As parents, we’re assigned the task of fulfilling our family’s nutritional needs. The way we approach nutrition influences their dietary habits for most of their lives. So… no pressure right?!
With the prevalence of so many chronic diseases rooted in malnutrition and bad diet, we have to address this challenge seriously. My kids, like many others, have developed a preference for sugary, salty, highly processed foods. Which means I am always on the look-out for new ways to get them eating healthier. Without turning mealtimes into a war zone arguing about eating their vegetables.
Most of the time, we lack inspiration or motivation to get going. To help steer you in the right direction, I’ve put together some breakfast, lunch and dinner options for the whole family. Plus a few tips to make healthier eating achievable every day. I’ve also given you one of my favourite recipes.
Healthy meals can be easily accomplished by being organised and planning ahead.
You can usually bash out a meal in under 40 minutes! So, don’t be deterred assuming it’s time-consuming. Cooking your own food gives you the opportunity to create nutrient-dense meals and helps you control the sugar, salt, fat and calorie content.
Firstly, have a basic larder of ingredients stocked in your fridge and pantry; this makes it easier to put together a healthy meal.
Plan the following day’s meals and prep lunch boxes the night before.
If weekday mornings are a rush out the door, use mason/jam jars to make ‘on the go’ porridge/fruit cups such as overnight oats, yoghurt, and muesli parfait or a smoothie bowl; or you could bake frittatas in muffin tins and take them with you. Most of these breakfast options can be prepared ahead of time and stored, so you always have healthy options on hand.
· Scrambled eggs on a ciabatta roll.
· Soft boiled egg with toast soldiers.
· Frittata muffins. Have a look at this yummy recipe for veggie frittatas muffins.
· Yoghurt & muesli parfait with fresh strawberries, blueberries, a drizzle of honey.
· Cooked (not instant) oats topped with peanut butter, sliced banana, cinnamon, and honey.
· Baked blueberry oatmeal.
· Smoothie bowls. (TIP: slice ripe bananas and freeze in a ziplock bag)
· Jamie Oliver’s Perfect Porridge
· Pancakes with homemade berry coulis, fruit, mascarpone, and honey.
· French toast with an oat crumb, fruit, raisins and maple syrup.
· Fruit skewers – use a wooden skewer to thread different coloured fruit together e.g. blueberries, grapes, pineapple, strawberries etc.
· Cherry tomatoes and cheese cubes.
· Carrot and cucumber sticks with hummus.
· Dried fruit and nuts, popcorn, low salt biltong shavings
· Cut sandwiches into fun shapes with cookie cutters.
· Cucumber and cream cheese ‘sushi’ rolls using flattened, rolled out bread strips.
· Pasta rice with mixed veg.
· Tuna, mayo, corn and cucumber on low GI bread.
· Sweetcorn and zucchini fritters with guacamole.
· Beef Shwarma – cut pita in half and add cubed beef, cucumber and some salad greens with hummus.
· Whole wheat wraps with sliced chicken fillet and salad greens.
· Homemade banana bread.
· Tuna and pasta baked muffin cups.
· Sweet potato, corn & pea samosa triangles in phyllo pastry.
Are you looking for more lunchbox ideas? Have a look at this.
Family Friendly Dinners
Keep it simple; children do not like complex flavours. Do make meals colourful; look at the meal from your child’s perspective and add elements that make it appealing and fun for them to eat. Don’t overcook veggies so they retain their nutritional value and brightness which tends to be more attractive to eat. Cook meals that you can enjoy together as a family. Practice ‘meatless Mondays’ by cooking only vegetarian dishes on Mondays.
· Egg stir-fried rice with mixed vegetables.
· Home-made chicken schnitzel with baked sweet potato wedges and green beans.
· Spaghetti with simple Napolitano sauce. (Sneak finely chopped veggies into the sauce).
· Chicken kebab skewers (see recipe below) served on couscous with green peas.
· Mexican Burrito bowls composed of steamed rice, black/kidney beans, grilled corn, tomato salsa, sliced avocado, topped with a few taco crisps to add crunch.
· Honey and soy chicken served on steamed rice with a cucumber and cherry tomato salad on the side.
· Salmon/Hake fish fingers with mash potatoes and peas.
· Falafel in pita bread filled with greens and served with home-made hummus.
(Extra) Funky Sides
· Maple syrup and cinnamon roasted butternut
· Roasted carrots
· Grilled corn on the cob
· Sweet potato fries (baked in the oven)
· Gem squash filled with corn, topped with cheese and grilled for a couple of minutes in the oven.
· Butternut and polenta ‘chips’
· Parmesan grilled Asparagus
Keeping it simple in the week means you have more time for everything else! If you enjoy cooking (and you may find once you’re inspired that you do), you can cook more complex meals over the weekend and experiment a little. I like to cook veggies in batches on a Sunday and toss them into my weekday dishes which saves me prep time.
Pinterest is my go-to for recipe inspiration, you can find almost anything there. But I absolutely love Jamie Oliver’s ‘15 Minute Meals’ and ‘Super Food Family Classics’. They’re fantastic examples of how you can cook up a nutritious healthy meal easily and quickly using basic ingredients.
One Of My Family Favourite Recipes
Rainbow Chicken Skewers
4-5 boneless chicken fillets, cut into cubes
Add-ins of your choice such as:
Red onion, red/green pepper, pineapple, courgette, potato or whole baby tomatoes.
Teriyaki Style Basting Sauce
1 tsp minced garlic
½ tsp ground ginger
1/3 cup soy sauce
¼ cup of orange juice
3 Tbsp honey
3 Tbsp good quality Olive Oil
3 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
1. Soak the skewers in water while you prep the chicken and veggies.
2. Prepare the basting sauce by whisking all the ingredients together in a bowl.
3. Set aside ½ the sauce.
4. Marinate chicken fillets for at least 20 mins in the other ½ of the basting sauce (you can use a ziplock bag for this).
5. Cut the veggies/pineapple into pieces roughly the same size as the chicken (bite size).
6. Remove the skewers from the water and thread the veggies, pineapple, and chicken onto them in whichever order you prefer e.g. red onion, chicken, pineapple, red pepper, chicken, courgette, chicken etc.
7. Grill the skewers on a griddle pan, braai or in the oven for 5 – 7 minutes a side, basting with the remaining sauce as it cooks.
8. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds (optional) and fresh coriander.
9. Serve with steamed rice and a sweet chili soy sauce on the side.
*To make this a vegetarian dish sub chicken fillet with firm tofu that you have drained and cut into cubes. Marinate the tofu the same way as you would the chicken fillet.
I hope you like my healthy meal ideas. If you want to know more about eating better as a family please have a look at my blog post 7 Ways To Start Eating Healthier As A Family Today.
Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram here. I post about my healthy lifestyle and the occasional treat.