Top 5 Healthy Family Dinners
Dinner. It can be the most frustrating time of day for most.
What do I cook?
What will everyone like?
How many different meals do I have to cook?
How do I even plan for it?
We are in information overload in today’s society, and when we have recipes coming at us from every direction and all of this information about raising healthy families in our newsfeeds constantly, it can be really easy to get stressed-out and overwhelmed.
Let’s start small. In America, dinner is the most important family time of the day. It historically has been the time of day when everyone sits down at the table together for the first time all day and talks about their days.
It’s also historically been the biggest meal of the day. We spend a TON of time in the kitchen preparing multi-course meals for our families, as if every dinner is a big event.
However, family meals are on the decline in recent years. A 2016 study showed that nearly HALF of all American families say that they eat together less now than they did 5 years ago. Could it be the stress of meal time? Could it be that instead of putting in the effort, we choose the easy way out?
This puts a lot of undue stress on meal time. So let’s break it down.
First of all, do what’s best for your family. If everyone can sit down to one meal a week, that’s good! We lead such busy lives today, putting the pressure of having a sit down family meal every day on top of it is excessive. Aim lower, if it fits your family’s lifestyle. Maybe you have Sunday dinners. Maybe for your family Friday is the day that works best. Maybe it’s different every week. Stop stressing about getting everyone to the table at the same time every day. Instead focus on making family meal time a priority once or twice a week and then make it big. Maybe have dinner and game night. Maybe go for a hike and end at your fave family restaurant. Take the pressure off. It’s not worth it.
Second, dinner should actually be your SMALLEST meal of the day. While it should still incorporate a LOT of veggies, a LITTLE bit of protein, and some complex carbs and a little bit of healthy fat, you should be eating your meal off of a salad plate at dinner time, not an AMERICAN SIZED DINNER PLATE. This will give your body the energy that it needs to work through the detoxification process overnight and will lead to so many great benefits. Weight loss. Uninterrupted sleep. Clear mornings. You get the point. Stop stressing yourself out trying to make giant family meals every night after you’ve worked all day. It’s unnecessary, and it’s not all that important.
That all being said, having a couple of tried and true meals up your sleeve for family dinner night is key to reducing your stress around meal time. Here are my top 5 go to healthy(ish) dinners for family dinner nights.
DIY PIZZA. This is a staple in our house EVERY.SINGLE.WEEK. Grab a couple of pre-made pizza crusts (Trader Joe’s has a SLAMMIN frozen cauliflower pizza crust!), put a few bowls on the table, and let your family get busy making their own personal pizzas. Throw them in the oven for 10-15 minutes and get excited about pizza night again. I like to put out organic low-fat cheeses, all different veggies, and we get an organic pizza sauce again at Trader Joe’s. The hubby likes pepperoni, so I make sure to get the good stuff. To save yourself time and energy on a weeknight, chop those veggies up on the weekend and store them in an airtight container. Then just pop the top off and put it on the table when it’s time to assemble! Mangiamo!
TACO BAR. This one is my kids’ favorite. Brown or grill some organic grass-fed meat (or broil some veggies) and assemble a taco bar. Put out chopped up veggies (lettuce, tomato, olives), pre-shredded cheese, nonfat Greek yogurt, avocado, hot sauce, and corn taco shells. Again, let everyone MAKE THEIR OWN! So quick and easy (and nutritious and delicious!). To save time and energy on a weeknight, chop the veggies on the weekend. Here’s the taco seasoning recipe that I use, which you can make once and then use multiple times!
CROCKPOT BURRITO BOWL. This one literally could NOT get any easier. Put about a pound of organic chicken breasts into your crockpot. Cover it with a jar of organic salsa. Cook on low for 8 hours. Remove the chicken from the crockpot and shred (use the paddle attachment on your Kitchenaid mixer, or 2 forks). Put over brown rice with shredded cheese, beans, corn, avocado, and salsa. Squeeze a little bit of lime juice over the whole bowl for a little freshness! Again, you can make the corn salsa ahead of time, cook the rice, buy pre-shredded cheese.
BREAKFAST FOR DINS. Think omelettes. Pancakes. Waffles. Smoked salmon. All of the above. So easy - so delicious and nutritious! We really need to break up with this notion that certain foods are meant for specific meal times. For your omelettes, chop up some veggies. Put some sautéed spinach and smoked salmon over quinoa with potatoes and grilled mushrooms. Breakfast casserole with eggs, cheese, bacon, and hash browns. Quiche. Pizzarustica (which you can make ahead of time and freeze). Chicken and Waffles, people! To save time, buy organic frozen waffles or pancakes, cook the quinoa or rice ahead of time, and buy packaged smoked salmon in the bacon section.
PASTA NIGHT. We need to stop believing that pasta is EVIL. The Devil is in the portion size. And there are so many other things that you can make now. Lentil pasta. Chickpea pasta. Spaghetti squash. Zoodles. You can buy zoodles pre-made or even frozen. Mix whole wheat noodles WITH zoodles or spaghetti squash. And don’t be scared of spaghetti squash. You can poke a few holes in that baby, slap it in your Instant Pot, and 20 minutes later you just carve the warm noodles out of the flesh. And don’t feel so much pressure to make sauce from scratch. On a weeknight, get yourself a jar of organic sauce and call it a day! Keep your pasta portion size to 4 oz and load up on veggies. Sprinkle a little bit of cheese, and skip the bread. You’ve got this!
Alright, Fam. Now all of my secrets have been revealed. While I do really enjoy cooking from scratch and being in the kitchen, I also value my time and know that if we want to be a busy and active family, some days something’s gotta give. My favorite saying is, FED IS BEST. Every meal does not have to be a gourmet meal. You are not winning at life just because you are killing yourself in the kitchen. Get out of your own way. Buy a jar of sauce. Let your family help you. It’s not always the giant fancy meals that you have sweated over that everyone remembers. Sometimes it’s the simple and fun ones. And the most important thing is the communication and bonding that is happening over the meal — even if it’s terrible.
And if you need a little bit of help, you know where to find me!
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