About The Author
Elizabeth Riesen, RDN, CD
Wheaton Franciscan Medical Group, part of Ascension
Picture this: You’ve had a long, exhausting day at work followed by taking your kids to soccer practice. You don’t even make it home until well after 7pm. And you still need to put dinner on the table for your family. It’s tempting to call for pizza delivery but because you planned ahead, you are able to whip up a healthy and delicious taco dinner for your family in less time than it would take for a pizza to arrive.
Many people believe preparing meals at home is time-consuming and boring. But it doesn’t have to be that way. With a bit of planning, you can prepare meals quickly while also including a variety of meats, produce and spices to keep things interesting.
Here are a few tips to get healthy meals on the table fast:
- Plan your meals – Doing a bit of planning in advance can help you avoid the age-old question, what’s for dinner? Take a look at your calendar and note which days you’ll be especially busy and have simple meals planned for those days. Meal planning can also keep you from getting bored with what you eat. When you plan in advance you can avoid having the same meals too often and make a point of including more variety.
- Prep produce in advance – Make it a habit to wash and clean veggies and fruits right when you get home from the grocery store. You can also slice and dice them to the appropriate shape/size for your meals in the upcoming week. If you don’t have time to dice them yourself, consider using a food processor.
- Stock your pantry and freezer – Having the staples makes it more likely you can prepare a healthy meal fast. A few things to keep on hand: canned beans and tomatoes, grains, whole-grain pasta, frozen vegetables and fruit, and spices. You can even keep ready-to-use meats in the freezer, such as frozen shrimp or diced chicken breast.
- Double – or triple – recipes – On days that you have more time in the kitchen, consider doubling or tripling recipes and freezing extras for a future meal. You might also consider freezing extras in individual portions for grab-and-go lunches.
- Use a slow cooker – A slow cooker is a busy family’s best friend. You can add your ingredients to your slow cooker before you leave in the morning and come home to a warm, delicious meal that’s ready to serve.
- Have a few go-to meals – Keep a list of quick and healthy meals your family has enjoyed in the past so you have ideas to look back on. Here are a few ideas to get started:
- Tacos: Add black beans to lean ground beef or turkey. Serve with tortillas and toppings such as lettuce, tomatoes and salsa.
- Stir Fry: Brown strips of chicken or beef (or use shrimp) and combine with assorted frozen vegetables. Serve over brown rice or quinoa. You can also skip the meat for a vegetarian meal.
- Chicken Pasta: Combine whole-grain pasta with chicken breast, onion, broccoli and bell peppers.
With a little planning and a few small changes, you’ll likely find that it’s simple to get a healthy dinner on the table fast. To learn more, or to find a dietitian near you, reach out to your health insurance provider.