Life can be tough on family dinnertime. With all the rushing around from work, school, sports, homework and commuting, it’s easy to fall into the fast-food lane or microwave habit. But many parents worry about the nutrition downside of fast foods and processed foods such as a lack of important nutrients, over-sized portions or unwanted ingredients like sodium and saturated fat. At the same time, parents wonder how they can possibly have time to prepare healthy meals at home. Fortunately, there are ways to get a tasty and healthy dinner ready quickly. It all starts with a little planning and organization.
Here are a few ideas:
- Get the Family Involved. Dinner doesn’t have to be one person’s responsibility. Even young children can (and should!) be part of planning and preparing meals. Assign age-appropriate jobs, such as getting items from the refrigerator or pantry, choosing the fruit or vegetable, mixing pre-cut vegetables into a salad, or setting or clearing the table. This is no time to be a perfectionist – let everyone step up!
- Plan Menus in Advance. Pick options that are easy and popular with everyone. Once you have an entrée, such as chicken longrice, spaghetti, or crockpot stew, all you have to add is a vegetable and/or fruit and perhaps a starch to complete the meal. Start with one or two nights or plan a whole week – whatever works for your family – to increase control of your nutrition. Looking for fast recipe ideas? There are menu-planning services for purchase on the web, or you can find dozens of recipes with nutrition analyses at InMyKitchen.sodexo.com, a free recipe and nutrition website. In the upper left drop-down menu, click on “Recipes.” Search under the tag “quick and easy”. Another time saver: Don’t forget to recycle those menus to use again!
- Make Extra for Later. For example, when cooking ground beef, it’s just as easy to cook a double or triple batch. Freeze an extra pound or two that can be reheated for tacos or spaghetti sauce. Try slicing and freezing extra beef, pork, chicken or fish for future stir-fry dishes. Drop any one of these into a wok or skillet for quick cooking on a busy night.
- Improve Your Skills. We can always learn new ways of working in the kitchen to make the job easier. InMyKitchen.sodexo.com has “Chef’s Tips” videos on a variety of cooking and food prep techniques, for example, knife skills. YouTube also has cooking videos, such as: (subject to change in availability):
*Cuisinart Culinary School series*ehow.com – short videos on various topics
*Gordon Ramsey’s Ultimate Cookery Course
Bringing dinners back home takes a little planning, but gets easier with practice and is well worth the effort. Your whole family will feel better when they are eating nutritious meals together.