Now that the holiday decorations are packed away, and the last of the homemade goodies have been consumed, it’s time for most of us to get back on track with a healthy eating plan. This doesn’t have to mean a “diet” per se, but more of a return to real food, with sweets, treats and sugary beverages relegated to their spot in the “special occasions” section of our meal plan.
A return to healthy eating doesn’t have to mean labour intensive meals and hours spent stove-side. In fact, nutritious noshing can be quick and easy, and meals can often be prepared in less than 30 minutes.
Be Prepared. The key to a quickly produced meal is simple: keep a well-stocked pantry and fridge. Regular grocery shopping and meal planning are also helpful partners in feeding your family well.
Delegate. Don’t feel you need to take on the family alone. Four hands are better than two, and six or eight are even better than that. Involve the entire family in your meal preparations and you’ll all be eating in a more timely fashion.
The Salad Dinner:
Salads are one of the healthiest options for any dinner, and a great starting point for under 30 minute meal. Assemble a bed of greens (think romaine, baby spinach and mixed greens) and add one or two fruits or veggies, some cheese (feta and goat work well, but so do cubes of aged cheddar or fresh mozzarella) and small sprinkling of nuts or seeds. Top with one of the following proteins:
Maple-soy glazed salmon
Herb-rubbed flank steak
Rosemary-Dijon grilled chicken breast
Tip: Not all children like salad, but many of them like the components of a salad. Deconstruct yours by offering side slices of the veggies you’re using in your salad, a small handful of cheese and a few nuts or seeds. Add the protein and a chunk of bread, or a pita wedge, and voila…dinner is served.
The Vegetarian Dinner:
While meat-based meals offer a protein dense dinner, they can also be time consuming in their execution. Vegetarian meals are often simple to prepare and are well liked by the kids when they are paired with a hearty grain like whole-grain pasta, rice, couscous and quinoa.
Simple homemade pizzas, using a variety of bases are also a hit with the kids and their time-crunched moms. The following work well and are a nutritious as they are delicious:
Whole Wheat Pitas
Tip: If you prefer regular pizza dough, consider making a large batch on the weekend, and dividing the dough into individual balls. Freeze the dough and pull it out of the freezer in the morning, making for a quickly prepared dinner in the evening.
The Meat and Fish Dinner:
As mentioned, preparing a meat meal in twenty minutes or less can be challenging, but it’s not impossible. The key is to think of quick-cooking cuts of your favourite proteins. I like to use flank steaks, chicken breasts and pork chops.
Fish, however, tends to cook quite quickly and is perfect for a “meaty” dinner. Sole, tilapia and salmon are all time-friendly options and never underestimate crustaceans, like shrimp, which are swift to cook and pair well with almost any accompaniment.
Tip: Meat meals are the easiest to navigate in a timely manner when some of the work is done in advance. Slice and marinate your meats while making breakfast or cook once and eat twice – double the protein you need one night, in order to use the remainder for a second dinner.
Resources. There are an abundance of resources available to assist you with quick and easy healthy dinners. Any of the following can be bookmarked for easy access and endless inspiration: