We are living in a very intense world. Most parents are trying to provide good, healthy food for their kids while working at the same time. It is not simple (almost impossible) to cook a new dinner from scratch every day. At the same time, we know that there is no replacement for homemade cooking. When you cook at home, you can control the quality of the food and the meal’s nutritional content.
So, how do you do it? When do you find the time and energy to prepare healthy meals without feeling exhausted at the end of the day? I want to share with you my tips for making healthy homemade meals when your time and energy are limited.
11 Tips on Preparing Healthy Meals for Busy Parents
Plan a weekly menu: Creating a weekly menu in advance will help you to plan meal preparation more efficiently. A weekly menu for family meals could lower stress and let’s the child know what to expect every day.
Planning can save you money: With a weekly menu, you will know what to prepare and when you can use leftovers from yesterday’s meal. Yes, planning could make mealtime easier, more efficient and even cheaper for the whole family.
When to build the weekly menu? At the beginning of each week, prepare a new weekly menu or decide on one type of weekly menu that you use every week.
Planning smart: When you build the menu, think how you could use the leftovers from one day in the main course for following day. For example, if you make meatballs with yellow rice on Monday, you could serve the same meatballs in a “spaghetti & meatballs” dish on Tuesday. Both are dishes that kids love, and you don’t need to do a lot of cooking on Tuesday because you rely on the leftovers from Monday.
Weekly shopping list: Planning what to cook each day based on what you have in the house can be exciting and frustrating. Preparing a weekly family menu will allow you to plan your shopping list more efficiently. This ensures that you have everything you need for the week’s family meals.
Cooking days: If you cannot cook a new meal every day, decide in advance on 3-4 days on which you cook a large amount that you can keep and use for the next few days. This reduces the need to cook every day. On days when you do not cook, plan to eat the leftovers from yesterday or plan a lighter meal based on fresh ingredients (eggs, vegetables, bread, cheeses and more).
Take advantage of the weekends: Try to plan for at least one day of the weekend being a “cooking day” (or at least part of the day). Take advantage of the weekend when you are at home more, and set aside a certain time for cooking.
Cook & Freeze: Homemade, healthy food does not have to be made fresh every day. There are many wonderful dishes that you can cook in advance, freeze and just warm up whenever you want them to be part of your meal. In most cases, the time it takes to cook a larger amount that can be used for a few more meals is no longer than if you cook just enough for one meal. That is why it can be so helpful to plan, cook and freeze the dishes your family likes to eat.
Examples of dishes that you can cook & freeze: Bolognese sauce, lasagna, meatballs, pies (veggies, cheeses, meat), homemade chicken nuggets, grilled chicken breast with different seasonings, fish fingers and even soups.
Do some preparation in advance: Some dishes required more preparation than others, and this can be a real “turn-off” when you’re short of time and energy at the end of the day. You may want to do some preparation in the morning to save time in the evening. For example, you could wash all the vegetables that you plan to use in a salad in the morning and keep them refrigerated in a bowl. Later, that small amount of preparation could save you a lot of time, making the evening meal faster and easier to prepare.
Share meal responsibilities with all members of the family: The meal is for the whole family, so everyone (not just parents) needs to help prepare it. Share meal responsibilities with all family members. Of course, jobs needs to be based on the age of the children. When your children are involved in the meal preparation, you have more time to focus on cooking, and as a bonus you get to spend some extra time with them. Many kids love to cook!
|Yael Dror is a Pediatric Nutritionist. She holds a Master’s degree in Physiology from Tel Aviv University and a Bachelor’s degree in Nutrition from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and most importantly, Yael is a mother of 3 active children. Yael is a former professional athlete and is a co-founder of Habitz.|