In our society, the ball most often dropped is home cooking. “No time!” is one of the most common reasons given for not preparing healthy homemade meals. In fact, on any given night, only 70 per cent of Canadians are making and eating dinner at home.
Although they are quick and tasty, fast foods, restaurant meals and heat-and-eat convenience foods often contain too much fat and salt (sodium) and are low in dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals. So don’t abandon the kitchen! There are better ways to eat well and stay healthy – in spite of your family’s hectic schedule.
Planned-overs involve preparing extra food or ingredients for one dinner that you can use a day or two later to create an entirely new meal (unlike leftovers, the same meal reheated a day or two later). The beauty of planned-overs is that it takes the same amount of time to cook enough rice, chicken or vegetables for two meals as it does for one. Even clean-up time is the same! Preparing these same foods or ingredients with a new twist a couple of days later keeps both you and your family happy.
Keep a supply of partially prepared foods on hand to use for quick meals. These foods are convenient and equally nutritious.
Pasta salad for lunch – Cook extra pasta for supper and make a pasta salad for lunch the next day. Add drained, canned black beans, frozen mixed vegetables (any variety you like) and your favourite low-calorie salad dressing.
Handy veggies - Next time you are preparing vegetables for a meal or salad on the weekend, cut extra and keep them in the fridge. Sliced cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes and onions are great to have on hand to use in salads and sandwiches during the week.
Fresh-baked cookies – Who doesn’t love homemade cookies fresh from the oven? If you are baking cookies, make a double batch of dough. Bake half and freeze the rest. On a day when you are using the oven for a meal, take the dough out of the freezer in the morning. While you are making supper, the kids can spoon thawed dough onto cookie sheets. Bake the cookies in the oven along with your supper dish. You now have a special dessert and snacks for the next day.
To have a cook-a-thon, simply make bigger batches of food and several dishes at one time and freeze them for meals later in the week or month. (See the Amazing Beef Cook-a-Thon recipes below).This is another time-saving strategy for preparing healthy meals for your family.
One Week of Planned-Over Meals
|Cook or prepare (chop, shred and cut) twice the amount of the foods or ingredients marked * as you would use in one meal. Then, use the extra food or ingredient marked ** in a new meal. For instance, bake enough salmon* on Monday to feed your family for two meals. The extra baked salmon will be used in the salmon** rotini with pesto on Wednesday. For nutritionally complete meals, serve milk. Finish with fruit that is either fresh, frozen, canned or dried.|
|Baked Salmon *
Cut carrots into sticks.* Steam until tender-crisp. Drizzle with a small amount of maple syrup.
Mix steamed rice** with rinsed, canned black beans, chopped tomato* and chili powder. Heat in microwave, then spoon onto flour tortillas. Sprinkle with shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese* and fold.
Sauté sliced onion and red pepper in olive oil. Add chunks of baked salmon** and cooked rotini pasta. Mix in capers and pesto.
Steamed frozen green beans with slivered almonds.
Green salad made with Romaine lettuce*, chopped tomato**, cucumber slices and sliced red onion.*
|Grilled Chicken Breast
Lightly sauté minced garlic in olive oil. Add cooked linguini** and reheat. Sprinkle with Italian dried herb seasoning.
|Easy deluxe pizza
Spread meat sauce** over store-made pizza crust. Sprinkle generously with shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese** and top with sliced red onion,** green pepper and sliced black olives and bake.
Caesar salad made with Romaine lettuce.**
Cook a roast beef or chicken that is large enough for two meals. Plan to use the extra beef or chicken in meals during the next week.
Make juggling life’s many demands easier. Give planned-overs and an occasional cook-a-thon a try! You will soon find yourself thinking about how to spend the extra time and energy you will have. Perhaps you can put your feet up and relax, or go for a refreshing walk before supper.
Recommended reading: Simply Great Food is available in all stores where cookbooks are sold. Visit www.dietitians.ca or more information on this book and other tidbits on Eat Well, Live Well.