Quick and easy solutions for healthy family dinners
Registered dietitian Sue Mah offers some easy ways to get a healthy family dinner on the table fast
‘Hey, Mom, what’s for dinner?’ ‘It’s a common question my two kids ask, and’guess what?’I always have an answer. Given our jam-packed September schedule, I need to have a good meal strategy in place to get the kids properly fuelled and to their sports games and activities on time. Often, these events occur during the typical dinner hour, so my kids and I coined the term ‘snupper” a combination of after-school snack and supper. Here are my tips for managing mealtime mania, this month and all year-round.
Plan menus for the whole week
This is absolutely necessary; otherwise, you may be tempted to order in or head to the drive-through. If it’s tough to figure out the menus for the whole week, then at least plan for three days. It takes me about 20 minutes: ‘I sit down with the family calendar, look through store flyers for sales, and check my fridge and pantry to see what ingredients I need to use up. I post the menu plan to let everyone know what’s for dinner each night, and it helps me create a grocery shopping list. ‘I also jot down what nights we’ll eat leftovers.
Make meals ahead of time
I love cooking, but find it stressful when I’m crunched for time. For days when I’ll be home late, ‘I plan for us to eat something I’ve cooked ahead, and I just reheat it. Often it’s a homemade soup or lasagna, which I usually make on Sunday night and keep in the fridge or freezer in supper-size portions. Or you can use a slow cooker to make stews and pot roasts that are ready when you get home.
Do some prep work
I prepare as many ingredients as possible ahead of time and have them available in my fridge or freezer. ‘I dice raw boneless chicken thighs and store enough in freezer bags to make a stir-fry or fajitas for my family of four. The night before, I simply defrost a bag of chicken slices. I also slice and dice carrots, celery, peppers, broccoli and zucchini, and keep them in airtight containers in the crisper.
Have a few bailout meals
As organized as I try to be, there are times when the best-laid plans go awry: My meeting ran overtime and we’ve run out of leftovers. At times like these, I rely on my three bailout meals:
‘ Scrambled egg burrito I always have eggs and tortillas on hand. With a glass of milk and some baby carrots on the side, snupper is ready.
‘ Cheese pizza All I need are three basic ingredients’cheese, tomato sauce and a frozen pizza crust (or use an English muffin or naan). My kids also customize their pizzas with toppings such as mushrooms, peppers, deli ham or canned pineapple.
‘ Finger foods This is a mélange of our favourites: homemade guacamole (mash one avocado with the juice of half a lime and mix in chopped red onion) with low-sodium tor-tilla chips; homemade nachos and cheese (spread tortilla chips on a baking sheet, top with shredded cheese and place under the broiler); canned smoked oysters on rice crackers (mostly for my husband and me); some raw veggies with hummus; and fresh fruit slices. My kids think this meal is a treat!