Tips for Making Healthy Family Meals Easier
September is not only Fruits & Veggies—More Matters® Month, it’s also National Family Meals Month™! Researchers and health experts agree that eating more produce is good for us, and also that enjoying regular family meals produces lifelong benefits! Studies show that families who take the time to eat together at home are not only happier, but healthier as well. Regular family meals are linked to positive outcomes for kids including better grades, higher self-esteem, healthier eating habits, and less risky behaviors. Plus, home-cooked meals are typically more nutritionally balanced and include more fruits and vegetables. Family meals nourish the spirit, brain, and health of all family members!
Juggling jobs, kids and the demands of a busy life often come at the expense of enjoying meals at home. Use these tips to get more healthy meals on the table this September and all year long:
Meal Solutions at the Supermarket: You can find easy, healthy mealtime solutions in nearly every aisle of the store from pre-prepped fresh ingredients, to canned and frozen produce, ready-to-eat meals and side dishes, and more. Most supermarkets have pre-cut and washed fruits and vegetables in the produce department, which are perfect to eat raw, cooked, or steamed. Stock your cupboards and freezers with kitchen staples like canned, frozen, and dried produce and 100% fruit or vegetable juices which are nutrient-packed like fresh, but with added convenience and less waste.
Utilize your Slow Cooker: Slow Cookers aren’t just for winter soups and stews — you can make appetizers, side dishes, fillings for sandwiches and tacos, and even desserts in a slow cooker. Unlike the oven or stove, a slow cooker gives off very little heat beyond the base, keeping your kitchen cool when it’s hot outside. Prep your ingredients on the weekends when you have extra time and store prepped ingredients in airtight containers or plastic bags in the refrigerator for up to three days. If your slow cooker has a removable insert, assemble the ingredients the night before and refrigerate the entire insert overnight. Remember that tender vegetables are typically added toward the end of the cooking time to ensure a satisfying texture.
Reinvent Leftovers: Instead of serving the same recipe two nights in a row, reinvent last night’s dinner into something new. If you make a large pot roast with vegetables one day, serve the leftovers as a filling for quesadillas or sandwiches on another day. Most fruits and vegetable dishes can be safely frozen to eat later. For example, leftover fresh spinach from tonight’s salad can be quickly blanched in boiling water and frozen to be used in soups and side dishes later.
This September, take the pledge to make memories and improve health by eating more fruits and vegetables at family mealtimes!
Elizabeth Hall, MS, RDN, LDN
Registered Dietitian, Food City