With all the activities and responsibilities on your plate, healthy eating can sometimes feel like a challenge. Add your family to the mix and youâ€™ve whipped up a chaotic combo, or so it seems. For many people, time is a crucial factor when it comes to planning and preparing healthy meals. Consider the following factors to help you balance healthy dinners with a busy family.Â
Your kitchen space
Staying organized in the kitchen can help you save time and reduce stress.
The business of cooking should ideally flow from the storage area, to the preparation area, and finally the cooking area. Having all the utensils, equipment, and ingredients organized and close at hand makes meal preparation quicker. You can keep your preparation area organized by:
- eliminating any unwanted clutter from counter tops
- removing appliances that are not used on a regular basis
- moving gadgets that are making it hard to find what you need
- placing all the tools and equipment you need in a convenient location.
Family meal planning
Meal planning is an essential part of healthy eating. Not only does it help you to balance nutritional intake, but it can also save you time and money in the grocery store.
Consider making a menu plan for three to seven days at a time. Review your recipes to ensure you have all the ingredients on hand and add any you don’t to your shopping list. It may also be convenient to combine ready-made foods with foods cooked from scratch (i.e. pre-made sauce with freshly cooked pasta and fresh steamed vegetables) or to try batch food preparation for busy days ahead. Mixed dishes can also save time because you don’t have to prepare each part of the meal separately.
Donâ€™t forget to involve your family in the meal planning process. The more support from your family the better!
Working together as a team to prepare meals can have a lot of benefits. The kitchen can be a fantastic place for you and your family to spend quality time together, which is especially important for busy families.
For young children, it can help them to build a healthier relationship with food as they explore the way food is transformed from the grocery store to their dinner plate. For older children these experiences can help them gain valuable cooking skills that will benefit them in the years to come.
As a bonus, extra hands in the kitchen can reduce the overall time it takes to cook a meal!
Mandy is a Counseling Dietitian and Personal Trainer at GoodLife Fitness in Nova Scotia. She has a BSc in Applied Human Nutrition (Dietetics), and is the regional delegate for the Canadian Diabetes Association for 2012.