Quick and healthy meals for busy families
Research shows that children who eat family meals get more fruits and vegetables, less saturated fat and have an overall higher-quality diet. Here are some simple strategies and tips to help you get quick, healthy meals on the table.
May 6, 2012 - Author: Eileen Haraminac, Michigan State University Extension
Gathering at the table allows you to connect with loved ones. Research shows that children who eat family meals get more fruits and vegetables, less saturated fat and have an overall higher-quality diet. Parents and other caregivers serve as role models and mealtime helps younger family members to learn good table manners and healthy eating habits. Family life can be chaotic, but it’s possible to preserve family mealtime and maintain a busy schedule.
If your schedule is so hectic that a trip to a drive-up restaurant seems like the only option, consider stocking your shelves with “Go-To” Meals. These are meals that satisfy hunger, take minimal effort and time to prepare, and maximize taste. Nutritional value is fulfilled when you plan for at least one food from each group in MyPlate. Only a few ingredients are required, so preparation and clean-up is a snap. Plus, these meal ideas save money on your food bill! Here are some simple strategies and tips to help you get quick, healthy meals on the table.
- Grilled cheese on whole grain bread with apple-raisin salad.
- Baked Potato with broccoli, cheese and other fixings. Add a side salad to round out the menu.
- Ground turkey sloppy Joe’s with celery, carrot and pepper sticks on the side.
- Peanut butter and jelly on whole grain bread with fresh fruit slices and milk.
- Pancakes taste great no matter what time it is! Breakfast for dinner can be fun and nutritious. With a powdered mix, you can be flipping some hotcakes in a flash. Add some fruits to the pancakes or on the side and milk to drink. To save more time, make some ahead. For a new and nutritious twist, try adding some plain canned pumpkin to the mix. Add a little nutmeg and cinnamon to spice it up.
- Hot cheesy rice casserole. Try adding some frozen vegetables, bake until bubbling and lightly browned.
- Try a Mediterranean meal including hummus, small pita breads, green salad and canned lentil soup.
- Open faced tuna melt sandwiches on whole grain bread, fruit salad and milk.
- Fruity chicken salad with toasted croutons. Include chucks of apple, grapes, leftover chicken dressed with your special dressing and topped with toasted croutons.
Providing quick and healthy meals is the ultimate challenge for families whose kids are on the go. Family meals may still be hurried unhurried affairs, but that doesn’t diminish their importance. In fact, given our hectic lives, family meals are probably more essential than ever. For more information on providing fast and nutritious meals, visit Iowa State University’s Spend Smart. Eat Smart blog.