One of the most common questions I get from clients is "How can I get a healthy dinner on the table when we have a million activities in the late afternoon and evening?" Sports, lessons, Dr appointments, work..... the list goes on an on.
Yet one thing remains constant - OUR FAMILY NEEDS TO EAT DINNER!
I have pulled together several quick and easy tips to help relieve dinner stress and actually let you sit down and enjoy your family at dinner time.
FOOD PREP is not just an under-rated healthy living tool, in my family it is a SURVIVAL TOOL!
KEEP IT SIMPLE - Although social media is a wonderful way to find quick and delicious recipes, it can also be OVERWHELMING if you start comparing yourself to what other people may be doing. Busy weeknights are not the time to start experimenting with new foods and recipes. My goal most nights is to get dinner on the table in 30 MINUTES or less.
COMPARTMENTALIZE YOUR FOOD PREP - I find that batch cooking is a game changer for me. Rather than prepare individual meals, I like to prepare the components of a bunch of meals.
ROASTED VEGETABLES: I alway roast up a big tray of some form of VEGGIES such as peppers, onions, carrots etc... I also roast both white and sweet potatoes to have on hand during the week. It literally takes 2 minutes to re-heat these in the microwave at dinner time.
PRE-PREPARE PROTEIN: Having a couple different types of PROTEIN prepared ahead of time can be helpful for those nights when we literally walk thru the door at 6:30. Ground chicken, turkey or lean ground beef can be prepared ahead of time and all you need to do is season according to the dish you are preparing. Once the ground meat has cooled, you can easily freeze in zip lock bags to be added to spaghetti sauce, stews, tacos or burritos. Boneless, skinless chicken thighs re-heat well without drying out and if I am pre-cooking chicken, I gravitate toward them. Believe it or not, a quick sprinkle of POWDERED RANCH DRESSING on chicken thighs before cooking, helps to seal in the juices!
COOK ONCE, EAT TWICE is my philosophy when preparing protein ahead of time. For example, leftover roasted chicken can be be shredded and added to salads and sandwiches later in the week.
COOK IN BULK - THE FREEZER IS YOUR FRIEND: EAT ONE/FREEZE ONE
When preparing recipes your family loves, DOUBLE COOK! Things like sauces, chili, soups and casseroles often take very little time to double prepare. Is there no better feeling in the morning than pulling a casserole out of the freezer for dinner later that day?
STOCK YOUR FRIDGE, FREEZER and PANTRY with HEALTHY CONVENIENCE FOODS - The nutritional value of frozen veggies is almost exactly the same as fresh. Take a few minutes to scan the frozen vegetable section at the grocery store. Stock up on items such as colorful chopped peppers, onions, chopped spinach and kale. These can easily be added to casseroles, soups and stir fries. A new addition to our grocery cart is FROZEN CAULIFLOWER RICE, a quick and easy way to sneak in more veggies and fiber to the meal.
FROZEN GRAINS such as brown rice, barley and quinoa are new additions to the freezer section of most grocery stores.
FLASH FROZEN CHICKEN breast and tenders can be cooked frozen and are ready in about 20 minutes. Fully cooked chicken sausages (al Fresco is the brand at our store), can easily be added to stir fries, spaghetti sauce and casseroles.
CANNED BEANS such as chick peas, black, kidney pinto beans and lentils are a staple in our pantry. Beans are a quick and easy way to add fiber rich plant protein to family meals.
PREPARED SPAGHETTI SAUCE is a time saver, just scan the nutrition label and opt for a brand that has less than 8 grams of sugar and 120 grams of sodium or less per serving.
CHOP AND CUT ALL AT ONCE - Taking 15 minutes to chop up fruits and veggies can often be the difference between eating them or tossing them out. Seriously, how many heads of wilted celery have you tossed because it got hidden in the back of the fridge?
QUICK SALAD TIP :You can extend the life of BAGGED GREENS and SALADS by simply transferring them from the bag to a bowl and cover with a damp paper towel.
Over the next couple of weeks, I will be sharing some of the quick meals that I prepare for our family. We tend to gravitate toward casseroles, soups and stir fries because they can be re-heated over and over again.....
To Your Health - Noreen