How To Make Your Family’s Meals More Nutritious?
Whether you have certain family members with special dietary requests such as low-carb, vegan, keto, or something else… you know that there are a few different ways to approach calorie intake, and some are more healthy than others. Below, find some tips, hints and friendly reminders on how to maximize the nutritional value of the foods you eat, no matter what kind of food fad you’re embracing this month.
- Limit the number of processed foods your family eats. Even though sometimes we a boxed mac and cheese can serve as dinner, did you know it’s so easy to make from scratch? Just boil up some noodles, then drain. Add butter (grass fed is healthier), organic milk or half and the half, and some easy melting cheese like cheddar, or make your vegan parmesan cheese if you want a little more tang in your mac. Turn the heat to low, and stir until everything melts together into a yummy, gooey, cheesy sauce. There are plenty of other convenience foods, like instant oatmeal, that you can make the long version from scratch without batting a brow. So much healthier… plus, cooking from scratch is good for the soul.
- Eat yogurt with fruits or oatmeal. If you’re vegan, buy plant-based yogurt or make your own. Make plain yogurt a permanent item on your grocery shopping list, and learn how to cook with it and serve as a side with breakfast, lunch and even dinner. Yogurt contains active cultures which give the gut flora a healthy boost. You can eat yogurt in the morning with fruit, nuts, and granola. If you’re dipping cut-up veggies with lunch or as an afternoon snack, add a dollop of plain yogurt to your favorite ranch dressing. At dinner time, sub in plain yogurt for sour cream, and serve with Mexican favorites like tacos and burritos, or add a spoon or two to your favorite vegetarian soup. What else can you think up to make with yogurt?
- Consider seasonal foods for the highest nutritional value and freshness factor. Do you enjoy gardening in the spring and summer? Cool to warm seasons like spring and fall bring nutrition in the form of cold-loving veggies like lettuce, kale, broccoli, carrots, turnips, collards, and spinach. Hot weather yields fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, peppers, and eggplant, to name a few. Even if you can’t find time for a backyard garden, you can make pit stops at the local farmer’s market on your way home from work or running errands. Stock up for the 5-day work week, and keep a mental (or physical) checklist of what veggies are in your crisper, so you won’t let anything go waste.
- Avoid any food that’s been processed, like those powdered gravy mixes that come to life when heated with water. Powdered lemonade or ice tea mixes are easy to replace by squeezing a few lemons into a pitcher of water or brewing iced tea at home. Even those trendy designer “good for you” chips and crackers sprinkled with mysteriously addictive, flavored powders, should be excluded. You can buy organic vegetable snacks or make your own with a dehydrator or in the oven. The exception would be if you read the list of ingredients and find there are only salt, pepper, and natural spices and herbs.
- Don’t overcook. Grilled vegetables should retain their color and be crisp, or you can grill them or try raw. Stir-frying is better than boiling veggies, as vitamins and minerals leach into the cooking water which we usually toss instead of drink (consider drinking the cooking water next time you cook some spinach!). Soups should be simmered rather than boiled rapidly, to retain the nutrients.
- If you can’t go without meat, try grass-fed trumps feedlot every time. More people are becoming aware of the crowded and disease-ridden conditions that animals on feedlot farms must endure before they become food on our table or at the drive-through window of your favorite fast-food establishment. To get the most nourishment from meats, invest in a bulk meat share where you can freeze a large quantity of grass-fed beef, pork or free-range chicken in the name of your family’s health. To save money, eat smaller portions of meat, subbing in healthy veggie and fish alternatives. You always have alternatives for meat: tofu, tempeh, vegan burger or homemade meatloaf from vegetables.
No More Stressful Starts: My Best Tips for Making the Morning Routine Seamless
Do you dread the busy mornings, when everyone trips over each other in the kitchen and bathroom, and it’s an ongoing struggle to get coffee made, kids dressed and fed, and grown-ups showered and packed up in time for work? Does the thought of misplaced sneakers, grumblings over cereal preferences, hastily packed lunches and a frantic scramble to get in the car bring you down?
Instead of stressing about the mad morning rush, focus on how you can get things to run more smoothly by becoming more organized in the first place.
- Tackle the week’s lunch plans ahead of time. If you pick one day a week when you are not working, you can prepare a large batch, clean eating recipes, portion them out, save them in your freezer and refrigerator, and eating healthy is a snap. Even if you don’t decide to make large batches of food at once, planning for the number of meals and servings for everyone in your home is crucial before you go shopping.
Now take your recipes and servings, and write a list of the food you are going to buy.
- Just remember to be flexible. If you are thinking about buying almond flour so you can make healthy and delicious pizza, but portobello mushroom caps are on sale for half price, do what’s right for your pocketbook and your time. Almond or coconut flour needs to be prepared, and you can turn over a portobello cap, fill it with your favorite ingredients, and slap it into your oven to make delicious and nutritious miniature pizzas.
It’s always good to have a plan, but every plan should be flexible.
- Stay on top of the weather forecast. One of the last things I do before shutting it down for the night is check the weather for the next day. Then I check it again as soon as I wake up. Smartphones make this a no-brainer; click your weather app. Lay out school and work outfits accordingly, gather any jackets or outerwear, and you can shave off considerable wasted morning hours scurrying around in confusion. This way you can avoid scenarios where it starts pouring just as they’re heading out the door…
- Catch up with the changing seasons. Organize the garden, hall closet, laundry room, mud room, or whatever space you have, with the appropriate seasonal outerwear. This way, kids can find jackets, don hats, and gloves, stuff feet into boots, grab umbrellas, and be out the door ready to face whatever the elements may bring. Same goes for adults. More than once I’ve been guilty of being unable to locate my hat or shoes after scolding my kids for the very same offense! If you organize a capsule wardrobe for yourself and the rest of the family, it becomes much more easy to dress up every day and for every occasion.
- Keep laundry going in the background. It’s the task that never ends and should be handled accordingly. I always have a load going unless we have friends over or we’re not at home. At my house, we try to categorize clothing, not only by color but by the wearer. Maybe you’ve noticed that the putting away of clean clothes gets procrastinated longer if the basket contains clothing worn by too many different people!
- If you must take shortcuts, make them productive ones. Since we’re discussing laundry… suppose you just cleaned and dried some, but now you don’t have time to fold it. A time-saving shortcut would be to at least carry the basket of clean clothing up to the person’s room whose laundry it is. This way, in the morning, if they’re missing a favorite pair of jeans, you can direct them to the basket of clothes.
- Layout kids’ clothing the night before. If you’re not sure what the weather will do, include two options such as shorts and pants. Lots of little ones prefer to dress. This is fine, as long as your child can select a top and bottom that somewhat resembles what you would choose for them regarding the seasonal appropriateness and casual versus formal.
- Make and pack lunches at night. Sometimes the last thing you want to do is start filling lunch boxes at 8 p.m. But if you make lunch prep part of dinner clean-up, you can organize everything so that you’re not awake at midnight worrying if you have enough cold cuts for everyone in the house to have lunch tomorrow.
- Take shifts for the bathroom. If you’re short on bathrooms, the best way around this is to stagger wake-up times. For a smaller sized family, adults can awaken, use the toilet and shower first. Kids follow suit while Mom or Dad is downstairs making breakfast. So set the alarms accordingly. Bigger families should allow for the kids with the earliest schedules to use the bathroom first.
- Schedule after-school activities, and stick to the plan. Even if your kids are smaller and they don’t do extra-curricular yet… afternoons should be planned for a bit of relaxation, a bit of play, homework hours, and time to review what’s come home in the school folder. Missing this last step often results in a disorganized frenzy in the morning, with notes that need reading, permission slips and forms to sign, and general confusion.
Everyone knows that today’s busy family has their share of challenges to keep up with, especially in the morning. But if you make that extra effort to be organized, you’ll find that there are fewer tears and more smiles, which makes a great start to everyone’s day.
7 Tips for Getting Dinner on the Table in a Half-Hour or Less
If you’re a working mom or a single parent who works from home or stay at home parent, there could be very challenging to keep up with day to day responsibilities. When we all have plans constantly in flux due to over-communication and over-scheduling, it’s getting even challenging to stay on top of things like dinner prep. And yet… we must all eat, and if it’s possible, we should try to make it easy, healthy and cost-effective.
Are home cooked meals a priority for you despite the pressing demands of life? If it’s your goal to feed your fresh family food as often as possible while saving money and time, then read on for tips on how to plan, shop and prep to ensure that dinner’s on the table almost every night.
- Keep a shopping list and update every day. Anyone who doesn’t like shopping lists is leaving a huge time saver on the table. We all know the frustrating feeling of coming home from the grocery store to realize you failed to bring home some needed items. (“Ahh! I forgot half and half again!”). It’s easy if you’re keeping a running list in a central location like the kitchen, with a pen in easy reach. Every family member can jot down items they may want, without having to send random texts at inconvenient times or make requests out loud that are soon forgotten. Extra tip… categorize your list. Some excellent planners take the time to type out a shopping list template that’s organized by grocery store department. Include the items you typically buy, such as milk, eggs, bread, meat, or lunch box favorites such as a type of juice box that your children prefer. Then, when it’s time to shop, you can print it out, check off what you need, add extras, and be on your way. If you’re like me, an old-fashioned from this point of view, then you have a paper-based notebook and a pen in which you make notes, recipes, and grocery list.
- You can also use your computer,there are also apps for grocery list and meal planning, just take a few moments to re-write the file that was posted in the kitchen, according to section, i.e., produce first, then deli, then meat, and so forth, according to the physical layout of your favorite grocery store. If you’ve never done this, it may seem excessive at first. But you really will spend a lot less time fumbling around if you get your shopping list in ship-shape.
- Plan ahead. Have a general idea of what you’ll be making and serving for the 5-day work week. If you have a general idea of how the week’s meals will go, you won’t flounder when it comes time to make dinner.
- Utilize frozen sides. Frozen foods are a huge time saver, and even meats come to life pretty quickly thanks to modern conveniences like the microwave. Stock up on your favorite bagged vegetable selections from the frozen foods aisle.
- Stock starches in the fridge. Rice, pasta and whole grain sides such as brown rice noodles make easy grab-and-go selections to cut significant time from dinner prep. For example, if you’re busy and work and thinking ahead to dinner, you can mentally prep for a quick one-pot meal that involves a quick zap of some broccoli in the microwave, a sauté of chicken and the addition of pre-cooked noodles and sauce which can be added at the end.
- Plan and shop for a cooking day. This can be a Sunday morning, or any other day when you know you’ll be home. You can make more complicated meals like lasagna, casseroles, meat sauce, pot roast, stew, chili, soup, or something else that would take several hours to prepare and cook. Freeze in single or double portions to thaw and eat on another night.
- Clean as you go. When it comes time to hustle through dinner cooking, you can make easier work of the post-meal clean-up by tackling things as you go. Items like peelers, colanders, and boiling pots don’t require much soap to get clean. So you can quickly wipe and rinse them directly after use. After chopping vegetables, wipe the knife on a clean cloth and store back in its proper place immediately (keeps people from cutting themselves, too). Waste, not a moment in getting food out of the pan you cooked it in and ran water into the pan to rinse and wipe before things get sticky and stuck. When all’s said and done, you’ll have only dinner plates, serving bowls and utensils to wash.
The most important thing is to schedule the week, the meals and the shopping days and then it becomes much easier than it seems now:)
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Till next time, keep it simple, healthy and delicious!
With love and respect,