The busy, crazy schedules found in many homes today make it challenging for families to eat healthy. When time is short, it’s always a temptation to pick up burgers, pizza or some kind of take-out meals. However, when fast food becomes a habit, nutrition suffers and the costs mount. Fortunately, a little planning and forethought can make a big difference. Here are some strategies that will make it possible to eat nutritious meals without breaking the bank or feeling overwhelmed.
1. Invest in a Slow Cooker
Buy a slow cooker, and allocate a few minutes in the morning to throwing in ingredients for a wholesome meal. During the day when members of your family go in different directions, the pot will be working its magic. When you come home in the evening, you’ll be greeted by the tantalizing aroma of a home-cooked dinner.
2. Double a Recipe
When cooking one of your family favorites, double or triple the recipe, suggests ActiveKids. This will give you enough leftovers to divide into packs and freeze. When you’re anticipating an extra tight schedule for the following day, take out one of the packs and put it in the fridge to thaw. Then, when you’re ready to eat, all you need to do is reheat it.
3. Shop for Easy Meal Fixings
Family Circle recommends shopping for ingredients you can easily put together for a nutritious meal. To illustrate, if you have pre-chopped vegetables and chicken breasts in the freezer, as well as soy sauce and spices in the cabinet, you can whip up a tasty stir-fry in a jiffy.
4. Share the Work
“Many hands make light work,” is an old adage that still holds true. HealthEating concurs, as it advocates sharing the work involved in meal preparation. Assign tasks to each person. Even young children can participate by setting the table or putting ice in glasses. While making dinner, family members can catch up on what happened during each other’s day; and the process can become a cherished time of bonding.
5. Pick up a Roasted Chicken
Few things have the culinary versatility of a roasted chicken. On your way home from work, pick up one from the supermarket and serve it with baked Irish or sweet potatoes and a green salad. Use the leftovers to make a meal, such as chicken tortilla soup or chicken enchiladas, that can be made quickly. Either freeze what you make or put it in the fridge to use the next night.
6. Plan Healthy Breakfasts
There is no need to stop at the local drive-through to pick up a sausage biscuit. Likewise, pre-made frozen breakfasts aren’t the best option because they’re usually high in fat, salt, sugar, refined carbohydrates and harmful food additives. Instead, plan nutritious breakfasts that you can prepare in a flash. One choice is to make a parfait, alternating layers of plain yogurt with layers of chopped fresh fruit. Another idea is to make overnight oats, which is oats mixed with fruit, milk and raw honey that you prepare and put in the fridge before going to bed.
7. Keep Nutritious Snacks on Hand
Encourage healthy snacking by keeping fruit, raw nuts and baby carrot sticks on hand. When you buy a large fruit such as a watermelon or cantaloupe, chop it up and keep it in the fridge for kids to easily access. If you prefer not to ban chips and cookies, consider buying them in individual serving-size packets to avoid gorging.
Once your meal is ready, make it a rule to take a break from TV and cell phones. Relax while you eat, and savor the company of your loved ones. The old-fashioned family-dinner hour can cure a multitude of ills.