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Easy Meals for Busy Families

Vanessa T.
VANESSA T.
Pediatric Dietitian
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Has takeout become your go-to for family dinners? Are you throwing out Sun Basket deliveries that you never prepared? Or are you tired of the same recipes you prepare each week? Ask Registered Dietitian, Vanessa T., how to prepare healthy meals to fit your families schedule.

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VANESSA ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
New dinner options?
VIVI, PARENT OF 4 YEAR OLD

I'm stuck in a dinner rut! It seems that I prepare the same dishes each week. I want to try new dishes that can be made quickly and easily without overhauling the pantry. Can you recommend options to make side dishes like rice, beans, veggies, etc more interesting?

Vanessa
VANESSA

Hi Vivi,

Summer is a great time to break from your typical dinner routine!

If you have a grill, try making veggie kabobs drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper for an easy side dish (with minimal clean up!). I’ve also grilled brocccoli or cauliflower “steaks”- just cover with a thin layer of olive oil or your favorite dressing and pop the whole crown on the grill for a few minutes.

Another fun option is making cold salads instead of warm dishes. Try a Mexican bean salad like this: https://belleofthekitchen.com/2014/09/30/mexican-three-bean-salad/
Or a cold quinoa or pasta salad like this:
https://www.twopeasandtheirpod.com/easy-quinoa-salad/

Speaking of grains, check out to grain section of your local grocery store and try some new options to switch things up. Black rice (sometimes called “forbidden rice”) is high in protein and fiber and can be used in any recipe in place of white or brown rice. Or try amaranth, spelt or wild rice to switch things up!

Let me know if that helps. Happy to keep brainstorming if you need more ideas!
Vanessa

VANESSA ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
Pantry items
JENNA

What ingredients should I have on hand to make dinner easier? I am not a huge fan of packaged foods but if they are healthy shortcuts, I'm open to it.

Vanessa
VANESSA

Great question, Jenna!

Here are the staples in my pantry:
Whole wheat pasta, brown rice, beans (any kind you like), pasta sauce or canned tomatoes, tuna, salsa, peanut butter and soy sauce. Add any other favorite sauces or dressings and keep some bags of frozen veggies mixes in the freezer.

Using those as a base, you can mix and match with fresh veggies to make the following:

-pasta with beans or tuna, veggies and red sauce
-homemade pizza (just pick up a crust from the store)
-stir fry with brown rice
- burritos, tacos and quesadillas (just add whatever shell or wrap your family likes or serve as a burrito bowl)
-Thai chicken with brown rice (use soy sauce and peanut butter for the marinade)
- tuna salad or peanut butter sandwiches for really hectic nights!
- tuna casserole with whole wheat pasta
- cold veggie or tuna pasta salad


Coming up with new meal combos using these staples can actually be a fun game! Just combine grains, veggies and a protein and you’ve got dinner covered. Let me know what you come up with!

VANESSA ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
No bake meals
VIVI, PARENT OF 4 YEAR OLD

Are there no-bake dinners that I can make my family? I have seen no bake desserts but I'm looking more for meal options besides sandwiches.

Vanessa
VANESSA

Salads!

You can make a hearty entree out of salads by adding tuna, avocado, nuts, seeds and/or cheese. I’ve been even known to chop up leftovers and throw them in a bed of greens when time is short on weeknights- it works great!

You can also try a simple crudité platter by chopping up veggies and plating with different hummus, guacamole or other dip. Add your favorite bread or whole grain crackers and let your family pick and choose what they’d like.
<br/>Chicken, egg or tuna salad is another good option. Offer with veggies or whole grain pita wedges instead of as a sandwich to switch things up.

Anywhere fun idea is a cold bean salad. Try a recipe like this for a Mexican twist:
http://healthyeatingforfamilies.com/quick-and-healthy-black-bean-salad-no-cooking-required/