By Tracee Yablon Brenner
Mealtime is an important time of day for so many reasons. The obvious reason is to nourish your body with foods high in vitamins and minerals. It’s also a convenient time while everyone is together to review the day’s activities as well as current noteworthy news.
Today’s technology can make this time challenging but it’s a great time to have a no electronic policy including TV. You will also tend to eat less because there is less mindless eating. It is best to limit distractions and take this opportunity to instill values and open communications.
Life often throws unexpected curve balls which leave us in situations we often don’t see ourselves in such as a divorce, separation or loss of a spouse. It’s crucial to continue a sense of normalcy and routine and start your own traditions.
Life can be extremely hectic but putting a delicious nutritious meal on the table can be done if you focus on the 3 P’s: plan, purchase and prepare. The 3 P’s make it easier to prepare a healthy, delicious meal after a long, busy day of work and can put an end to mealtime madness!
A slow cooker may be the perfect cure. Slow cookers let you prepare stews, casseroles, chili and soups fast and easy so when you get home from work dinner is ready and the house smells scrumptious. Today there are many slow cookers that have timers so you can set them for the appropriate time and forget about it until dinnertime.
It is also helpful to have your children help in age appropriate ways to take the madness out of mealtime while they learn and understand a sense of responsibility. Getting your kids involved in cooking has advantages like them trying more foods because they have helped in the preparation. It is important to remove any sense of guilt associated with your situation and realize what a critical time meals play for health, well being and lifetime memories.
One pot meals from different ethnic groups offer variety and ease. Asian-inspired food cooked in a wok prepares delicious, healthy one-pot meals fast and easily. Fried rice is a favorite among kids and can easily be made using leftover brown rice. Incidentally, this incorporates one of our favorite techniques–cook it once eat it thrice. Many grocery stores have stir fry vegetables already cut up to make it that much easier. Frozen veggies can be used as well.
Italian pasta dishes are another type of wonderful one-pot meals. Whole grain pasta will boost your fiber intake and there are many on the market today that are delicious and there is not a noticeable difference in taste. Quinoa-style pastas are also great pasta alternatives which are gluten-free and have more fiber in them than traditional white pasta. Quinoa-style pasta has a wonderful nutty flavor many people prefer over white pasta. To vamp up the nutritional value when using tomato sauce, it’s great to use pureed veggies.
Today there are many frozen baby food purees which make this much easier. The purees blend right into the sauce and then you can continue making your favorite Italian specialties like lasagna, ziti, and baked eggplant parmesan. Prepare a double portion that freezes well, such as lasagna. Have one for dinner and freeze the other uncooked: Cool it fully in the fridge, remove any condensation, seal it airtight and store it in the freezer. When you’re ready to eat it, thaw overnight in the refrigerator at least 24 hours, then cook it fresh. Breakfast for dinner is always a treat. It gives you a little more time to make a frittata or naked quiche so you do not have to be a short order cook making eggs for each person individually. Pair it with a simple salad or cut-up veggies and dinner is complete.
For more information on Tracee Yablon Brenner RD, CHHC, visit www.realfoodmoms.com.