Quick and Healthy Weeknight Dinner Guide

Quick and Healthy Weeknight Dinner Guide

Oct 23 2017

School is in full swing, and that means more after-school activities, homework and earlier bedtimes.

By: Rebecca Mason, RD

As schedules become increasingly busier, it can be difficult to manage it all and still feed your family a delicious and healthy meal.  

Here are a few tips and recipes to make the busy school year simpler:

  1. Plan ahead. Your first step to success is planning. Always check your pantry and fridge and use the ingredients you already have when planning your meals for the week. Once you’ve decided on your weekly menu, build your grocery list. Having a list ensures that you stick to your plan and get everything you need in one trip. Plan the easiest to prep and clean meals for the busiest days, and save the more complex recipes for lighter days.
  2. Let it simmer. The great thing about this Chicken Sausage, White Bean and Kale Soup is that the active cooking time can be as little as nine minutes, and then it simmers for an extra 10-15 minutes while you wrap up homework. This soup contains only two grams of saturated fat per serving, and the white beans and kale boost up the fiber content, which can positively impact sleep. A study published in 2016 in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that diets lower in fiber and higher in saturated fat were associated with lighter, less restorative sleep. Eat better, sleep better.
  3. Bake it. Try these Sheet Pan Fajitas. With dinners like these, you’ll load up a pan, toss it in the oven, and spend time with your family before dinner. The clean up is a breeze, too. You’ll also boost your family’s intake of vitamin C with this meal. Bell peppers actually have more vitamin C than an orange. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps keep our cells healthy and promotes the production of collagen, which it important for the structure of skin and bones. It also helps boost our body’s absorption of iron.

    ck-Sheet Pan Steak Fajitas
    Photography: Jennifer Causey; Food Styling: Margaret Monroe Dickey; Prop Styling: Heather Chadduck Hillegas
  4. One-pot wonders. A one-pot meal makes clean-up easy, which means you can focus your attention on more important things, perhaps taking a moment for yourself. Try this Spanish Style Cod and steal some time back. You may think your kids won’t touch fish, but the flavors of the tomatoes and herbs impart a balanced flavor to the meat. Added bonus: lean protein, like fish, is essential for children’s healthy growth and development.
  5. Slow cook it. By tossing a seasoning blend, water and ingredients into to a crock pot to make this Turkey Taco Bowl meal, dinner will be cooking while you turn your attention to your to-do list. As if the easy meal prep wasn’t an enticing enough perk, you’ll help avoid the seasonal bugs and keep your children healthy. This dish contains a double dose of tomatoes, which are a great source of the antioxidant lycopene. Lycopene has numerous health benefits, and can help boost our body’s immune system.

    Photo courtesy of Food and Nutrition
  6. Eat one, freeze one. This Hearty Tortellini Soup recipe makes 12 servings, perfect for freezing several portions for an easy meal next week, or for lunches the next day. Cook once, eat twice. And at seven grams of fiber per serving, you’ll boost your fiber intake, which is beneficial for digestion, controlling blood sugar and lowering cholesterol.
  7. Family meals matter. By cooking a simple dish like Rainbow Ramen, you’ll have more time to sit down at the table too. Not only will you enjoy a moment with your family, your kids will reap the benefits at school. Research published in the Journal of Adolescent Health suggests that family dinners (with the TV off) may help children, particularly adolescents, have fewer behavioral and emotional problems, and demonstrate better communication skills. Additionally, in surveys conducted by Columbia University in 2010, teens who reported having less than three family dinners per week were twice as likely to report receiving mostly C’s or lower in school. Family meals matter.

Try one, or all, of these simple and healthy tips and recipes this school year to keep your kids healthy and to give you some time back in your busy day.

About the Author: Rebecca Mason, RD, is a registered dietitian and health and wellness coordinator in the Wellness Department at Priority Health. She is passionate about helping families and individuals improve their health through nutrition education and nutritious food access. Rebecca is certified in adult weight management and has a background in both clinical nutrition and wellness programming.

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