Back to school means back to a busy schedule and most families will scramble at some point trying to get a healthy meal on the table.
Registered Dietitian Amanda Frankeny says there are a few ways to make the transition easier and planning ahead helps.
“My top tip is to prepare ahead of time,” she explains. “Make a dish over the weekend and make extra to have for the week or put in the freezer.”
Forget the oven or stovetop, utilize your crockpot for easy meals.
In most cases, crockpot recipes are just “dump and go” meals and if you double the recipe, you can save it for later in the week or freeze it for another week.
Frozen meals will save for up to three months and could also save you money. Here are tips on freezing meals from the PA Nutrition Education Network.
Frankeny says you can also save time by planning lunch for the week.
She says a portable, perfectly portioned, is a salad inside a mason jar.
To compose, start by putting dressing or salsa at the bottom of the jar, then layer fruits and vegetables of your choosing. Next, a protein — like chicken or cheese, then grains (croutons or pasta). The top layer is your favorite greens for crunch.
You can prepare the jars at once and have multiple meals for the week.
Frankeny says many times families often come to her concerned about getting everyone at every age the proper nutrition.
“Sometimes parents worry about choosy eaters, concerned about their child eating all of the same food groups and not getting enough nutrition,” says Frankeny.
She explains that if your child is eating a balanced meal, you don’t have to worry as much about day to day variety.
Also, if you have a child that will only eat vegetables with sauce on top… that’s okay.
“As long as they’re eating the nutrient-dense food, like broccoli or chicken, they’re getting the nutrition,” says Frankeny. “Plus, extra calories from those sauces (cheese, ranch, BBQ, ketchup) for their growing bodies.”
And if you have a child that doesn’t eat a lot, Frankeny says look at their hands.
“Little tummies are about the size of their fist so if you’re regularly worried they’re not eating enough, think of that size portion,” she suggests.
If a homemade meal just isn’t in the cards, Frankeny shared a tip for eating out.
“If we consider a burger at a restaurant, often half is necessary. Have the fries but about a handful and add a side salad for veggies,” she says.
For meal portion sizes for the whole family, click here.
If you’re looking for a new crockpot recipe to try, Frankeny shared a recipe for Crock-Pot Thai Peanut Chicken:
Crock-Pot Thai Peanut ChickenAmanda Frankeny, RDN, LDN
· 2 cloves garlic, minced (or ¼ teaspoon garlic powder)
· 2/3 cup peanut butter (or 2/3 cup of any nut butter or seed butter)
· 1 cup chicken broth
· 1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
· 1/3 cup soy sauce
· 1 teaspoon sugar
· 1 cup zucchini, chopped into half-inch cubes
· 1 red pepper, cut into thin strips
· 1 tablespoon lime juice (or 1 tablespoon of any variety of vinegar)
· 1 cup chopped cilantro
· chopped peanuts for garnish (optional)
· 2 cups cooked brown rice or quinoa
1. Add garlic, peanut butter, broth, chicken, soy sauce, sugar, zucchini, red pepper, and lime juice to slow cooker. Stir to combine.
2. Cook on low for 4-5 hours or on high for 2-3 hours.
3. A half hour before you are going to serve, add in ½ cup of cilantro.
4. Top rice or quinoa with chicken and vegetables.
5. Garnish with remaining cilantro and peanuts.
Preparing freezer meal:
1. If you choose to freeze, place all ingredients, except for the peanuts and rice or quinoa into a zip-top freezer bag.
2. Press all the air out of the bag, and seal.
3. Label with the current date and crock-pot instructions.
4. Then, freeze until ready for use.
5. When ready to prepare, dump all the contents into your slow cooker.
6. Cook on low for 4-5 hours or on high for 2-3 hours.
7. Top rice or quinoa with chicken and vegetables.
8. Garnish with peanuts.