Dinner is probably the healthiest meal for most of us. We often overlook breakfast and eat lunch on the run, but for dinner, most of us take more time in preparing and planning how to eat a balanced, healthy dinner.
But there’s also a lot of pressure on dinner. It’s the last meal of the day and if you are lacking important nutrients in your diet that day, you have an opportunity to make up those nutrients in your evening meal. But you don’t want your meal too heavy or you might not sleep well. Conversely, eating too little will not only likely leave you lacking in nutrients, but could also leave you ravenous for breakfast 12 hours later.
So how do you make sure dinner is a balanced, nutrient-packed meal? Plan, and plan some more. Although we are more likely to spent time preparing dinner versus other daily meals, it’s also a meal that can easily get derailed. You plan to grill chicken breasts and vegetables, but then belatedly remember your son has a baseball game or it’s open house at school. So it’s chicken nuggets all around.
Planning keeps you in synch with your schedule. If you plan a week’s worth of meals, you can think about the various obstacles you might find that week in actually bringing your plans to fruition. You can plan a quick pasta salad on open house night, and healthy, veggie-packed sandwiches on baseball night. This keeps you out of the fast food lane.
What are some other tips for planning healthy dinners?
*Don’t cook separate meals for picky children. If you know that your salmon and sautéed spinach will also result in you making mini hot dogs and fries for the kids, you might rethink it, not having the time or energy to make two completely separate meals. Then you suffer, and they do as well. It’s important to expose your children to a variety of foods, so make the salmon and spinach. Be sure to offer applesauce, whole wheat bread and some fruit. Then everyone gets a healthy meal and your children just might surprise you by actually eating some of the “adult” meal.
*On weeknights, stay away from involved meals. Think of things that can be prepared in less than 45 minutes, though it’s ideal to keep your meal prep to 30 minutes whenever possible.
*Do as much prep as you can ahead of time. If you’re planning grilled chicken and vegetables for dinner, say, then you can clean and slice your vegetables in the morning before you head out for the day. Marinate the chicken. In the evening, all that’s left is tossing a quick bag salad and grilling your meat and vegetables. This saves on clean-up time as well.
*If you must eat out, apply the golden rules for restaurant eating: Stay away from white or heavy sauces, order oil and vinegar to dress your salad, and eat only half the entrée, pack the rest and enjoy it for lunch the next day.