If you often find yourself eating a sandwich for dinner while the rest of your family eats at other times or elsewhere, you are missing out on important bonding opportunities. When parents and kids have different schedules and tastes, it can be hard to prepare healthy family meals that everyone will show up for – and enjoy. It doesn’t have to happen every night, but making the effort at least a few times during the week can really bring families together in a good way.
Breakfast and Lunch
Parents Magazine points out that families who cannot come together for dinner can enjoy healthy family breakfasts and lunches. They share some easy-to-prepare recipes, like Peanutty Overnight Oats, Fruity PB&J Tortilla Pizza and Stuffed French Toast. The prep work can be done the night before, be made quickly in the a.m. and eaten during a leisurely weekend or holiday breakfast.
One easy lunch option is soup. It can be a real super-food, is perfect for lunches and kids love it. Homemade chicken minestrone is a good choice because it is easy to make and contains high-fiber beans, high-protein chicken and tasty vegetables. Another way to sneak in some fiber is to make veggie burgers. These can be served on whole wheat buns, topped with organic cheese and served with homemade sweet potato fries and some raw sugar snap peas.
If your kids aren’t fans of veggie burgers, Martha Stewart shares some easy recipes for chicken sandwiches that can be served hot or cold. Instead of traditional fried versions, you can try her pulled bbq chicken, grilled chicken and delicious chicken salad sandwiches. These go well with healthy soups, salads and sides of raw vegetables. Even if your family balks at swapping out fries or chips for raw veggies, hold your ground. They will probably come to love them.
Healthy Dinners for You and Your Family
Adults work late. Kids have sports and club meetings, and before you know it the dinner hour has passed. The first step towards planning healthy family meals is to put them on the schedule. Keep one main calendar that shows every meeting, game and appointment and schedule 90 minutes for a sit-down meal at least twice a week. Even if it doesn’t work out some weeks, keep making the effort.
One of the cleverest ways to get the gang to the table is to have them help plan the menus. Make sure to have something in there that everyone likes, whether it be a favorite kind of fish or a fruity dessert. Try introducing something new once a week – you might be surprised to see how much everyone likes cauliflower rice, lemony salmon or kale salad.
Delicious Dinner Ideas
Although many families shun meat, there are healthy ways to prepare it. Although some doctors and financial gurus suggest it would be wise to only serve it a few times a week, it can really be something to look forward to. Martha Stewart’s traditional Shepherd’s Pie uses lamb shanks instead of beef, and also incorporates creamy mashed potatoes, root vegetables and peas. Once the family gets a whiff of that in the oven, you can bet they will show up to the table. Lasagna is another favorite, and can be made with ground turkey or spinach instead of meat.
Shrimp is also perfect for healthy family meals, because it is high in protein and healthy fats, yet low in calories as long as it is not fried. Stir-fry shrimp is quick and easy, and your helpers can chop up the veggies if they are old enough. Cut up boneless chicken also does well in stir-fry dinners. If the weather cooperates, you can thread shrimp and/or chicken on skewers, alternating them with zucchini, peppers, onions and other vegetables. After all, who doesn’t love a barbecue?
Vegetarian Dinner Ideas
Many children and adults have become vegetarians, and there are countless ways to prepare these kinds of healthy dinners. As an added bonus, vegetables cost less than meat, chicken and seafood – unless you shop at an artisan farmers market or high-end grocery store. This added expense isn’t really necessary, especially if you prepare rich-tasting sauces.
Better Homes & Gardens offers a recipe for Whole Wheat Tortellini with Broccoli that has cherry tomatoes, beans and creamy cheese. Another great option is Four-Cheese Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese, which is high in flavor and low in carbs. Or try the Mediterranean Kale & Cannellini Stew, which has farro, carrots, tomatoes, beans and feta cheese. Any one of these healthy and satisfying meals will encourage families to meet up at the table for dinner – or lunch.