September is National Family Meals Month. Although we are nearing the end of the month (how did that happen!?), it is never too late to talk about the importance of family meals and how to make family meals a priority in your home.
The goal for National Family Meals Month is to commit to sharing at least one more meal per week at home with your family with items bought from the grocery store - freshly prepared. The statistics behind consistent family meals for kids is amazing. Check out their website to see for yourself.
If you’re like me, or any of the dietitians here at Lemond, your schedules are packed which makes grocery shopping, planning ahead, and cooking at home feel overwhelming or like a “one more thing to do” scenario. Don’t be discouraged. Because of this, I want to share what we do in my home. I am not a huge “meal prepper/planner.” Pinterest-perfect meals and month long freezer meals ready to go at a moment’s notice are not my reality. I am admittedly envious of those who consistently make that happen! However, that doesn’t stop me! I feel strongly about eating at home with my family and maintaining that time for us all to come together. My main goal is to make meals balanced, easy, and on the table fast.
Here are a few of my tips for getting a balanced meal on the table quickly.
- Have items such as lean ground beef, chicken, fish, or pork in family size portions, ready to grab out of the freezer to thaw in the fridge the night before or morning of.
- If I have to separate portions out of bags at 5 pm, my desire to cook at home goes down.
- I also highly suggest browning meat, boiling chicken, etc., as soon as you purchase it and then freezing it for an even quicker meal prep. (This is about the extent of my “meal prep” when it comes to meats.)
- Fresh fruits and veggies on hand always!
- Buying a 2-pound container of strawberries (or any fruit)? Cut up the whole container or at least ½ for quick colorful additions to your meal.
- With fresh vegetables- try roasting, grilling, sautéing, or even steaming. With a few slices of the knife, olive oil and seasonings of your choice, you have excellent nutrition ready to go at your fingertips.
- Don’t discount canned or frozen foods.
- Canned/frozen fruits, vegetables, tuna, chicken, etc., can be always available and cost effective options for your meals.
- Opt for “no added salt” or “canned in water” giving yourself freedom to flavor just how you like.
Those are fairly simple tips- now for the part where we put meals together. My philosophy is: You win some; you lose some. This week I tried several new recipes / cooking methods for different veggies that my mother-in-law brought from her garden. One recipe was a “win,” one was not. That’s okay- such is life, right?
My main point is this: every meal you cook at home for your family does not have to be a crowd favorite, or the most elaborate dish. Keep it simple! Having your family gathered around the table for fellowship, food, and quality time will outweigh any new recipe mishaps. And who knows? They just might find a new dinner favorite.
A glimpse of my super easy, yet balanced meals this week
- Grilled chicken marinated in Italian dressing on spinach, grilled eggplant, spaghetti squash pancakes, side of strawberries
- Quesadillas: whole wheat - flax tortillas with lean ground beef, tomatoes, chilies, black olives, black beans, and spinach, topped with salsa
- Breakfast for dinner! Scrambled eggs, buckwheat pancakes, sausage, fresh fruit
Recipe for Spaghetti Squash Pancakes
(original recipe from fellow RDN, Emily Hein @ zenandspice.com, with a few adaptations by me)
- 1 spaghetti squash
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Place on a baking sheet cut face down, bake 40-60 minutes until fork is able to pierce skin.
- Remove from oven and let cool, then use a fork to shred the squash.
- Mix the shredded squash, flour, parmesan cheese, egg, garlic, salt and pepper in a large bowl.
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
- By 1/4 a cup, scoop the mixture into the hot skillet and flatten. Fry until browned on each side, about 5-6 minutes per side.
What are your favorite quick meal hacks to get food on the table fast? We love to hear from you!
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