A few simple plan-ahead tips can help you shelve pre-packaged quick-fixes for healthy meals.
© Photo Lenka U.
Mealtime is often a hectic time of day in a busy mom’s life. We’re increasingly concerned about providing wholesome, healthy meals for our families, and the pre-packaged quick fixes from the past are not always the healthiest choices. How can we replace “meal helpers” and canned vegetables with healthy choices in that narrow window of opportunity each evening?
Replacing the old standbys with fresh produce and meats will not only taste better, it’s surprisingly easy with a few preparation tips. For many things in life, planning ahead and making lists are the keys to getting things done in an organized, efficient and timely manner, and meal-planning is no exception.
Here are some tips to making that first step on going green easy and keeping up the momentum throughout the week:
- Make a list. The first step to making mealtime relaxed and fun is to make a weekly grocery list. Hang the list on the refrigerator so that as items get used up they can be quickly jotted down. All family members can help with this task: The last one to empty the juice container gets to write it on the list.
- Plan ahead. Select 5 meals for the week that can be made from the ingredients on your list. Have the kids help with ideas by asking for a favorite meal suggestion. This doesn’t need to be set in stone–don’t feel guilty for changing the menu, but it’s good to have a plan in place.
- Stock up. Stock the pantry with essentials that make mealtime easy and healthy: healthy oils and organic canned tomatoes to whip up great pasta sauce, for example.
- Prep in advance. Select plenty of fresh organic vegetables at the store or farmer’s market; wash and (if desired) cut them before storing in the refrigerator so there’s one less step when you want to use them in meals, salads, lunches and snacks.
- Cook it forward. Make enough for two meals in one night. Use Monday’s extra grilled chicken breast to top a salad on Tuesday.
- Think like a pro. There are many ways to consolidate meal preparation time. Think like a restaurant prep cook who is laying the foundation for the next meal long before the chef is preparing it.
Need some help keeping the children busy while you’re preparing dinner? Have them wash up and help with some simple tasks like putting the cut veggies in storage bowls or, if they’re older, give them the job of setting the table. If kids lend a hand in preparing dinner, it may get them to leave the TV for the table more readily come dinnertime.
Feeling kitchen-bound? Here are a few simple, effective stretching techniques that will leave you feeling refreshed and can be easily done while preparing food or cleaning up:
Tree Pose: While standing at the sink or counter, stand tall on the left leg and bend the right knee, placing the sole of the right foot–or the thigh if you have more flexibility–on the left calf. Breathe deeply and tighten your core for balance. Repeat on the other side.
Calf Raises: While waiting for dinner to cook, fit in a few calf raises while holding on to the kitchen counter with one hand and lifting the heel of the foot so that you are pressing into the floor with the ball of the foot.
Lower and lift the heel (one at a time, or both if you’re feeling brave) with the feet in a parallel position (toes in front of heels and directly under the knees). Do as many as you can, holding each lift for 5 seconds.
To stretch the calves and hamstrings after the lifts, place both hands on the counter and step back with one leg while bending the other, lift and lower the heel of the extended foot. You should feel the release down the entire back of the leg.
Written by Michele Fulkerson