Apr 25, 2018, 10:24:29 AM CDT Feb 23, 2023, 3:54:43 PM CST

4 meal planning tips for busy parents

A clinical dietitian shares how meal planning and prep can help keep your family healthy

Siblings prepping veggies for dinner Siblings prepping veggies for dinner

Between work, school schedules and extra-curricular activities, having the time to make a healthy dinner for your family every night can feel impossible. However, a little bit of planning and prep can go a long way in getting a nutritious meal on the table. Otto Santiago, clinical dietitian at Children’s Health℠, shares four tips to help make meal planning easier for busy parents.

  1. Post-shop prep – Getting into the habit of prepping food in advance can save you a lot of time when it comes time to cook. “As a husband and father of a family of seven, one thing we do as soon as we arrive home from the grocery store is cut up all vegetables and produce,” says Santiago. “Let’s say you want to cook a vegetable stir-fry, with the vegetables already cut up, there is one less task you have to think about when feeding your family.” Identify a time that works best for your schedule to prep and package healthy foods and ingredients for later in the week.
  2. Embrace slow and fast cooking – “The crock pot is your friend,” encourages Santiago. Pick your favorite rice, meat, herbs, spices, and veggies and place them in the crock pot early in the morning. The food will cook while you are working or running errands. Nothing beats a meal that is ready to serve when everyone makes it home. You can also try pressure cookers that make a meal in as little as 30 minutes, like the Instant Pot.
  3. Try one new recipe a week or once a month – Preparing a new recipe takes more time and energy, but it also keeps meals at home exciting. Pick a recipe that uses common ingredients. “Check your fridge first, or as I would say, start your shopping at home to see if you have most of the ingredients,” says Santiago. In turn, this will save you money and time at the grocery store.  Who knows, you may even save yourself a trip to the grocery store.
  4. Plan for leftovers – “At home, leftovers are king,” says Santiago. When planning a meal, make enough that you will have leftovers to reheat when you’re in need of a quick option. You can also use leftover ingredients to make a salad or have as a snack.

Making meal planning a part of your weekly routine will make healthy dinners a little less stressful. If you do end up eating out, see these simple tricks to order healthier options from a fast-food or restaurant menu.

Download a free recipe e-book

Looking for easy meal ideas to keep your family healthy? Download 10 Easy and Healthy Weeknight Suppers to receive dietitian-recommended recipes your kids will love.

Learn More

Setting goals and making one healthy choice at a time can help your family on the journey to wellness. Learn more about our pediatric weight management programs and services.

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