Back on Track for Healthier Meals

I’m sure we don’t want to think about summer ending, but if we can practice a few quick and easy meal prep ideas now, maybe September won’t feel so chaotic with the back to school routine.
It may be tempting to load up on frozen waffles, cereals, and Lunchables, but why not try to give the entire family a healthy boost of energy with filling, clean breakfast and lunch options.

Preping the Night Before

Have lunch containers within reach when you are preparing dinner. It saves time when you are chopping vegetables for a salad to portion some in your lunch container for the next day. After dinner, portion a leftover serving in the containers ( I like a 4 section lunch container); so you can save a few precious morning minutes. It’s also helpful to have a section in the refrigerator reserved for pre-portioned lunch items such as Greek yogurt, string cheese with fruit, cottage cheese, and cut up vegetables in zip lock bags. Just grab and go! 

Using One Vegetable Two Ways

A cost and time saving tip is to pick two in-season vegetables to use for multiple meals in different ways. For example, how about trying zucchini? Grate two cups to use in a crustless summer zucchini pie recipe. The casserole can be made in individual muffin cups or like a quiche for a filling breakfast or lunch.  A serving contains 125 calories, 8g protein, 13g carbs, and 4.8g fat. Add a half  cup of Greek yogurt with a handful of blueberries for an extra boost of 11 more grams of protein and 3g of fiber.
Then make zoodles using 4 average size zucchinis for a quick dish with pesto, grilled chicken, and grape tomatoes. It can be used for lunch or dinner. A whole roasted chicken is always convenient. I like to roast two chickens “beer can style”on the grill on a weekend to have throughout the week. Add it to the zoodle dish, taco salads, wrap sandwiches, and homemade chicken salad (with Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise).
Another favorite is avocado, although it’s actually a fruit. Add it to an avocado breakfast bowl on top of leftover quinoa or black rice from last night’s dinner, a fried egg, crumbled manchego cheese, and shiracha. It contains 24g of carbs, 12.7g of protein, 8.8g of fiber, and 372 cal.
The same cheese and avocado can be topped on salad greens, leftover chicken, salsa, 1/3 cup black beans, and a few baked tortilla chips for an upside down taco salad for lunch.


Other Quick Meal Ideas

Quick breakfast: Love Grown Super Oats oatmeal. It already has nuts, chia seeds, and quinoa mixed with whole oats. 3 minutes in the microwave with milk instead of water provides 11g of protein, no added sugar or salt, and with 1/3 cup of blueberries, 7 g of fiber. A definite healthier option than the flavored packets of highly processed oatmeal.
Quick lunch: Mason jar salads for quick, simple combinations. Start with about 2 Tbs. of a healthy salad dressing. Then layer some crispy vegetables such as red peppers, carrots, cucumbers, etc. Then add a layer of salad greens. The next option is whatever leftovers you have; black beans, avocado, corn, cheese, cilantro. Another option is grilled chicken, tsaziki dressing, cucumber, chickpeas, hummus, and pita chips. Try Asian flavors by using leftover grilled shrimp, snow peas, mushrooms, and water chestnuts. A variety of textures and spices keeps the salads more interesting and maybe even the kids will give it a try.
Meal planning can feel daunting, but having combinations of foods to multi-purpose can take the stress level down and health benefits up for a positive step for the family to get on board.
by: Donna Wheeler, acac Midlothian and Short Pump Nutritionist 
Looking to learn more about healthy meal prep? Ask about your club’s nutrition offerings.