Healthy Kids First: This Step Determines if You Can Pull Off 5 Healthy Meals This Week

By Mandy Curry on March 09, 2013 from Healthy Kids First via

Over the last few weeks we have been talking about a few steps that parents can take to pull off dance, sports, work meetings, and still find time for healthy meals.

Step One was to Set the Plan.  The concept was simple.  Spend 10 minutes with the family on Sunday jotting down your activities for the week.  Determine which nights you can actually sit down for a family dinner and which nights are grab-n-go.  Then plan your menu accordingly. 

Step Two was to Meal Plan & Grocery Shop.  If you want to reduce your time in the grocery store, reduce your food waste, and ensure you’re eating healthy meals, this is an important step to put into place. Simply jot down what your family plans to eat for all 5 meals that week.  Then create a shopping list based on the needs for each day’s meals.  Take this with you to the store as a guide- only buying what you need.  Then when you get home, toss the grocery list and post the meal planner as your guide for the week. Yep, it’s just that easy. 

The final step is where the true power lies.  This is what took our family from eating Banquet pot pies, and Spaghetti O’s to dinners full of fresh, healthy ingredients.  Just yesterday I was walking through the grocery store and saw an end cap full of hot pockets.  It was an instant flashback to those days of five-minute dinners.  Frozen chicken nuggets, microwave mac-n-cheese, and canned vegetables.  We never shopped in the produce section EVER.  The only fruit our kids ate was from a packaged product such as applesauce or fruit submerged in a cup of sugary syrup.   

Not knowing what to cook or how to cook were definite obstacles, but not having time was the biggest on my list.  We were begging for energy every night, so the thought of spending an hour in the kitchen was overwhelming.  Little did we know that much of our energy shortage had to do with our diet?

It wasn’t until we started really organizing our meals for the week that everything changed.  Yes, it took about 2 hours of my weekend time to pull it off, but the return was incredible.  That time in the kitchen meant stress free dinners each night- when I needed it the most.  That time in the kitchen meant that I no longer had to choose between convenience and health when it was 5pm and I was too exhausted to cook.  The heavy lifting and planning had already been done for me.   I had found a way to make healthy eating a thoughtless action each night (I call it dummy-proof).  Seriously, it had become just that easy.

So this final step in the process is the true game changer for families.  Simply put, this is where you chop, prep, and package your meals for the week.  I go to the extreme with containers and food savers, but this is because I coach and teach families about this every week.  You don’t need that to get started.  Just a few zip top bags and you’re ready to start. 

Let’s assume we’re making Shrimp Pesto Pasta for dinner.  The ingredient list looks like this:


                        Pesto Pasta Ingredients:

                                   3 cups kale leaves, removed from stems

                                   4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

                                   1/2 cup edamame (shelled)

                                   1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

                                   1/2 tbsp. pine nuts

                                   2 cloves garlic

                                   1 pinch fresh ground black pepper

                                   1 box whole grain thin spaghetti, vermicelli, or other long pasta shape, uncooked


                                   Shrimp Ingredients

                                   1/2 lb. shrimp (21 - 25), peeled and deveined

                                   1/2 tbsp. garlic powder

                                   pinch freshly ground black pepper


You may have followed Steps 1 and 2 and know that this is what you want for dinner, but Monday night comes around and you’ve had a long day at work.  You take a look at the recipe and become overwhelmed by the ingredient list and time it will take you to pull this off. Instantly, you’re thinking of an alternate dish that you could whip up a little quicker (hmm…maybe those hot pockets).  Sound familiar?  Yeah, we’ve all been there. 

So what if you took this a little further and added a Step 3 in the mix?  What if you spent some time on Sunday getting everything ready for this meal?  As soon as you get home from the grocery store, you start organizing this meal.  In 15 minutes, you can have the shrimp thawed, cleaned and in a container.  You grate the Parmesan cheese, measure out the pine nuts and edamame, and prepare the garlic cloves.  You could even go a step further and just make the entire pesto in advance if you want.  All of this can be placed in a plastic container or large zip top bag that’s ready to pull out Monday night.  This means that all you have to do when you get home is simply follow the recipe directions and dinner is now ready in 20 minutes instead of 40. 

Think that would make a difference in your healthy eating efforts?  You bet!  It’s a game changer and something that even the busiest of families can adopt to improve their time in the kitchen. So that’s our final step in the process.  If you want to see it in action, check out this video where I show you exactly how to prep this meal.  Plus you’ll see the Chef’s “how-to” video where you can actually give this dish a try one night.  It’s one of our favorites and oh-so-healthy.  Enjoy!!  

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