football Sundays. An extra casserole also freezes well and makes great leftovers. Hot sauce fans: shake some on top!


8 ounces whole-wheat penne pasta (uncooked)

1 pound lean ground turkey breast

1 (10 ounce) package frozen corn (thawed and drained)

1 cup salsa

1 (16 ounce) container nonfat cottage cheese

1 egg

1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro

½ teaspoon ground white pepper

¼ teaspoon ground cumin

2 ounces shredded Monterey Jack cheese


1. Preheat oven to 350°. Boil pasta according to the package directions. Drain, rinse, and set aside. Using a nonstick skillet, cook turkey breast on high until no longer pink. In a small bowl, mix cottage cheese, egg, cilantro, white pepper, and cumin. Pour half of the turkey mixture into an 11 x 7-inch baking dish. Top with pasta. Spread cottage cheese mixture over pasta and top with the remaining turkey. Sprinkle cheese over casserole and bake for 30 minutes.

2. Each serving (about 1/8 of the casserole) contains approximately 274 calories, 29 g of protein, 29 g carbohydrate, and 5 g of fat.

The bottom line

With a little creativity, you can make weeknight cooking a breeze. Save meal prep and more labor intensive dishes for the weekend when you have more time. Rely on simple leftovers to get you through those busy weeknights.

See More Helpful Articles:

3 Fun (and Healthy) Fall Recipes You’ll Love

Beating Lunchbox Boredom

How to Prepare Quick Family-Friendly Meals

Carmen is a registered dietitian who specializes in weight management and nutrition therapy for chronic disease. In addition to nutrition counseling at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, Carmen teaches undergraduate health and wellness courses and provides corporate wellness seminars on exercise and nutrition.