As with a lot of people around the country, I have recently started paying close attention to the foods that I eat as well as the foods that I feed my family. There are just too many harmful chemicals and other additives that go into the majority of the “foods” that hit the grocery store shelves and I didn’t realize just how bad they were for me (and my family) until I did a little experiment of my own. For one week, I cut out all processed foods.
Basically, my diet consisted of water and natural foods and whole grains. Again, this was only for one week and during that week I noticed that my energy levels rose tremendously, I wasn’t as hungry as much, I was concentrating better and I was sleeping better at night. For the second part of my experiment, after the week was over, I gradually began adding some processed foods back. For instance, I allowed myself that daily soda that I like and instead of a healthy meal at lunch, I might have had a hamburger from McDonald’s. That second week after my week of clean eating was an eye opener! I literally felt horrible and I couldn’t eat fried food without my body revolting. The most noticeable part was how exhausted I was at the end of the day.
As a result, I went back to the clean eating lifestyle (for the most part…I do still enjoy a soda most days) lifestyle and haven’t looked back. The issue I first had with clean eating was that I believed, as most people do, that it was going to be more expensive and harder to do. I was pleasantly surprised in both areas. Below are some healthy dinner tips to help you enjoy healthier foods without spending much more time in the kitchen or a lot more money.
1. Use the slow cooker. I’ve always enjoyed crock pot meals but rarely use the darn thing, unless it’s during the winter. However, the slow cooker has become one of my best friends lately. It’s just way too convenient to put the food in the pot in the morning and come home to a cooked dinner, especially during the week when things are crazy. The best thing about slow cooker meals is that they generally make more than we need, which gives us lots of leftovers…making even more quick meals during the week.
2. Keep it simple.One of my favorite things to do is swing by the grocery store and pick up one of those rotisserie chickens. All I have to do once I get home is slice it up and prepare my organic veggies to go with it and I’ve got a meal. I’m not sure where we came up with the idea that dinner has to be a big production every night, but when I finally got that idea out of my head and started looking for simple meals consisting of whole and natural ingredients, dinner became pretty easy to pull off.
3. Have a smoothie night. A fun thing I like to do every once in a while is to have a smoothie night for the family. Basically, instead of a traditional dinner, I let everyone in the family choose from a collection of smoothie recipes the one that they would like for dinner. The smoothies I make are packed full of fruits, veggies, protein, antioxidants and other nutrients and they taste great, so it’s fun to cut loose one night and have smoothies for dinner. Sometimes, we enjoy them while we watch a movie together with a bowl of popcorn. It’s quick, easy, healthy and even the picky 5 year old loves it!
4. Prepare veggies ahead of time. Several of the meals I make contain a wide variety of veggies. For instance, a popular dinner for my family is stuffed bell peppers. The stuffing contains brown rice, ground turkey, butternut squash, carrots, corn, black beans, onions and tomatoes. The veggies all get prepared the night before and I refrigerated the ones that I will need for dinner the next evening and freeze the rest. As a result, dinner doesn’t take long to prepare the next evening and even less time the next time a meal calling for those particular veggies appears on the menu as I have more than enough prepared veggies in the freezer ready to go.
5. Go to the store prepared. Preparing healthy dinners for the family doesn’t have to take a lot of time or cost a lot of money, but it does take preparation. Take the time to prepare a weekly menu before you go to the grocery store. And, make a list of ingredients needed before you go. While this is a huge timesaver, if you can plan meals that make use of a lot of the same ingredients then you will save even more time (and money). I have found that when I go to the store prepared (have a preplanned menu and a list in hand) that I spend less on groceries and usually only have to go the one time during the week.
You may still be a little skeptical about how beneficial eating healthy is and you may think that it takes too much time to do, but before you write it off completely, challenge yourself to do it for just one week like I did and see if you notice any difference in the way you (and the rest of the family) feel.
If you are already committed to preparing healthy meals for your family, what are some of your tips for keeping the dinner preparation quick and easy?