5 ways to get a healthy meal on the table faster

January 24, 2023 | by Toni Havala, MS, RD, LDN

This blog originally appeared on the Healthy Driven Chicago website.

Turning meal time into family time is one of the best things parents can do to help their children develop a healthy relationship with food. Parents are the ultimate role model and it’s from them that kids learn what they should eat.

But for many parents, time is a barrier to sitting down to a shared family meal. However, with a bit of planning, it’s possible to get healthy food on the table. Here are a few tips:

  • Plan and prep in advance. Before grocery shopping, make a meal plan for the week and see what items you need to get from the store. When you get home, wash and prep your meat and produce so it’s ready to go for meals during the week.

  • Stock up on cooking basics. Keep cooking staples on hand so you have the basics for preparing a healthy meal. Items such as eggs, pasta and rice, canned beans, frozen vegetables, nuts and spices have longer shelf lives and can be used in a variety of meals.

  • Take shortcuts. These days there are plenty of prepped items that can make getting a meal on the table easier. Look for pre-washed salad mixes, cleaned and chopped produce and cooked rotisserie chicken.

  • Try a meal delivery service: Many of these services do a fantastic job including a mix of protein and vegetables, making them a great option when you’re short on time.

  • Double recipes: Families should always have a couple of meals they can fall back on. Be prepared by doubling — or even tripling — recipes and freezing the extra portions for a future meal. For example, make extra taco meat that can be pulled out of the freezer for a quick taco salad.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the simplest meals are often the tastiest meals. Here are five meal ideas that quickly move from stove to table:

  • Cooked lentils + frozen spinach + olive oil + feta cheese
  • Ground turkey taco meat + pre-washed salad mix + black beans + frozen corn + salsa
  • Whole wheat pasta + cannellini beans + broccoli + olive oil + Parmesan cheese
  • Asian lettuce wraps
  • Chicken cacciatore

But what about those days when you simply don’t have the time or energy to cook? It’s okay to turn to takeout or delivery once in a while.

One of the healthiest options is a thin crust veggie pizza with a chopped chicken salad. When ordering pizza, it’s important to avoid deep dish or pan pizza because both options are high in calories from a thick crust and heavy cheese. It’s also a good idea to avoid pepperoni and sausage and instead opt for veggie toppings.

Chinese food can also be healthy if you focus on entrees with chicken or shrimp and veggies. Avoid fried items and entrees in a sugary sauce, such as lemon chicken.

Edward-Elmhurst Health is committed to helping families live healthier. One way we do this is by offering seminars and classes focused on preparing healthy meals. We also have a team of dietitians that can help your family eat more nutritious food as well as find solutions to common eating issues such as picky eaters, food sensitivities and weight issues.

An Edward-Elmhurst Health dietitian can help you learn more about healthy meals for families. Make an appointment online or call 630-527-6363.

Talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian before starting a new meal plan. They can give you the support and tools you need to make smart choices for a healthy lifestyle.

Check out some Healthy Driven recipes.

Learn how to keep you and your family healthy.

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