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A Guide to Healthy Meals for Busy Families
19 May, 21

A guide to planning healthy meals for busy families

When you’re time poor having that extra time to prepare healthy dinners can be a struggle!

Between organising school lunches, ensuring bags are packed and homework is done before rushing out the door to work, and then fitting in all the afterschool activities, getting a healthy dinner on the table can be a challenge!

Plan for success

Make planning easier by downloading our weekly meal planner.

Taking 5 minutes to plan your meals and snacks for the week can not only save you time and money but also reduce the stress surrounding mealtimes. Ask the children to help plan the weekly meals so that some of their healthy favourites are included. 

Dedicate an ‘hour of power’ on the weekend to chop veggies, part-prep meals (e.g. make the bolognese and freeze in portions so that all you need to do is boil the pasta) and make a snack or two for school and work lunch boxes.

Keep a few key ingredients in the freezer, refrigerator and pantry in case ‘the wheels fall off’, so you know you have what you need to make a nutritious meal in minutes.

In the freezer

  • Beef mince, chicken mince or pork mince
  • Frozen fish fillets 
  • Frozen vegetables e.g. spinach, carrots, corn, broccoli, cauliflower, peas
  • Frozen fruit e.g. berries, banana, mango
  • Bread, wraps, rolls
  • Frozen yoghurt

In the pantry

  • Microwave brown rice or mixed grain packs
  • Pasta and noodles
  • Tinned tomatoes, chickpeas, lentils, black beans or kidney beans
  • Low salt stock cubes
  • Tomato paste, soy sauce, extra virgin olive oil, salt-reduced tomato sauce, pesto
  • Long-life milk (for those times when you run out)
  • Long-life vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions and garlic

In the refrigerator

  • Staple vegetables like carrots, zucchini, mushrooms, lettuce, cucumbers, capsicum, pumpkin
  • Milk of choice
  • Plain Greek yoghurt
  • Cheese 
  • Mixed salad bags
  • Eggs

Add a healthy twist to easy recipes

We all feel better if our children are eating well. Here are some of our top tips to bump up the nutrition on the kid’s favourites:

  • Spaghetti bolognese - use wholemeal or pulse pasta and add a tin of rinsed brown lentils to boost the fibre. Finely chopping celery and grating carrot and zucchini into the dish is a great way to get more veggies into the kids.
  • Fish and chips - crumb fish fillets using wholemeal flour, egg and wholemeal breadcrumbs and serve with homemade potato or sweet potato gems or chips + kid-friendly salad e.g., iceberg lettuce, grated carrot, cucumber, mini tomatoes, and capsicum sticks.
  • Scrambled eggs – serve on wholemeal toast with salad or steamed veggies or make an Omelette if veggie intake is a concern.
  • Stir-fry chicken and veggies (chop the veggies and chicken ahead of time and store in an airtight container); serve with brown rice or mixed grains.

Remember, it is a challenge for any of us to consume our 5 serves of vegetables in one meal. Here are some suggestions to add more veggies and plants throughout the day:

  • Try packing some veggies sticks as snacks (with hummus - also a veggie)
  • Include legumes in protein balls or as roasted snacks
  • Try green breakfast smoothies with spinach, cucumber, avocado or zucchini
  • Add tomato, spinach, mushrooms, or asparagus to your eggs
  • Bump up the salad on lunchtime sandwiches or wraps
  • Ask for a side salad or extra veggies when ordering take-out
  • Build your meals around plants e.g., nourish bowls or stir fry’s
  • Choose nuts, seeds and fruit for snacks
  • Choose whole grains wherever you can e.g., brown rice, wholemeal bread/pasta

Follow the links to some of our family favourites

A final word for those struggling with fussy eaters

Getting vegetables into kids can be one of the biggest challenges facing parents when it comes to mealtimes, but it doesn’t need to be that way. Ellyn Satter, expert child nutritionist guides us that the parent decides when to eat, what to serve, and where to serve it, and the child decides whether and how much to eat. There is always something on the table you know the child will eat, like rice or fruit or bread, so all new, experimental foods are paired with familiar foods. There is no pressuring a child to “just taste” anything or insisting on a number of bites. Dessert is not tied to if or how much the child eats. Satter promotes family dinner, so adults eat with kids, and children see their parents enjoying a healthy variety of food.

You can read more from Ellyn on fussy eating here.

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