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Tips for Quick and Healthy Dinners

September is the month everything changes. Kids go back to school, your office is starting to look at end of year wrap-ups, and everyone has an activity you need to keep track of.

With all that goes on it can be hard to focus on getting a quick and healthy dinner on the table. Here is a reminder of some tips we’ve all seen at some point. They are so simple we often forget them, but they can help us save precious time and save us from feeling the guilt of not serving up something nutritious:

Plan Ahead:CalorieKing Blog Crock Pot

  • Plan your weekly dinners the weekend prior, and use your recipes to make a shopping list to make sure you have everything on hand.
  • Check your pantry for regularly used items like canned tomatoes, pasta, canned tuna, rice and the like. This way you won’t start a recipe and realize you’re out of a staple item. Doing an inventory once a month to itemize what you need and check for expired items.
  • Make sure you keep the week’s recipes handy; just having everything in place will help things go faster. Read through them to be clear on how to put everything together, identify shortcuts and even things that can be prepped in advance.

Prepare Ahead:

  • Use the weekends to pre-prepare items that help with weekly cooking. Some tips include:
    • Prepare larger meals like lasagna or chili that will freeze well. Cut into portions that can be pulled out for one night’s dinner and you’ll still have another serving to pull out for another day.
    • Cooking rice and adding a little oil to prevent sticking; these can freezing in bags for four months.
    • Chop up or dice fresh veggies, place on a tray and freeze until firm. Divide into freezer bags you can pull out and use any time.
    • Dice carrots, onions, and celery in small pieces and freeze in sandwich bags. These veggies are the base of many soups, stews and casseroles and pre-preparation saves you time!
    • Chop up fresh herbs and place them in ice cube trays with olive oil; pull out a cube whenever you need to do a sauté.

Embrace Your Appliances:

  • Remember your microwave! Use it whenever possible to defrost and reheat items pre-prepared in the freezer. It saves more time than heating up the oven or stovetop.
  • Consider a crock-pot. These slow cookers are becoming extremely popular as a healthy timesaver. Simply throw your ingredients in before you leave for work and the slow cooking will have your meal ready when you come home!

Last Minute Miracles:

  • We are all busy and if you can’t pre-prepare fresh vegetables remember there is no shame in using canned or frozen items to save time. Just check your labels for hidden sodium!
  • Freeze leftovers from your dinner; you may not want a dish two days in a row but it is welcome a few days later and it saves you having to do anything but reheat!
  • Hit up the salad bar. If you’ve gone out to lunch or you have a salad bar near your work fill up an extra take away box with the salad items your family loves and now you have an instant salad!

We hope some of these tips will help you with the ongoing struggle of time versus healthy living! There are so many great ideas to planning and preparing quick and easy meals out there. In addition to our recipes, we’ll leave you with a few resources we found amongst the thousands of helpful recipe and food planning websites out there.

CalorieKing Recipe Guide

USDA Food Preparation & Cooking

Eating Well: Four Tips to Cooking Dinner Faster

AllRecipes: Quick and Easy Dinners

iVillage: 40 Quick Dinner Ideas

CookingLight: Quick and Healthy Dinner Ideas