10 Healthy Tips for Your Family Meals
One of the most common questions I used to ask my mum was, ‘what’s for dinner tonight?’ I bet that is a FAQ in most homes and it is hard to think up interesting answers everyday, let alone cook and shop to prepare a nourishing family meal.
With lots on, even during the times of working and schooling from home schedules are full, so what can we do to ensure dinner preparation is quick, easy and still produces a healthy meal? Here are my top 10 tips so ordering in or going through the drive through is less tempting.
A healthy dinner doesn’t have to be a burden, there are plenty of quick dinner ideas that can become your go to. A little planning and a simple nutritious meal can be whipped up for the whole family.
1. Plan a few meals ahead for the week
Before you write your shopping list, plan a few meals for the week, thinking about who will be home and how many to cook for. Base some of the meals thinking about the vegetables first and the meat second, this will help keep the vegetable intake up and have you thinking about tasty ways to include them.
Include non meat protein sources for a few meals, you could use eggs, fish, tofu, legumes and add in smaller volumes of yoghurt or Rokeby farms Filmjolk, cheese or nuts.
2. Use a healthy shopping list to stock the fridge and pantry
Keep the list in a format that best suits you:
- Use traditional pen and paper method, a white board on the fridge, note section of your phone or have your shopping list set up in your online shopping platform. Whatever works best for you is the method to choose.
A shopping list will:
- reduce shopping time, leaving more to spend on cooking (and other things you love)
- keep you on track to buy the ingredients you planned
- keep you on budget- not too many extras thrown in!
Shopping lists are quite personal, however there are a few staples to keep in your kitchen that will make preparing a quick dinner simple. A well stocked kitchen pantry and fridge has you halfway towards having dinner prepared.
What to include on the list
The biggest part of the shop should be the vegetables
Fruit and Vegetables
– Frozen fruit and vegetables- yes these are healthy, snap frozen and ready to go- at least two types e.g. green beans and a mixed variety, fruit for smoothies or dessert
– Fresh- buy in season for best taste and price- buy a mix of colours
– Canned e.g. beetroot, tomatoes, corn, legumes
– Jar- e.g. olives
Grains: Choose wholegrain
– Brown rice, wholemeal pasta, wholemeal cous cous
-wholegrain bread or wraps or flour to make your own!
-wholegrain breakfast cereal (e.g. oats, muesli)
Meat, Seafood & alternatives
-Legumes, lentils- e.g. chickpeas, kidney beans- canned varieties are quick and easy
-Canned fish e.g. tuna, salmon, trout or sardines
-Tofu (if not a meat eater this is a good source of protein)
– Milk- fresh and a long life for when you have run out
– Rokeby Breakfast Smoothies for the active members of the family (e.g. pre/post workout, take on a long ride, on the go breakfast )
– Yoghurt- natural, Rokeby Probiotic Milk-Filmjolk
– Cheese- tasty, ricotta or cottage
– Nuts (unsalted)
– Dried fruit- small amounts e.g. dates, apricots
– Seeds (to add to yoghurt, cereal, snacks)
– Nut butters
– Dark chocolate
Herb and spices
-Fresh and/or dried e.g. oregano, chili flakes, garlic, ginger, cumin
Oil & dressings
– Extra virgin olive oil
– Vinegar e.g. white, balsamic or red wine
– Asian sauces e.g. reduced salt soy, Oyster
3. Meal Prep
A little meal prep on the weekend or each night can make things flow easily for the following days. If you are cutting up vegetables for a stir fry cut some of the same ones up for a soup or curry. Pop them into a container so when you are ready to cook the next meal they are ready to go.
A big pot of soup for the week does for an evening meal and then lunches for numerous days.
Quick Meal Ideas
Now the panty is stocked and we have a few meal ideas in mind we are ready to go.
4. Freeze extras
Make lasagna using lean beef mince or become adventurous with kangaroo mince on the weekend leaving enough to keep in the freezer for the following week. Grate in some vegetables such as zucchini and carrot, add chopped mushroom, silver beet or spinach. If you prefer a vegetarian option use ricotta cheese in place of meat. This will also freeze well.
5. Get the kids involved
Have children prepare salad fillings washing, chopping and grating. Meals such as burritos are perfect for this, adding in any meat or beans. Extra salad can be prepared for dinner the next night to accompany a barbeque or fish fillet.
6. Set the slow cooker
This can be set in the morning by putting in a few trimmed shanks or chicken thighs, a can of tomatoes, potatoes, a few herbs, onion, garlic, celery, carrot and steam a few greens such as broccoli or beans when you arrive home. If easier the slow cooker could be filled the night before ready to put on in the morning.
The barbeque is an easy way to cook everything together. To make it a little special, throw a prawn on the barbie. Marinade the prawns with some extra virgin olive oil and a few herbs you enjoy e.g. chili and oregano. Mix together some salad (even the bagged washed salad greens or dry slaw) and barbeque plenty of veggies too; a corn cob, capsicum, mushrooms, asparagus and potatoes. If some members don’t fancy prawns then try a fish fillet or chicken fillet instead.
8. Use eggs
Eggs are so versatile, economical and nutrient rich all in one small parcel. Scrambled eggs or an omelet are always tasty and adding in a splash of Rokeby Farms Probiotic milk makes them creamy. Chop up your favourite few fillings- tomato, mushroom and capsicum to add into the egg mix and sprinkle with cheese. When ready serve with toasted wholegrain sour dough bread and a few extra side veggies.
9. Stir Fry
A way to use up just about any vegetables is the trusty stir fry. It is always a winner as any veggies, sauces and protein sources go. The trick is to cut the vegetables up to be about the same size that way they will cook at the same rate. Mixed frozen vegetable are such an easy way to go and many fruit shops and supermarkets have fresh packets of vegetables cut up ready to go. Tofu, chicken, pork or red meat strips all work well. Sauces can be as simple as some soy or a mix of fish sauce, oyster and soy. If buying prepared bottled sauces look for lower sodium varieties. Try adding fresh herbs for flavour.
10. Meat and three veg
There is nothing wrong with the old fashioned meat and three vegetables. If you keep the meat to around the palm size of your hand, the carbohydrate such as the potato, corn, sweet potato or rice to a fist size and two fist sizes of vegetables you have hit the target. If steamed vegetables aren’t your go I find cooking my marinated meat in the pan, removing it to rest and then adding the steamed vegetables back into the pan to fry a little in the juices, with a chopped onion makes them very tasty.
A family favourite might be schnitzel. I crumb a whole lot at once and freeze them, so they are all ready to go.
With a stocked kitchen and a little pre planning you will easily be able to answer the questions, ‘What is for dinner tonight?’
Accredited Practising Dietitian
Advanced Sports Dietitian