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How can I make healthy meals for my child when I have a busy schedule?

This is a dilemma that so many busy parents have! A trick that has work for me for years is to "cook once, and eat twice". For example, make large dinners such as stews, meatballs, casseroles, or a large turkey breast on the weekends and plan to make enough for leftovers for another meal during the week. 

If you make huge portions at your Saturday and Sunday dinners, you are off the hook for cooking at least two meals during the week! When you do cook during week, again, make extras for another meal later in the week.
Doreen Rodo
Nutrition & Dietetics
If you know that you are going to be busy, plan your meals ahead of time and make sure that you have the necessary ingredients. Limit the types of meals you make to those that are simple. Try the following:
  • Homemade soups/stews/chili -- you can put the ingredients in the crockpot in the morning and they will be done by supper.
  • Make meat pockets -- take ground meat, light cheese, beans and place on a tortilla shell -- wrap with foil and bake at 350 degrees until thoroughly heated.
  • Make large batches of any meal that you serve and freeze half for another time.
  • If you have to have fast food -- go to Subway and choose the healthiest options. Avoid fries and fried foods at burger restaurants. Choose a single burger with a side of fruit or a salad.
  • Cook off large amounts of chicken or other meat, separate and freeze. Pull out and use for a quick stir fry or casserole.
Cheryl Tallman
Nutrition & Dietetics
Here are few time-saving tips for healthy homemade meals:

Make meals in large quantities, in advance, and freeze them ice cube trays or small plastic containers. When it’s time for a meal, simply defrost a few food cubes or a small container.

Some toddler meals that freeze well are:
  • Whole wheat macaroni and cheese with tomatoes and peas
  • Ground beef (or firm tofu), spaghetti sauce, and whole-wheat elbow macaroni
  • Burrito filling made from beans and mild enchilada sauce. Defrost a roll up in a flour tortilla.
  • Hash brown potatoes with chopped broccoli or spinach. Defrost and serve with melted cheese on top.
Have no-hassle healthy snacks on hand at all times.
  • Frozen veggies (peas, carrots, green beans) -- a small handfuls cooks up quickly
  • Fresh fruits (blueberries, peaches, strawberries, grapes) -- avoid hard fruits (unless they are cooked), and cut the fruits into small pieces; grapes should be quartered.
  • Whole-grain cereals (puffed wheat, cheerios)
  • Rice cakes and whole-grain crackers
  • Yogurt
  • Semi-hard cheeses (cheddar, Jack, provolone) cut into cubes or thin slices
Bake healthy foods for your family. Most baked goods freeze great and defrost quickly. Freeze some of your homemade treats.
  • Make cookies with real fruit or fruit juice. Do not make large cookies; keep them small. For toddlers, two cookies are much better than one, no matter what the size.
  • Add shredded carrots or zucchini or pureed pumpkin to muffins and sweet breads. Consider buying a mini muffin pan or slice the quick bread loaf in half lengthwise and then slice it into pieces.
  • Bake bread with whole-wheat flour.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.