After a long day at work, with your kids, after-school activities and errands, getting dinner on the table is probably the last thing you want to do. You don’t want to go through the fast food drive-through or order a pizza, but how can you and your family eat healthy when you have no time to cook?
I totally get it. With a full-time job and this blog, two young kids, a husband who works long hours including weekends, and a household to run, I don’t have a lot of time to cook. Although I’m not pulling off gourmet dinners every night, my family still eats dinner together every night and we still eat healthy. Here are 8 of my secrets.
1. Stock your kitchen with healthy options
When your refrigerator and pantry are filled with healthy food staples, you don’t have to spend a lot of time cooking. Keep salad, cut-up raw vegetables, beans, tuna or canned salmon and nuts and seeds on hand to assemble quick and healthy dinners.
2. Cook ahead of time
Take an hour on the weekends to cut up fruits and vegetables including onions and garlic and put them in glass containers or bags to save time during the week. Cook vegetables, rice, quinoa and other healthy grains and hard-boiled eggs ahead of time or double a recipe put half of it in the freezer for a quick meal when time is tight.
3. Buy food that’s already prepped
Instead of wasting time slicing, dicing and chopping, pick up chopped mirepoix, pre-cut or spiralized vegetables, shredded Brussels sprouts or cauliflower “rice.” Sure, it might cost more, but it will save you time in the kitchen.
4. Make breakfast for dinner
Who says a healthy dinner has to include traditional dinner foods? One way to eat healthy when you have no time to cook is to make breakfast foods instead. Scramble eggs, make a quick frittata with leftover veggies and add a side of fruit or make a yogurt parfait and dinner is done.
5. Use your appliances
Use a food processor to quickly chop vegetables and herbs, blend ingredients in the Magic Bullet, and throw all of your ingredients into the slow cooker or Instant Pot for quick and easy dinners.
6. Make a list of healthy take-out options
Instead of hitting the fast-food drive-through or ordering curbside take-out from your favorite restaurant, have a list of restaurants that have healthy take-out options. Ordering Chinese? Opt for egg drop soup and steamed chicken and broccoli with the sauce on the side.
7. Score at the supermarket
Most grocery stores have plenty of healthy, grab-and-go options or buffets with like broth-based soups, cooked vegetables, sushi, ready-made salads, grilled chicken and quiche.
8. Use your freezer
When it comes to eating healthy and getting dinner on the table fast, your freezer is your best friend. Instead of buying frozen meals which are usually high in calories, fat and sodium, make meals ahead of time that can be defrosted and re-heated in a pinch. I make large batches of bean burgers that I re-heat for lunches and dinners.
9. Have a buffet night
If you have a mishmash of various leftovers, put out a buffet and let everyone make up a plate. Fill out the meal by making a large salad or a side of quinoa, for example.
10. Get help
I recognize that cooking doesn’t interest some men, but if your partner is willing and home in time, ask him to cook some of the meals or at least help out. Getting your kids to help out in the kitchen may even prevent picky eating and motivate them to try new foods. Kids as young as 4 can help pour, stir, mix or press the on switch to a blender.