Last Updated on September 12, 2023
There’s nothing more stressful than coming home after a busy day and realizing you don’t have anything ready for dinner.
We all want to cook healthy meals for our families, but life sometimes gets in the way of good intentions.
Don’t worry, we have plenty of handy tips and ideas on ways to make easy, healthy recipes part of your weekly routine.
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The hardest part about committing to eating healthy as a family is that it takes a lot more work than just ordering pizza and microwaving frozen food.
Cooking healthy recipes becomes easier the more often you do it. In order for you and your family to get into a healthy eating routine, certain steps need to be followed.
So let’s talk about those steps.
Before you go shopping, sit down and plan out your meals for the week. Not only does this make your life easier, but it also saves you time and money at the store. When planning, try to keep these ideas in mind:
- Are there any ingredients you can repurpose for multiple meals? Roasted chicken one night, chicken fajitas the next.
- Consider having theme nights to make your planning easier. Mexican Mondays, Tofu Tuesdays, and Stir Fridays are some examples of fun theme nights that make choosing recipes easier.
- Buy pre-packaged, already-cut vegetables, pre-cooked brown rice, and real fruit purees that make smoothies and yummy healthy snacks quickly.
Any restaurant chef will tell you that the key to making healthy cooking easier is all in the prep. After you’ve done your shopping, set aside an hour when you get home to organize your ingredients and prep as much as you can ahead of time.
- Wash, dry, and pre-cut your fruit and vegetables. You can even sort them by recipes and store them in containers labeled chili-mix or veggies for stir-fry to save you time searching in the fridge later.
- Salads can be pre-made and kept in layers in a container with the heaviest and wettest ingredients on the bottom and the lettuce on top. Cover them with a few paper towels to keep the greens crisp, and they’ll last almost a week in the fridge.
- Sort out healthy snacks and label the containers so the kids and your partner can grab a quick snack without interrupting you.
- Cooking large batches of grains such as brown rice, lentils, beans, farro, and quinoa ahead of time will drastically reduce the amount of time you need to spend in the kitchen during the week.
- Organize all of the ingredients, utensils, and appliances you’ll need before you start cooking a meal. Professional chefs put all of their pre-measured ingredients in little serving bowls called a mise-en-place which is French for “put in place.” Setting up your mise-en-place streamlines the cooking process, making it faster and less stressful.
Involving your kids in the meal planning and preparation stages not only takes some of the burden off of you but also teaches them many valuable lessons. Consider giving everyone a different meal-prepping responsibility, such as washing the produce, pre-measuring ingredients, and setting the dinner table.
Encouraging them to be a part of the planning and prepping helps them develop healthy eating habits from an early age.
It’s also great for improving their math skills, financial literacy and keeps them entertained while shopping and cooking.
When a child is responsible for planning or prepping a meal, they become invested in it and are far more likely to appreciate it and, more importantly, eat it.
The key to creating healthy meals is to ensure there are a variety of nutrient-dense elements on the table. Pre-processed foods are unhealthy because they’re loaded with saturated fat, preservatives, and artificial ingredients and are high in sugar and salt. If you want to save time by buying pre-packaged items, make sure to read the labels so you know exactly what you’re getting.
Healthy dishes have a combination of vegetables, good fats, and starches, lots of fiber, and whatever form of protein you choose to consume. There are also a lot of spices and condiments that can be used to enhance the flavor and nutritional value of a meal.
Nigella seeds, cumin, ginger, basil, mint, and black seed taste great but also have tons of health benefits on their own. Tahini and yogurt are the perfect substitutes for mayonnaise and cream in sauces and salad dressings.
Flip the script and make it about all the fun and delicious things you get to eat instead of the things you can’t have.
There are so many filling and super healthy vegetarian meals to choose from if you’re considering going meatless one day a week.
Lentils, cauliflower, chickpeas, mushrooms, and sweet potatoes are great meat substitutes because they’re hearty and substantial.
Lentil or chickpea curry with coconut milk can be served over basmati rice or with whole-grain naan bread for an aromatic and satisfying meatless meal.
Grain bowls are a fun way to use leftovers. All you need to do is gather whatever grain base you have already cooked, some protein, a colorful assortment of veggies, and some tasty sauce to finish it off. Using different colors and textures excites the palette and makes eating more pleasurable.
The same principle applies to making healthy and filling salads for dinner. Adding strips of whole wheat tortillas, avocado, black beans, BBQ chicken, and a healthy cilantro and cumin yogurt dressing to a salad makes one delicious and nutritious meal.
Stir fries can be just as quick and easy to assemble as a grain bowl. Leftover veggies and rice can be used to make healthy fried rice.
Top the stir fry with a fried egg and chopped peanuts or cashews for a tasty Thai-inspired dinner.
To make a universal stir fry sauce that goes with everything, just combine a bit of soy sauce, fish sauce, and oyster sauce in a small bowl with a bit of honey or coconut sugar.
By following these simple tips and easy recipes, you and your family will be eating healthy meals regularly.
Getting your kids involved in the planning and prepping leads to spending more quality time together as a family. You just might even have a bit of time left over for yourself!