5 Low-Glycemic Dinner Recipes for Busy Weeknights

On nights where it’s challenging to pause—and you’re low on energy or patience—use this guide to make a quick and healthy low-glycemic dinner. 

Man chopping vegetables on a white cutting board

Low-glycemic eating can be easy, tasty, and filling. When you’re faced with busy weeknights, it can be easy to make food an afterthought. On these nights where it’s challenging to pause—and you’re low on energy or patience—use this guide to make a quick and healthy low-glycemic dinner. 

The following low glycemic index (GI) recipes don’t contain many refined carbs or sugar and provide simple suggestions for low GI eating when you just can’t stomach the idea of high-effort meals. 

Low-Glycemic Meals Matter

Eating low-GI foods can help regulate insulin levels and avoid blood sugar spikes <sup>1</sup>. This is important because the excess glucose not used by your body as energy can be stored as fat<sup>2</sup>. Stable glucose levels after eating are good for weight loss and weight regulation. Keeping your blood sugar stable can also improve cognitive function and may reduce risk for dementia <sup>3</sup>.

<p class="pro-tip">Read more about the benefits of stable blood sugar.</p>

High GI Foods 

Frequently eating high GI foods may lead to higher risk factors for obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus (DM), heart disease, and inflammation<sup>4</sup>. High-GI foods include simple carbohydrates such as sugar, honey, or corn syrup, as well as processed carbohydrates like crackers and bread.

Tips for Healthy, Low GI Dinners

Simple low-glycemic dinner ideas can be full of nutrients and flavor. Keep these guidelines in mind for healthy low GI dinners:

  • Plan your meals at the beginning of the week so you know what ingredients you need on hand
  • Meal prep earlier in the week for the nights that you will not have time to cook
  • Fill half your plate with vegetables at each meal (more about low-glycemic vegetables)
  • Eat lean proteins, including seafood and poultry
  • Choose sauces, dressings, and seasonings wisely as many are packed with sugar, high fructose corn syrup, other refined carbs, sodium, and unhealthy seed oils
  • When it comes to grains, make them whole and try to choose minimally processed grains such as quinoa and barley
  • Skip the low-fat foods where fat is often just replaced with extra sugar. Instead, find natural versions of these ingredients or swap them with whole foods.

5 Low GI Dinner Recipes

Now that you have low-glycemic dinner guidelines, here are five low GI recipes to get you started! 

Easy Low GI Saffron Chicken Recipe

Strands of saffron

Chicken is a healthy, go-to lean protein that can be enjoyed by many. Chicken also offers other beneficial nutrients such as iron and B12, which are crucial for blood and cell function <sup>5</sup>. You can make chicken-based meals low on the GI scale by serving them with vegetables and whole grains. Here's a new chicken recipe to try:

Makes 2 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp. dried saffron threads
  • 1 Tbsp. plain low-fat Greek yogurt
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 chicken thighs, skinless and boneless
  • 2 cups mixed vegetables, sauteed
  • 1 ½ cups cooked quinoa

Instructions

Stamp saffron with a mortar with pestle. Combine saffron with low-fat Greek yogurt, salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Add chicken thighs and the yogurt marinade to a resealable bag or container that can fit chicken thighs. Marinate for 30 minutes up to overnight in the refrigerator.

Preheat the oven to 400<sup>o</sup>F. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper for easy clean-up. Remove the chicken thighs from the marinade and place them on the lined baking sheet. Bake until cooked through, about 30 minutes.

Serve with vegetables and quinoa.

Nutritional Breakdown: Calories: 444, Carbs: 45 grams, Protein: 26 grams, Fat: 18 grams 

Low GI Cajun Shrimp Traybake

Whole sweet potato next to sweet potato cubes

Traybakes are one of my personal favorite dinner recipes. They’re simple and can be made in just a few minutes. All you need is lean protein, veggies, some olive oil, and seasoning. In the example below, we've gone with Cajun cuisine with simple Cajun seasoning over the top of shrimp, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, and bell peppers, but you can mix and match your ingredients and seasonings any way you like!

Note: In this low GI recipe, we use boiled sweet potatoes, which are high in fiber. Boiling them minimizes the GI as opposed to other preparation methods<sup>6</sup>. They’re also great sources of micronutrients like vitamins A, C, and E.

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 small sweet potatoes cut into 1-inch cubes (leave the skin on)
  • 1–2 lbs. shrimp (fresh or frozen and thawed), shells and tails removed
  • 8–10 medium mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 green bell pepper, cubed
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 Tbsp. low-sodium Cajun seasoning
  • Olive oil cooking spray

Instructions

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. 

Preheat the oven to 375<sup>o</sup>F. 

Add the sweet potatoes to the pot and boil until tender, about 10–15 minutes, then drain. 

Place the remaining ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir so they are evenly combined. Spray a large baking sheet with olive oil, spread the ingredients out in an even layer, and bake for 30 minutes. Serve over sweet potatoes. Enjoy!

Nutritional Breakdown: Calories: 285, Carbs: 18 grams, Protein: 48 grams, Fat: 4 grams 

Simple Low GI Tofu Stir-Fry Recipe

Quinoa spilling out of jar

Stir-fries are another quick and easy low GI dinner to add to your weekly menu. Sauteed proteins and veggies come together to create a delicious low GI meal, and you can add quinoa to bulk it up. Quinoa is an optimal grain choice because it’s high in fiber and a complete protein, meaning it has all of the essential amino acids that your body needs. Try this simple stir-fry made with tofu even if you enjoy meat; vegetarians can eat low GI, too!

Makes 2 servings

Ingredients 

  • 14 oz. extra-firm tofu, drained and pressed dry
  • 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. water
  • 1 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp. low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1 medium garlic clove, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. avocado oil
  • 1–2 green onions, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced in thin strips
  • 6 oz. snow peas
  • 1 ½ cups cooked quinoa

Instructions

Cut the tofu into 1/4-inch cubes. In a medium-size bowl, whisk together low-sodium soy sauce, water, rice wine vinegar, cornstarch, and garlic. 

Heat avocado oil over high heat in a large skillet or wok. Add tofu, stir until it browns on all sides, about 5–7 minutes. Remove from the pan and place in a bowl. Add more avocado oil to the skillet if needed, saute green onions for 30 seconds or less. Add red bell pepper and snow peas, stir-frying for about 3 minutes. Add tofu back to the skillet and pour in the sauce mixture. Stir-fry until tofu is coated with sauce, about 3–5 minutes.

Serve with quinoa and enjoy!

Nutritional Breakdown: Calories: 576, Carbs: 48 grams, Protein: 42 grams, Fat: 27 grams

Low GI Cod and Veggie Packets

Married woman chopping zucchini

All seafood is a good choice for a low GI meal, including shrimp, salmon, cod, or clams. Seafood is also a great option because it offers healthy omega-3s and protein. Try this simple cod and veggie packet bake for a 15-minute meal for 4!

Makes 2 servings

Ingredients 

  • 8 oz. low-sodium vegetable broth 
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil 
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 lb. cod, cut into large chunks (leave the skin on)
  • 3 medium-sized zucchinis, cut into large chunks  
  • 1 small red onion, sliced 

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 375<sup>o</sup>F. In a large mixing bowl, combine low-sodium vegetable broth, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Add cod chunks to the bowl of broth mixture. Stir so all pieces of fish are submerged in liquid.

Cut extra-large pieces of aluminum foil or parchment paper to fold into packets for cooking the cod. Place foil or parchment pieces on a large baking sheet. Arrange veggies around each piece of cod in the center of the packet. Fold the top half of the packet over fish and veggies, folding tightly to seal. Place the baking sheet in the oven for 15–20 minutes or until the fish is cooked through (it should flake easily with a fork). If it doesn't seem done after 20 minutes, place the packets back into the oven for another 5 minutes. Serve and enjoy!

Nutritional Breakdown: Calories: 336, Carbs: 22 grams, Protein: 46 grams, Fat: 9 grams

Low GI Curried Vegetable Soup Recipe

Bowl of vegetable soup on a wooden table

Here’s a warm and hearty soup to try for your next low GI dinner. It features low-glycemic veggies like spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms, and onions. Lean proteins like chicken breast or beans also pair well with low GI vegetables for low-glycemic soup recipes. 

Makes 4 servings 

Ingredients 

  • 2 Tbsp. avocado oil 
  • 1 medium onion, chopped 
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced 
  • 2 Tbsp. curry powder 
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 5 cups low-sodium vegetable broth (you can also use low-sodium chicken broth)  
  • 1, 13.5-oz. can pumpkin  
  • 1 tsp. low-sodium chicken bouillon mixed in broth or water 
  • 1 cup canned navy beans, drained and rinsed
  • Salt and pepper to taste 

Instructions

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion becomes translucent, about 5 minutes. 

Add the curry and sweet potatoes to the pot. Stir. Pour in the broth, pumpkin, and bouillon. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook, covered, until the potatoes are fork-tender, about 20–25 minutes. 

Transfer half of the soup and the navy beans to a blender and blend until smooth. Add the blended mixture back into the pot and stir to combine. 

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Nutritional Breakdown: Calories: 296, Carbs: 45 grams, Protein: 10 grams, Fat: 9 grams 

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About the Author

 Kelsey Butler Headshot
Kelsey Butler is a registered dietitian nutritionist with a master’s in Clinical Nutrition Sciences.
View Author Bio

Please note: The Signos team is committed to sharing insightful and actionable health articles that are backed by scientific research, supported by expert reviews, and vetted by experienced health editors. The Signos blog is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider. Read more about our editorial process and content philosophy here.

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