As a parent, it is essential to have easy, quick meal ideas stashed away in our memory. Whether you are a single parent or just walking in the door from work with starving, searching mouths, we need some quick fixes, don’t we mommy and daddy? Here are some meal ideas that will hopefully make your lives a little bit easier. My goal is for you to have a total of three food groups in each “quick meal.” For example: a fruit, vegetable, protein, dairy, or carbohydrate. Each meal should have a complex carbohydrate or a protein. Try some of these ideas that you can have ready ahead of time or pull together quickly:
- Whole grain toast with natural peanut or any nut butter with sliced banana and raisins on top. To make it even more appealing, try arranging the fruit in the shape of a star, heart, smiley face, etc.
- Whole wheat elbow pasta (precooked and kept in fridge) with diced up cheese, a handful of frozen peas, 1 tsp. of butter, microwave, mix and serve.
- Defrosted chicken breast ready to cook. Toss cut up chicken breast in a gallon size zip lock, add milk and bread crumbs then gently pan fry in a small amount of olive oil or bake. Serve with BBQ sauce and some cucumber sticks with their favorite dressing for a healthy, homemade chicken nugget meal.
- Whole grain grilled cheese sticks dipped into ketchup with some green apple slices. (Make a regular grilled cheese and slice into 4 or 5 finger shaped sticks.)
- Smoothie meal, choose from: frozen fruit, milk, yogurt, vegetables, and natural peanut butter, or a spoonful of flax-seed for the grainy properties, blend and serve for a liquid meal; especially for the little ones who are weaning, tired and prefer a liquid drink for comfort in their sippy cup.
- Have items such as boiled potatoes, steamed rice, lean meats or ground beef precooked in the fridge so you can easily put meals together. Serve with some broccoli “trees” dipped in honey mustard or another favorite dressing.
- Utilize dips such as hummus or tzatziki that are loaded with protein. You can cut up some fresh veggie sticks over the weekend to have easily accessible during the week. Add some cream cheese on crackers to make this a complete meal.
- Whole grain wraps with melted cheese, pre-shredded romaine and a mild salsa for an instant taco. You could also add some refried beans or sour cream to this as well.
- Simple snack trays prepared in the morning to easily take out in the evening as a snack before dinner or to use as dinner. Here are some snack tray ideas: cherry tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, baby carrots, strawberries, fresh fruit slices, diced cheese, dried cranberries, raisins, dried apricots, whole grain crackers, pretzels, all natural nut butters, nitrate free ham or deli meats rolled up, ants on a log (celery with peanut butter and raisins lined-up on top), cheese sticks, etc. Arrange in a fun, bite size sampler style.
- Yogurt with fruit and graham crackers to dip.
- Mini homemade pizzas on sandwich flats or any whole grain bread, English muffins, with sauce and shredded cheese. Broil for a few minutes. Let the kids help by adding any or all of their favorite toppings.
- Pita bread filled with tuna and lettuce. Prepare tuna in the morning so it is ready to go when you get home.
- Minute rice (could have this pre-made) with canned beans, rinsed and drained with sour cream and shredded lettuce for a mini burrito salad. Add olives, green onions, salsa or cheese.
- Soups, casseroles, lasagna, one dish meals could be made over the weekends to defrost during the day and then cook in the oven when you get home.
- Utilize your free moments to prep dinners, whether it is cutting up vegetables, defrosting frozen fish/seafood/meats, pre-boiling rice, pastas, quinoa, couscous, precooking grilled chicken, or pork, rinsing and draining beans to add to salad or rice. All of these small tips and steps help you put together meals that you can just grab and create when you get home. I find that if it is in the fridge and ready to go, then that is the recipe for success.
These are just a few quick ideas for a fast, healthy, mini meal without resorting to high fatty, frozen, processed foods. Good luck parents. It is not an easy job!