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Explore nutrition tips, kids’ meal plans, kids’ activities, recipes and more from pediatric nutritionist, Melissa Halas, MA, RDN, CDE.

Dining-Out Style Dinners

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DinnersHere are some dining out favorites that you can replicate at home. Tie on your apron and watch as your kitchen is transformed into your favorite restaurant.

Lately people have been pinching their pennies when it comes to spending on food in the current economy. Perhaps you’ve swapped from buying your lunch to bringing it daily. Or you choose store brand products instead of name brand cereals and snacks. Many of you might be eating out less, since foods can be made much less expensively at home and healthier, too.

But saving money doesn’t have to mean sacrificing your favorite dining-out foods when you’re dining in! In fact, you can recreate some restaurant favorites with your family at home. And by making your own meals, you’re in charge of the ingredients and quantity of foods used, which means you have greater control over what your family eats.


Believe it or not, pizza can be part of a healthy diet if you choose the right ingredients. Pizza is quick to make and fun to eat and it can be made differently every time. Many supermarkets sell pre-made and cooked crusts that come in a whole-wheat variety. You can also buy pre-made whole-wheat dough that simply needs to be rolled out and baked.

Spread sauce on your crust, or try salsa for a flavor change. Sprinkle reduced fat cheese on your pizza and leave room for lots of toppings. You can use leftovers from last night’s dinner as toppings, such as cut up chicken, or grilled veggies. Make a theme pizza that is fun for your kids to make, by using all green veggies, or letting them draw a pizza picture with toppings. You’ll find that preparing pizza at home can be fun and done in less time than it’d take the pizza delivery to arrive!

Mexican Food

Love a little spice in your supper? You can easily make burritos, quesadillas and even nutritious nachos at home. Roll up brown rice and beans in a whole-wheat tortilla with crunchy peppers and onions, tomato salsa and avocado slices for a big healthy burrito. Or, use that same tortilla to make a quesadilla by sprinkling on some reduced-fat cheese, piling on fillings, and folding over the top half of the tortilla. Bake this in the oven, or grill on a grill pan. Top with salsa and enjoy!

If nachos are your number one choice, you can make your own whole grain tortilla chips by baking until crispy whole-wheat tortillas, cut into triangles. Then top the chips with diced veggies, salsa, reduced-fat cheese, beans, grilled chicken or ground turkey and bake. Make Mexican meals with your own spicy flair.

Chinese Food

The Asian food aisle at the grocery store is loaded with a variety of rice, noodles, reduced sodium stir fry sauces, and veggies. Make a quick stir fry by pan cooking mixed veggies, including baby corn and water chestnuts for crunch. Red peppers, yellow summer squash and green broccoli will add lots of color. Leftover chicken or fish can be easily added to this dish along with brown rice pasta or udon noodles. Serve with chopsticks and fortune cookies for some authentic add-ons!

Soon you’ll be opting to eat in over eating out with quick, delicious and nutritious meals like these.

Test your knowledge:

  • What are three ways you can eat healthier while saving money?

Answer: Pack your lunch, buy store brand food products, cook at home instead of dining out.

  • What are three styles of dining out favorites that you can replicate at home?

Answer: Pizza, Mexican food and Chinese food


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About the Author

Picture of Janel Ovrut Funk, MS, RD, LDN

Janel Ovrut Funk, MS, RD, LDN

Janel works as the college dietitian for The Boston Conservatory where she provides counseling and campus-wide nutrition programming for the student body. She is also a corporate wellness consultant and develops wellness programs for companies, provides nutrition counseling for employees, and gives nutrition presentations relevant to a working professional’s busy life. In addition, she offers personal and practical nutrition counseling for individuals and families. Janel’s goal is to help others understand the importance of eating well and leading a healthy lifestyle.

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