The age-old question … what’s for dinner?
In the last 9 years as a Registered Dietitian, I have noticed that the one meal each day people struggle with the most is dinner. Why? Here are some of the common responses I receive:
- No time– too busy rushing around with work/kids/extracurricular activities
- Don’t want to just cook for 1 or 2 people
- Don’t know how to cook/I am not good at cooking
- Too many picky eaters at home… and many more.
But the fact is, it is MUCH LESS expensive and MORE healthy to eat at home than anywhere else. If you sit down once a week and plan your dinner meals, you are more likely to stick to your menu decreasing any chance of you ordering last-minute take out food.
Not only is it less expensive to eat at home, but it also has some other great benefits as well!
- You consume less sodium, fat, sugar and overall calories when eating at home.
- Family dinners are more important than play, story time and other family events in the development of vocabulary of younger children.
- Frequent family meals are associated with a lower risk of smoking, drinking and using drugs in preteens and teens ages 11 to 18.
- Adolescent girls who have frequent family meals and a positive atmosphere during those meals are less likely to develop eating disorders.
- Children who eat most often with their parents are 40 percent more likely to say they get mainly As and Bs in school than children who have two or fewer family dinners a week.
- Dinner with family can be a stress reliever. Believe it or not, if you have a demanding job, finding time to eat with your family may actually leave you feeling less stressed.
Tips for dinner meal planning:
- Sit down once a week with your calendar to see what nights you will be at home to make dinner and what evenings you need to have something quick and easy to go (grilled chicken wraps with fruit)!
- Shop the sale ads on the weekends to plan which proteins you will have that week with dinner.
- Start with your protein first, then figure out your sides (add a whole grain starch and some veggies to each dinner).
- Prep ahead when you can. Example: When making kids lunches at night, I boil my noodles and brown my ground turkey to make a pasta bake for the next night. All I have to do is throw in the oven when I get home from work.
- Cook once, eat twice! This is my motto! Example from earlier; if I brown my turkey tonight, I may season some turkey and make into patties for the next night. Make your life as easy as you can!
- Salmon or tilapia patties
- 1 sweet potato per person
- Steamer bag of green beans
- Salad with light dressing
- Precooked grilled chicken breast strips (or place a few fresh chicken breasts, can of green chilis and jar salsa in slow cooker for 6 weeks and shred)
- Low carb tortilla
- 2% Low fat cheese, heat in skillet or microwave
- Grilled veggies or heat up corn and beans
By Kelly Devine Rickert, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN
Registered Dietitian/Health Coach, Franciscan WELLCARE