It's 6 p.m., you just left the office, and you've got nothing to fix for supper. When you’re rushing to pick up kids, run errands, and get dinner on the table, fast food may seem like the way to go.
But in the 20 or 30 minutes it takes to grab a bag of burgers or wait for a pizza delivery, you can put a healthier meal together in your own kitchen. When you cook meals at home, no matter how basic and simple, you send a message to your family that mealtime is important.
Kids in the Kitchen
Everyone can help get dinner ready -- even little ones, with supervision. Ask your kids to help with tasks they can handle:
- Younger children can wipe and set the table, rinse and tear salad greens, and put toppings on pizza dough.
- School-aged kids can open cans, gather and measure ingredients, spray baking pans, wash fruits and veggies, toss salads, and grate cheese.
- Tweens can slice and chop, stir pots and sauté foods, and read and follow recipes and package directions.
- Teens can do it all: Plan, shop, and prepare meals, and help younger kids with kitchen tasks.
Use Healthy Packaged Foods
You don't have to prepare an entire meal from scratch every time. Some pantry basics give you a back-up plan for the days when you're strapped for time.
Spaghetti with marinara sauce and veggies:
Simmer the pasta and sauce for 15 minutes, then top it with frozen broccoli or green beans that you've defrosted.
Quick trick: Use angel hair pasta instead of spaghetti -- it cooks faster.
Top store-made refrigerated pizza dough, pita bread, or a prepared pizza crust with canned or bottled pizza sauce, barbeque sauce, salsa, or pesto and your favorite toppings and low-fat cheese. Try these combos:
- Sliced tomatoes, zucchini, olives, turkey sausage, and shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese.
- Bottled barbecue sauce, shredded cooked chicken, sliced green pepper, and low-fat Colby cheese.
- Tomato salsa, black beans (canned, rinsed), frozen corn, sliced olives, and shredded low-fat Monterey Jack cheese.
Quick trick: Buy grated cheese and sliced vegetables from a supermarket salad bar.
Heat a package of frozen stir-fry vegetables. Add cooked frozen shrimp, chunks of leftover cooked chicken, or cubes of tofu, and heat through. Sprinkle with chopped peanuts and serve with quick-cooking brown rice and low-sodium soy sauce.
Quick trick: Use frozen or heat-sealed microwavable brown rice, or try couscous, a grain that's ready in 5 minutes.