(suitable for Whole30, Keto & primarily plant-based)
Dinner is one of the hardest meals for many of us. At the end of the day, we’re tired, we want something comforting, but are usually too lazy to cook up something elaborate (and often we just crave simple). And there is a reason for that! Your body usually craves an easy -to-digest meal at the end of the day; something simple yet comforting and balanced.
Before bed, you want a meal that will help keep your blood sugar stable so that you sleep better and burn more fat and promote weight loss (if that’s a goal).
A dinner that is EASY-TO-DIGEST is also key to not disrupt your sleep. You need your body to rest while sleeping (and not be working overtime to digest your dinner).
Lastly, you want foods that help promote restful sleep.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Look for foods that boost your body’s serotonin production, as serotonin converts to melatonin in the brain’s pineal gland (and melatonin is what tells us that it’s time to sleep)! Tryptophan is an essential amino acid (found in most protein-rich foods) that is necessary to make serotonin. Vitamin B6 is also used to make serotonin. So looking for foods with tryptophan and vitamin B6 is KEY for dinner-time meals.
Some foods with high tryptophan levels include:
Eggs, Fish and Poultry (chicken, turkey)
Seeds, primarily sesame, sunflower and pumpkin seeds,
Nuts and nut butters, primarily almonds (which also are rich in magnesium) and walnuts (which also contain naturally occurring melatonin, and are an amazing source of omega-3s)
Whole grains like buckwheat, oats and quinoa
Eating Magnesium-rich foods at dinner time is also key to promote relaxation, such as: dark leafy greens, avocados, nuts and seeds, beans/chickpeas, whole-grains and dark chocolate.
Here is one delicious, easy-to-make, healthy meal that is IDEAL for a dinner – that will help your body REST well, DIGEST and DETOX while you sleep, all while keeping your blood- sugar balanced. It’s vegetarian (yet has plenty of protein), gluten-free (even grain-free unless you opt to add grains), packed with fiber and extremely GUT-FRIENDLY. Best of all, it can be made with leftover roasted veggies in just 10 minutes!
Roasted Veggie Macro Bowl with Egg + Avocado (primarily plant based, gluten-free, grain-free, and suitable for Paleo, Keto and Whole30)
1 or 2 organic, free-range egg(s) (if sensitive to eggs, swap for 4-5oz. wild salmon or 1/2 cup chickpeas if vegan)
½ – ¾ cup pre-roasted sweet potato
¾ - 1 cup pre-roasted broccoli florets (option to swap for brussels sprouts, cauliflower or zucchini)
¾ - 1 cup sautéed greens of choice (ex. spinach, kale, collards or chard)
sliced avocado (about ¼ cup or ¼ a small avocado)
a drizzle of homemade pesto or tahini sauce (optional for added healthy fats and flavor)
optional addition (for extra protein + extra magnesium): ¼ cup roasted crispy chickpeas. Or a tablespoon of hemp, pumpkin or sunflower seeds (the seeds being a suitable option if following Whole30/Keto)
optional addition (for extra healthy carbs + extra magnesium; ideal if you workout a lot): 1/4 - 1/2 cup cooked quinoa, buckwheat or brown rice
Cook your egg(s) to your liking: it can be hard boiled, poached, scrambled (with some minced onion and garlic for example) or my favorite, fried with a teaspoon of coconut oil or ghee.
On another pan, heat 1 teaspoon (or up to 2 teaspoons) of extra-virgin olive oil (or coconut oil or ghee) on low heat, add some minced garlic and onion (optional), stir, then add your leafy greens. Make sure they’ve been pre-washed, you’ve removed the stems and roughly chopped the leaves. Stir a bit while cooking, until just slightly wilted. Season with sea salt and pepper to taste.
Meanwhile heat your roasted sweet potatoes and broccoli on a non stick pan (or in the microwave) until hot.
Prepare your plate/bowl: Place your sautéed greens, sweet potatoes and broccoli side by side, covering the base of the bowl. Top off with your egg(s) and sliced avocado, then drizzle with a pesto or tahini sauce, and enjoy! (Again, option to add chickpeas or seeds and/or grains as well to your base).
This meal can take just 10 minutes to prep as long as you use pre-cooked veggies. The idea is to have your sweet potato and broccoli roasted beforehand (they keep well for up to 3 days in the fridge) and also make your pesto or tahini sauce a day or two in advance (if using). So the only thing you need to cook in the moment is cook your egg, sautee your leafy greens, and then it’s just a matter of heating up your roasted veggies (ideally on the stove) for 5 minutes.
WHY IS THIS DINNER IDEAL?
The eggs contain tryptophan (to help you sleep better and longer) as well as 11 vitamins and minerals (including vitamin B6), making them nutrient dense and ideal for dinner time. Plus, I love that they’re so EASY and QUICK TO MAKE, relatively easy-to-digest, and a cheap source of protein!
The roasted sweet potato is a slow-fuel, high-fiber carb that digests slowly, providing your body with steady energy (to help you make it through the night without hunger), and helps your body burn fat. Sweet potatoes are a good source of vitamin B6 which as mentioned above helps with serotonin and melatonin production that calm the brain and prepare it for sleep.. Plus, they’re rich in potassium and magnesium, both of which help your muscles relax. The magnesium also promotes GABA secretion in the brain, which is a relaxation-inducing neurotransmitter.
The broccoli and leafy greens are packed with magnesium, the best relaxation mineral. And they provide tons of fiber and vitamins and antioxidants. Additionally, the sulfur in broccoli improves your detoxification pathways, helping you to fully detoxify after your body is done digesting.
The avocado and pesto/tahini sauce add necessary healthy fats, not to mention that they add a comfort factor and deliciousness.
And the fact that it’s cooked makes it easy to digest and comforting. The fact that it’s packed with veggies makes it ideal for proper detoxification, weight loss and overall nutrition. And the fact that its balanced (with protein, healthy fats and some healthy complex carbs) makes it ideal for hormonal balance and blood sugar stabilization. Last but not least, this gluten-free, fiber-rich, easy-to-digest meal promotes healthy digestion.
*For vegans, use crispy sautéed or roasted chickpeas and omit the egg
*For egg allergies, swap egg for 4-5 oz. cooked wild salmon (canned or a small filet)
*Adding chickpeas is a great option for added fiber, healthy carbs, protein and rich in sleep-promoting tryptophan – so if you exercise and need a bit more, include both the egg and some chickpeas.
*If you want added protein/healthy fats/magnesium/fiber but are avoiding legumes, opt for hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds instead of chickpeas
*If you need a bit extra carbs (and magnesium), feel free to add some cooked quinoa or other whole-grain (preferably gluten free) such as brown or wild rice, buckwheat, millet or teff
Lastly, if you have a sweet tooth like I do, feel free to finish your meal with 1 -2 small piece(s) of serotonin-boosting dark chocolate!
Love and Healthy, Sleep-Promoting Dinners,