Making Meals Healthy in a Pinch

Planning healthy meals for the week is great, but sometimes life gets in the way, and plans can fall apart.  When that happens, the goal is simply to get food on the table- but that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice healthfulness! Making meals healthy doesn’t have to take up a lot of time and planning- in fact, it can be pretty simple  This post will take you through ways to easily make meals healthier, without taking up more time to prep and plan- and in ways kids will still enjoy!

Incorporate fruits and vegetables into usual dishes – but be transparent!

Photo from Pixabay by Jenny Shead

Mixing in fruits & vegetables to a favorite dish is an easy way to create a meal that packs a nutritious punch. It can be as simple as stirring some roasted or pan-seared vegetables like mushrooms and broccoli into marinara sauce for spaghetti, blending fruits and vegetables in batter to make rainbow pancakes, or adding black beans or spinach to quesadillas. Feel free to get creative! Just make sure that you are telling your kid that you added fruits or vegetables in some fashion. It helps your child to warm up to certain dishes and establish clear lines of communication around food, which are important for their relatedness and autonomy.

Play favorites with food friends

Does your kid LOVE green beans? Will they eat them no matter what? Then feel free to serve them every night! While it’s important to expose kids to new fruits and vegetables, familiarity with foods is important for young children and can help increase their consumption of fruits and vegetables. If the only vegetable your kid will eat is green beans (or whatever their favorite is), then that can be the way they get their vegetables most days. Just be sure to introduce new fruits and vegetables along the way- even if they don’t like them right away. It can take around 10 exposures of a food before a child will accept it (and sometimes more), so don’t give up right away if they try broccoli once and swear that they hate it! 

Keep frozen and canned fruits and vegetables on hand for a quick and easy addition to meals

Photo from Pixabay by Willfried Wende

Frozen and canned foods tend to get a bad rap, but it’s unjustified! Frozen fruits and vegetables are just as nutritious as fresh vegetables, and often are a fraction of the price. A lot of times, these frozen or canned products can make a super easy and quick side that takes very little preparation time. Just keep an eye out for added sugar or syrup with canned fruits and even vegetables! Fruits & vegetables canned with added sugar or in syrup can greatly increase the sugar content of a meal. Be sure to check the label to make sure the product is canned in water or juice (not syrup) and does not contain any added sugar!

Water is best!

Perhaps one of the easiest ways to make a meal healthier is to ditch the sugary beverages like soda or juice and serving water instead. If you’ve got a child who isn’t ready to part with their juice or soda, try filling a glass halfway with juice, and the other half with water or sparkling water to cut down on sugar. To better understand which beverages are best for kids, check out our blog post on beverages, and check out our series on Instagram with Dr. Caree to create some easy, healthy, and delicious beverages at home!

Make a swap

Put new, healthy spins on old favorites in order to make a meal a little healthier. For example, serve fruit with a spoonful of whipped cream or yogurt for dessert instead of candy, or try French fries made out of sweet potato or jicama and baked instead of fried. Finding ways to make favorites healthier can help kids increase their intake of fruits and vegetables while still enjoying foods they love.

Making meals healthy doesn’t have to be a big production, and it doesn’t have to be expensive! We hope some of these tips help. What are your favorite ways to make a quick and healthy meal? Tell us below in the comments!