It's 6 p.m., you just left the office, and you've got nothing to fix for dinner. When rushing to pick up kids, run errands, and get dinner on the table, fast food may seem like a great option.
But in the 20 or 30 minutes it takes to grab a fast-food meal, pick up some take-out, or wait for a pizza delivery, you can have a healthier meal on the table -- one put together in your own kitchen. Making easy healthy meals at home, no matter how basic and simple, sends a message to your family that mealtime is important family time.
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 ingredients, spray baking pans, measure ingredients, wash fruits and veggies, toss salads, and grate cheese.
- Tweens can slice and chop, stir pots and sauté foods, heat items in the microwave oven, 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.
Here are some ways you can make quick family-friendly meals -- at home.
Use Healthy Packaged Foods
You can start with healthy fast recipes, but you don't have to prepare an entire meal from scratch. Having pantry basics available gives you a back-up plan for the times when you're strapped for time. Take advantage of a few healthy prepared items and the basics you have on hand, and easy healthy meals can come together in a snap.
Spaghetti with marinara sauce and veggies:
Top cooked spaghetti with marinara sauce that's been simmered for 15 minutes with frozen broccoli or green beans.
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 five minutes. Find couscous in the pasta aisle.