You are on your way home at the end of a busy day, the kids have practice or you have a meeting, and you haven't planned or prepared for dinner. The infamous question, “What am I making for dinner?” is overwhelming at this point. Time is running out, and the next thing you know, you find yourself stopping for take-out. This typically means spending money on less than healthy food.
What one thing could you do differently, that would most influence your ability to provide healthy weekday dinners for your family? Changing one behavior for a healthier outcome can create an entire cascade of positive consequences.
Following one or all 10 ways to Healthy Meals will save you time and money. Most importantly, you will more efficiently create healthy habits and healthy meals for you and your family.
1) Plan your meals for the following week
Planning is key. Write it down and stick with your plan. Add those needed ingredients to your grocery list. Goal oriented.
2) Grocery Shop Friday on your way home from work
Shopping on the weekend is a two hour ordeal. Shopping on a Friday afternoon gives you weekend time back and it may actually shorten your shopping time. There may be less people shopping on a Friday, and you will move faster; ready to be home and start your weekend! Use the time on Saturday or Sunday to meal prep for the week. Efficient.
3) Keep your pantry and fridge well stocked
Even with the best intentions, we run out of time. Having frozen vegetables in your freezer are a quick side to complete any protein or whole grain. Simple.
4) Prep for your upcoming week's planned meals
Clean and cut up fruits and vegetables from your Friday grocery run on Saturday or Sunday. This also provides healthy snacks for your family to munch on. Studies show, for us to eat healthy foods, we need to prefer that food, have it available and have it offered. Smart.
5) Prepare salad dressings and marinades for your meats and salads
It is easy to squeeze a lemon, mince garlic and olive oil when you have a minute. You may not have that extra minute during a busy week. By preparing your marinades and salad dressings on the weekend, you can grab a handful of spinach or other greens, throw in some cherry tomatoes and add dressing for a healthy and fast salad any day. Staying away from store bought prepared marinades is a healthy choice. Healthy.
6) Make two starches for sides and keep in fridge for easy heating
Think whole grain penne pasta and brown rice. As you are going through your week, imagine having your chicken already grilled, your rice is cooked; heat up and just add salad. Brilliant.
7) Prepare this week’s go to food
The goal is to have that healthy option available when you walk in the door ravenous and you need 100-200 healthy calories to hold you over until dinner. Choose beans or vegetables in the form or salsa's, salads or dippers. Make your own hummus for dipping your cut up fresh veggies, or make a bean or beet salad or salsa for example. I sometimes make brussels sprouts to have throughout the week. Whatever works for you is what it should be. This keeps you from eating less healthy foods before and after dinner, and helps you have reasonable portions at dinner. Satisfying.
8) Keep it simple
Marinade enough chicken to have leftovers to throw on top of a salad or to mix with the whole grain pasta and spinach later in the week. As part of your well stocked pantry and fridge, you will find having frozen vegetables on hand allows for no excuse to pick up less healthy choices. Practical.
9) Preference matters
If your children do not like what's for dinner, or any of you for that matter, then it takes some of the fun out of dining. It is nice to have something for everyone at each meal. Having the pasta or rice already made makes for an easy offering. Teach children that we eat our veggies because “fill in the blank”. At some point they will eat them because they love them or because they know that is what we do. Food should be nourishing and satisfying. I am OK with one person choosing salad and one choosing to eat baby carrots. The goal is to be healthy and create healthy habits. My guess is that at one point in the child rearing process, many of us have had one child at the table with chicken nuggets, while others are eating grilled chicken. That side of vegetables gives a mother a peaceful mind. Flexible.
10) Prepare tomorrow’s meal the night before
It is not that you cannot prepare a healthy dinner...it is the time constraints and timing that is the problem. By the time you get home, you are running out the door to the extracurricular activities. There isn’t even time to boil water! Cook extra during the week for leftovers, or make your spaghetti and salad for tomorrow...tonight. Just because you have prepared for the week, doesn’t mean your child will dish up a healthy plate. Kids tend to hit the pantry, or at least mine do, when I am not around. Don’t forget the one minute cooler for a healthy transition to meal time. Prepared.
Obey food safety rules. I do not recommend science experiments for meals. Use your freezer to prevent waste and to save time preparing meals in the weeks that follow.
My passion and purpose is helping people reach their full potential and master their wellbeing.
Disclosure: Always consult with your physician or other qualified health care provider before beginning any diet or exercise program and ask whether you are healthy enough to engage in a diet and exercise program. Never disregard, avoid or delay in obtaining medical advice from your doctor or other qualified health care provider concerning your overall health and wellness, including your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem or condition, please contact a qualified health care professional immediately. It is your choice to follow the suggestions, opinions and advice given by a Health Inspires wellness coach.