By Kenda Hettinger a recent ASU nutrition student
Life is busy and it is increasingly difficult to prepare healthy meals, but with a little bit of effort, it is possible. Incorporate the following tips into your routine to make feeding your family healthy meals a little easier.
- Meal plan.
I feel like this one has been beaten into the ground but it makes such a huge difference, it is worth saying it again. When you have a plan, it makes it so much easier to avoid going through the drive-through because you don’t know what to cook for dinner. Meal planning can look different for every family too. Some people plan for a month and some plan for the following week. Some plan breakfast, lunch, and dinner for every day of the week. I personally plan 6 different meals but for no particular day. Our breakfasts tend to stay the same all week and we do leftovers for the next day’s lunch.
- Meal prep on your days off.
Meal prepping has gotten quite popular. You can buy all kinds of fun glass or plastic container to keep prepared foods in. A lot of people think of meal prep as cooking entire meals for a certain number of days. I have done it like that in the past but now my meal prep looks more like washing and cutting up lettuce for salads, washing and dicing some fruits and vegetables for snacks, or cooking a big pot of beans or lentils. Most of the time I leave seasoning or cooking the vegetables for the night we intend to eat them.
- Keep your breakfast simple.
Having a healthy breakfast is really important because it sets the tone for the rest of the day. I do my school work in the early morning before I have to get ready for work and get my 5 year old ready for school. A big breakfast is not something I have time for. My breakfasts are typically oatmeal with fruits and flax seed thrown into a mason jar and heated for a minute or a yogurt with fruit and flax or chia seed and eaten while in the drop off line at my daughter’s school. Finding a couple of quick and easy go-to’s for breakfast will save you time and money.
- Simple meals for days that are busier.
I mentioned above that my meal planning is just a list of 6 meals. This makes it very flexible. So if I work late or have a very exhausting day, I just prepare one of the quicker and easier meals on my list. I keep the frozen steamable bags of vegetables in the freezer. These are easy and fast to prepare. Look for recipes that include few ingredients for the simplicity.
- Save your recipe experimenting for your days off.
Trying new recipes often takes more time to prepare, so save those for your days off or when you have more time.
- Make healthier choices in restaurants.
Going out to eat is fun and sometimes delivery is necessary. Be sure to look up the menu ahead of time so that you are not put on the spot trying to decide what to order. Look for the grilled or baked foods instead of the fried. Don’t be afraid to ask if you can swap foods, like a side salad or steamed veggies for the french fries. Order water instead of the soda. And watch out for the heavy sauces that likely contain too much sugar.
- The slow and pressure cookers are life.
My slow cooker and Instant Pot earn their keep during the cooler months. They are great for soups and stews. A lot of people love to pressure cook roasts and other meats in a pressure cooker to significantly cut down on the cooking time. The pressure cooker is also great for dried beans. An electronic pressure cooker has a bit of a learning curve but can be a great addition to your kitchen.
- When you cook a healthy meal, make enough for the next day’s lunch.
This last little tip is my favorite. I always try to cook enough for the next day’s lunch. Package it up in a microwaveable container and I don’t have to worry about a healthy lunch for the next day.
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