Quick and healthy meals

Quick and healthy meals starts with a categorized shopping list, categorized by food groups.

Getting a meal together can be a bit of a challenge when strapped for time and trying to maintain a healthy diet. Driving through fast food lines is quick but that choice is an expensive and unhealthy choice in the long run. Quick and easy meals can be made at home easily by knowing a few tips about grocery shopping and stocking your kitchen cupboards.

Quick meals can be made with staples such as pastas, rice, lean meats and beans, eggs, fresh, frozen or leftover vegetables, to name a few. It takes about 20-30 minutes to prepare a variety of dishes. The advantage of making your own meals from scratch is that you can make them without as much fat, salt and sugars and they taste much better.

These tips may be a challenge if you are not accustomed to knowing what staples to have on hand and how to shop “healthy.” Making a grocery list subcategorized by the five food groups will help you buy healthier foods from each food group if you keep these tips in mind:

Dairy – Think calcium rich foods

Dairy tips: Buy one percent or skim milk, fat-free or low-fat dairy products more often. Eat/drink three cups per day.

Grains – Make half your grains whole

Grain tips: Buy whole grain flours, breads, cereals, pasta noodles, rice, crackers, 50 percent of the time. Eat six ounces grains per day.

Proteins – Go lean with proteins

Protein tips: Eat lean proteins more often such as white meats, game meats, fish, beans, eggs, nuts and seeds. Remove skin before cooking; eat non-battered fish, buy extra lean ground beef or turkey, buy 95 percent fat-free lunch meats or low calorie deli meats. Eat five ounces proteins per day.

Vegetables – Vary your veggies

Vegetable tips: Buy fresh, low-sodium or no salt-added canned vegetables, frozen vegetables without sauces and eat dark rich and orange colored vegetables more often. Eat three cups of vegetables per day.

Fruit – Focus on fruits

Fruit tips: Buy fresh when in season, or canned in juice or water. Eat two cups of fruit per day.

Having staples from each food group available to cook with is key to being able to make quick and healthy meals. Michigan State University Extension has various free nutrition education series available to help take the guess work out of nutrition. Look under the “Nutrition” icon at www.msue.msu.edu to learn more about the variety of programming series available in your community.

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