8 Tips for Preparing Healthy Meals and Snacks…Quickly and Easily

Guest post by Rachel Begun, MS, RDN, culinary nutritionist and Cans Get You Cooking Can-bassador

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Winter is just around the corner, which finds many of us in the kitchen trying to provide our families with healthy meals and snacks … all the while juggling work, school, practices and everything else that happens during the busy week.

The good news is you don’t have to be a gourmet chef to feed your family delicious and nutritious meals, nor do you need to spend a lot of time in the kitchen. With the following tips, you can get healthy meals on the table in as little as 15 minutes and pull together lunches and snacks in even less time.

Tip #1 – Scratch the idea of cooking from scratch

Here’s a little secret for you: Even those of us who love to cook rely on convenience foods to minimize prep time during the work week. There isn’t a day of the week that I don’t rely on canned vegetables and proteins, frozen fruits and vegetables, dried fruits and nuts and pre-cut and washed fresh vegetables to prepare healthy meals. The great thing about canned produce is that it is packed at the peak of ripeness; studies have shown it is on par nutritionally with its fresh counterparts.

Tip #2 – Keep a well-stocked pantry

While it sounds romantic, shopping every day for the dinner meal just isn’t practical for most of us. The key is keeping your pantry stocked with staple foods such as canned fruits and vegetables, dried pastas and grains, canned proteins such as beans, fishes and chicken, nuts and seeds and a variety of flavoring agents like oils, vinegars and spices. When surveyed about the challenges they face getting their kids to eat fruit and vegetables, moms estimated that canned produce accounts for one out of every four servings of vegetables and one out of five fruits consumed in their homes.

Tip #3 – Prepare foundation ingredients over the weekend

Set aside a couple of hours each weekend to prepare foundation recipes that allow you to pull together meals quickly during the work week. Cook a batch of rice or quinoa to be used in stir fries and grain side dishes. Roast a platter of veggies to add to salads and serve as a side for dinner. Hard boil eggs for a quick breakfast or to add to salads and sandwiches.

Tip #4 – Cook once, eat twice

If you’re going to cook, make enough to last for at least two meals, if not more. Tonight’s dinner can be turned into a delicious and easy lunch the next day.

Tip #5 – Use smaller cuts of fish, poultry and meat

Use smaller cuts of meat to save on cooking time. Chicken tenders and beef tips cook quickly in a stir fry and shrimp and scallops grill up in just minutes.

Tip #6 – Love your slow cooker

Once you embrace it, your slow cooker will become your favorite work week friend. You put in the ingredients in the morning and come home to a comforting meal that’s ready to go. It’s great for soups, stews, hot cereals and making large batches of sauces or other dressings.

Tip #7 – Stick to recipes with fewer ingredients

When you buy quality ingredients, you don’t need much to make a dish taste great. The right seasoning here and there allows good food to speak for itself.

Tip #8 – Make it a family affair

Who says you have to make dinner alone? Enlist the whole family to get dinner on the table faster. Not only will this save you time, but your kids are more likely to try foods that they’ve helped prepare. Even your youngest kids can help mix things with their hands, get ingredients out of the pantry and set and clear the table.

If you want to learn more tips and tricks on how to prepare healthy meals for your family in 15 minutes or less, watch the potluck dinner chat that my fellow Cans Get You Cooking Can-bassador Marie Spano hosted along with PHA. Or, visit CansGetYouCooking.com.

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