You have to pick them both up from school. Then it’s the mad dash to her soccer game, and then right afterward, his swim meet. Once you get home, you’ll need to throw together a quick dinner and somehow allow enough time for homework and a reasonable bedtime.
If you have kids, this may sound like any given weekday. When you’re this busy, it can be challenging to make those hurried meals healthy. It’s not uncommon to find yourself heading for the drive-through in between activities, grabbing a bag of chips from the nearest vending machine, or heating up a frozen pizza once you get home. Unfortunately, foods that are convenient are also likely to be high in calories, fat, sodium and added sugars, while being low in nutrients, vitamins and minerals.
Chances are you know eating this way isn’t great for your health, waistline or energy levels. Nor is it the best example for your children. But you also don’t have time to make home-cooked meals every night.
So, what’s a busy parent to do? Plan and prepare. Thanks to all of your family’s commitments, you’re already an organizing and scheduling pro. It’s time to take that approach with your diet. Here’s how:
Sit down at the start of each week and plan out dinner for each night. Make a list before grocery shopping, take note of the ingredients you already have on hand, and get creative. Double a recipe so you can eat leftovers the next night or use the same food twice. Take extra ground turkey from Monday’s meatballs and use it for Tuesday’s tacos. Have a steamed veggie medley on Wednesday then toss those leftover vegetables into Thursday’s stir-fry.
Consider Ordering Your Groceries Online
Don’t waste your precious time wandering the grocery store aisles and standing in line at the checkout. Your local grocery store may offer online shopping or home delivery options for a one-time fee or yearly subscription. Spend the time you save with this service by prepping food for the week.
Prep Ahead of Time
Carve out some time on the weekend to prepare foods for the week. The more you can do ahead of time, the less you’ll have to do on time-crunched weeknights. Rinse and cut up vegetables so they’re ready to be roasted, or even roast them as part of your food prep. Make big batches of soups, sauces and whole grains, such as rice or quinoa. Roast and slice a whole chicken so you can easily add it to wraps and salads. Portion out the foods you cook into single-serving containers. Then simply reheat and serve as meals during the week.
Stock Your Freezer with Healthy Options
When you’re cooking, double or triple the recipe so you can freeze leftovers. Simply defrost for a ready-to-go meal. Another option is to slice and marinate uncooked lean cuts of meat before freezing it. Once you’re ready to cook the food, simply toss the frozen meat onto a skillet. Serve with veggies and a whole grain for a quick weeknight meal.
Embrace the Slow-Cooker
For fast meals, use a slow-cooker. Dump all of the ingredients into the slow cooker before you leave for the day. When you come home, dinner will be ready.
Promote Your Child to Sous Chef
The more people who help prepare meals, the faster they will come together. Assign age-appropriate tasks to your children. Maybe your youngest sets the table while your oldest prepares the salad.
Bring Along Nutritious Foods
Make sure the on-the-go foods you choose pack a nutritious and vitamin-rich punch. Stock up on healthy snacks and take them with you to afterschool events. This way, you’ll be prepared when hunger strikes. Carry fresh fruit, like apples, bananas and oranges, and single-servings of nuts, whole grain crackers or low-sugar cereals. If you have a small cooler, consider bringing a picnic when your child’s activity overlaps dinner time. Choose foods that are ready-to-serve. Try quinoa salads, grilled chicken wraps and vegetables with hummus.
Be Savvy when it Comes to Fast Food
Even with good planning, there still may be times when you have to stop for fast food. Be sure to read the menu carefully and make healthy choices. Ask for your meat grilled instead of fried, order sandwiches without cheese, substitute fruit or a side salad for French fries, and opt for water over soda or other sweetened beverages.
Although it is intended to be accurate, neither Walgreen Co., its subsidiaries or affiliates, nor any other party assumes for loss or damage due to reliance on this material. Walgreens does not recommend or endorse any specific tests, physicians, products, procedures, opinions, or other information that may be mentioned in the article. Reliance on any information provided by this article is solely at your own risk.
Amy Magill, MA, RD, LDN is Manager of Clinical Programs at Walgreens, where you can find an array of vitamins to help ensure that your family is getting the nutrients they need. Amy loves educating others through her writing about the importance of a healthy diet and lifestyle.
Healthy eating on the go. National Institutes of Health.
Delicious family dinners for weeknights. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. http://www.eatright.org/resource/food/planning-and-prep/cooking-tips-and-trends/delicious-family-dinners-for-weeknights
Healthy meal prep tips for busy parents. Children’s Hospital of Orange County. https://blog.chocchildrens.org/healthy-meal-prep-tips-busy-parents/
Freezing and food safety. United States Department of Agriculture. https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/safe-food-handling/freezing-and-food-safety/CT_Index
Pros and cons of online grocery shopping. Utah State University Extension. http://extension.usu.edu/news_sections/home_family_and_food/pros-cons-online-grocery-shopping