Between busy mornings getting yourself and your family ready for the day and working all day to get your to-do list done at work and home, fitting in healthy meals and snacks can be a challenge. Here are 5 quick tips from nutrition Expert Staci Gulbin to set you on the right track for your busy week ahead!

It can be a daily struggle to find healthy family meals that will please every palate at your dinner table.  However, these challenges can be tackled with a bit of planning, scheduling, and creative thinking.

Use these 5 simple tips to fit healthy meals and snacks into your family schedule:

1. Take 15 minutes to plan your dinner meals for the week.

Just 15 minutes at the start of each week, is all that you need to plan a protein, veggie, and fiber-rich side such as wild or brown rice, sweet potatoes, or whole-grain bread for your dinner meals.  Use this plan to create a grocery list to help ensure you have healthy foods on hand at all times to create healthy meals.

2. Keep a running grocery list.

It can be hard to eat healthy if you do not have healthy foods on hand. Therefore, as soon as you run out of something you need to prep your healthy meals and snacks, jot it down on a running list. The next time you run to the store, this list will let you know what healthy foods you need. If you stick to buying only the foods on this list, it can prevent mindless purchases of convenience foods and snacks you crave, and in turn save you from falling into unhealthy habits.

3. Use post-dinner time to prep healthy meals and snacks. 

Once the dinner dishes are cleared, and you are still standing in the kitchen, just take an extra 15 minutes to wash and slice some fresh fruit for lunches, marinate some chicken or fish for tomorrow’s dinner, or portion out some nuts, dried fruit, or lightly salted popcorn for snacks.

4. Use weekends for meal prep.

Just an hour on a weekend day will be enough time to pre-cook family dishes for the week’s dinner meals.  Bake some chicken, pan-cook some lean ground beef or turkey, or steam some brown rice or veggies to save you time during the week.  Pack your cooked foods in freezer-safe containers so they can be stored away until you are ready to use them.  Reheating your pre-cooked foods in the oven or microwave is a much healthier option then ordering take-out or fast food.

5. Modify family favorites to make healthy eating fun.

For taco night, use lean or grilled meats, whole-grain tortilla shells, and fresh raw or sautéed veggies. For pizza night, use whole grain wraps for your crust, freshly sliced tomatoes instead of sugary tomato sauce, part-skim mozzarella cheese, and turkey pepperoni. For spaghetti night, swap pasta for spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles and add volume to sauce with mixed veggies and lean proteins.  Simple swaps like these can make healthy eating enjoyable for the whole family.


Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN is a Portland-based Registered Dietitian with a licensed private practice in Oregon and Maryland. Staci focuses on helping others be confident in the choices they make and to value themselves enough to make healthier decisions, even in moments where family and work life can be overwhelming. 

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