Easy, Healthy Meals for Families
This week we are bringing you inspiration for creating family meals that are easy, nutritious, and budget-friendly.
We all know when the kids are home from kindy/school and activities, things can get a little (or a lot) hectic, and sorting out a healthy meal can often feel like a real chore.
Maybe you feel like you’re having the same-old-same-old each week and you’ve lost your cooking mojo? Perhaps you fall back on costly takeaways more often than you’d like to? Or you just need some guidance on how to make simple, healthy meals that the whole family will enjoy?
We are here to help… less stress, more fun at mealtimes!
They key is being organised.
Yes, this means meal planning… it’s not hard (once you get started, hopefully you’ll come to love it like we do!)
Some tips to get you started:
Come up with five meal ideas – (two of which you can double to make two extra meals).
Express meals – try to include a couple of super quick meals – eggs are a good option here… think frittata (loaded with leftover veg), or scrambled with a side of salmon, avo, tomato and herbs. Soup is another great idea for the winter.
Write a list and shop wisely – check what you have left in the fridge/pantry to use before you shop. Stick to the list (unless something is on special which you swap out for a listed item).
Make the most of seasonal produce.
Make use of frozen veg – for example peas and corn.
Have staples on hand – such as brown rice, chickpeas, lentils, tinned tomatoes (perfect for bulking up mince meals or making vegetarian hot pot style meals or curries).
Use grated vegetables – such as carrots and zucchini to bulk meals up and increase the veggie quota. Finely sliced spinach works well too.
Keep it seriously simple – one source of protein (eg. fish, chicken, lean red meat, eggs) with one source of carbs (eg. brown rice, quinoa, kumara). And lots of fresh veggies – but the trick is you usually only need two or three different veggie types for each meal – ideally a green such as broccoli and something colourful like red capsicum. Add a homemade (or quality store-bought) sauce, dressing or dip to bring it together (try something like hummus, tzatziki, or olive oil + lemon juice).
Add natural flavour – make use of fresh herbs and spices, garlic, onion (red, brown, spring onion for variation) – see our recent blog post on Herbs and Spices.
Prep ahead – use a day or evening (often Sunday works well) to prepare chopped veggies and/or salads for the week and store in an airtight container in the fridge. Also make a large meal that can be doubled and frozen.
Use leftovers creatively – leftovers can easily be changed up for variation to make a different meal for another night.
One pot wonders – meals you can make in one big pan or pot save on time and dishes.
Be efficient using the oven OR the stove – if you’re cooking in the oven use it for the whole meal if you can (i.e if making homemade baked chips, then bake chicken and veg to go with them) and likewise if you’re using the stove, make it work for you in multiple ways (i.e steam fish over your rice pot and put your peas in with the rice at the end of cooking).
Mini platters / nourish bowls / deconstructed salads – if the kids are starving and there’s really no time to cook, throw together a tasty little platter or nourishing bowl including some of their favourite food (carrot sticks, cherry tomatoes, raw broccoli florets, cheese slices, chickpeas – add a hardboiled egg if you some in the fridge). See our blog post on Nourishing Bowls + Wholesome Lunch Ideas.
Let the kids help – perhaps they can choose a few ingredients, and ask them to try new things… don’t worry if they don’t like it – did you like mushrooms, brussel sprouts or asparagus when you were 5? I didn’t, but I love them now! Note: most of the ingredients mentioned here are best quickly sautéed with some olive oil or butter, onion and/or garlic, fresh herbs and seasoned with salt and pepper, served alongside steak or chicken and some brown rice with a dash of soy sauce – simple and easy!
Keep it natural – bear in mind that when you avoid putting processed food in your trolley at the supermarket, then you’ll stop using those options at home.
Put a healthy twist on family favourites – swap white flour for wholemeal flour, choose wholemeal or multi-grain bread, pita pockets and wraps instead of white and swap white rice for brown rice as a few examples. The best part is your family’s health, energy levels and focus will be so much greater for it. An added bonus is you won’t feel the guilt that can come with eating poorly – you truly get to enjoy your food and its benefits!