Making healthy meals can be fun.
image by Microsoft Office Clips
Providing healthy meals is high on the priority list for most parents, but with today's hectic lifestyle it's not always easy. It is often easier to drive-through for some fast food, but the cost to your family's health may be too high a price to pay. Fortunately, with a little education, preparation and determination, creating healthy meals can be a little easier.
Getting the right ingredients is crucial to preparing healthy meals. Lean ground beef, boneless chicken breast, canned black beans and pork loin are all good protein choices.
It's important to get easy-to-prepare carbohydrates that contain fiber and are tasty. Good options are whole-wheat pasta, potatoes, brown rice and whole-wheat bread. Pre-made pizza crusts and English muffins are also great to have on hand.
Buying fresh vegetables is the hardest part of shopping because they rarely last longer than a week. For fast, healthy meals, buy pre-packaged lettuce and pre-chopped vegetables like carrots, cabbage and broccoli. Canned and frozen vegetables are a fast and nutritious alternative.
The key to easy, healthy meals is pre-cooking. Spend one day a month cooking your meat. Saute enough ground beef for about 10 meals, usually about 10 lbs. Add 2 to 3 tbsp. of chopped onion per pound of ground beef and cook until done. Add 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper, then package it into 1-lb. portions and freeze. Do the same for chicken breast, seasoning it with a dash of garlic powder as well as salt and pepper. If you choose to cook pork loin, slice it and cook it in a crock pot with a cup of mild salsa. You can do the same with a pot roast.
Pre-cooking carbohydrates is a bit tricky. These should be prepared once a week. You can pre-cook pasta, but don't freeze it because it will become mushy. Pre-cook potatoes and rice and store them in the refrigerator.
Pre-cook vegetables once a week. Salads don't need to be pre-cooked, but chop up the ingredients once a week so they are handy. Canned and frozen vegetables work very well for easy meals and can be heated in the microwave. Vegetables that can be pre-cooked and kept in the refrigerator include green beans, broccoli, cauliflower and carrots.
Ground beef can be combined with a jar of pasta sauce and poured over pre-cooked and reheated pasta and served with pre-cut salad and whole-wheat bread. A pound of ground beef can be heated in the microwave with a cup of salsa and scooped on a whole-wheat tortilla with cheese and lettuce for a taco dinner. Put a pound of ground beef in a pot with 6 cups of beef bullion, add 2 cups mixed cooked vegetables (carrots, onions, celery, green beans), one jar spaghetti sauce and 1 cup cooked pasta for a hearty winter soup. These recipes can be made in 10 minutes or less.
Cooked chicken breast can be tossed atop lettuce and grated carrots for a light summer salad. Add a chopped green apple for extra crunch. For chicken vegetable pasta, saute 1 lb. cooked chicken breast in 1/2 cup olive oil with 1 tbsp. chopped garlic for 2 minutes. Add 2 cups cooked pasta and 2 cups cooked vegetables. Season with salt, pepper and parmesan cheese.
Pre-cooked pork loin can be served with a thin glaze of apricot jam--put a tablespoon of jam and a teaspoon of vinegar in the bowl when you defrost the pork in the microwave--alongside a serving of brown rice and a salad. Or try chopping the pork loin and filling a warm tortilla with pork and salsa and top it with cheese.
About this Author
Juliet Harpe studied nursing at West Valley College in Saratoga, Calif., and theater arts at DeAnza College in Cupertino, Calif. She researches alternative health therapies and has been manufacturing natural perfumes and aromatherapy products since 2005. Harpe has been writing for various online publications since 2009.