Many are under the assumption that planning healthy meals is more difficult than planning less-than-healthy meals for the family. Well, this isn’t the case at all. You just need to make wiser choices with your ingredients and choose healthier cooking methods.
Consider these things first: the amount of food, time to prepare, difficulty of the recipe, and the nutritional value of the foods you’re bringing home from the grocery store. If you’re not an “expert” chef, start out with recipes that are fairly simple and don’t take much time to prepare.
When you find a recipe you really enjoy making and the family loves, file it away for future reference! I use a colorful recipe binder to keep track of all my favorite recipes. (Old school, right?). I still like the idea of propping up a recipe book (sometimes an tablet) on an easel on my kitchen counter and following the recipe, although nowadays I enjoy experimenting with variations of each recipe, and using the recipe as more of a framework.
If you’re on limited time and you have a busy family, here are some easy tips to get healthier meals on the table in less time.
1. Choose Your Protein!
Start with your primary protein source. This might be fish, seafood, lean cuts of meat, or poultry. If you’re vegan or vegetarian you might opt for dry beans or tofu. Choose the best cooking method for the protein source you select for the week.
2. Load Up on Veggies!
When shopping, remember that you should be buying twice or three times as much vegetables as your protein. That’s because when it’s mealtime, you want at least half of everyone’s plate to be loaded with vegetables, which are rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Veggies are also usually low in calories so you can really eat a lot of vegetables leaving you feeling “fuller” without the extra calories. This also helps you to limit the starchier foods like potatoes without feeling deprived.
Another advantage of having ample vegetables at each meal is that your family members can mix-and-match their veggies to the protein served. Mix it up! Cook lots of different vegetables for each meal. Save a few steps by pre-chopping veggies for the week too! Colorful, flavorful vegetables also make meals more fun, especially for the little ones.
3. Add Whole Grains to the Mix!
About one-quarter of each plate will be for grains. We prefer whole grains such as brown rice or quinoa on our table for the extra nutrients and fiber.
4. Think About Your Drink!
While you’re preparing a healthy meal for the family, why not ensure that everyone has a healthy beverage too! Plain water is always the best choice, but you can also serve drinks such as your milk of choice (hemp, coconut, and almond milk are our favorites), 100% no-sugar-added fruit juice (we usually do half juice/half water), or any other healthy beverage your family will enjoy.
5. Cut Costs While Eating Healthy!
Planning out your meals in advance is a great way to keep the grocery bill low while keeping you kitchen stocked of healthier options. Other ways to keep costs low? Plan out your meals for the week, buy in bulk when it makes sense, chop and bag your own vegetables, re-use ingredients in more than one meal, and don’t forget to keep a variety of herbs available to infuse flavor into every dish.
Following these tips will help you keep healthy meals on the table, cut your grocery expenses, and keep the whole family raving about your flavorful, nutritious meals week after week.