Proven tips to streamline meal prep on busy weeknights
Weekday schedules get crazy, which is why the first casualty of all that chaos is the family dinner.
While most families say eating together is a high priority, day-to-day reality is different. According to a 2013 poll by NPR and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, only half of children in the U.S. are in families that dine together. Yet research cited by the American Academy of Pediatrics shows that children reap many benefits from regular family meals, from improved academic performance to developing a deeper sense of resilience.
But busy families can find time to sit down together more often, says Colleen Burns, a lifestyle expert and spokeswoman for Nestle’s Balance Your Plate program. To be successful, set the intention with good planning and smart strategies. What’s more, these meals can also be delicious and nutritious.
“When you have simple solutions in your toolbox to get those well-balanced and tasty meals on the table in the little time that you have, it lets you establish and keep an important family ritual,” says Burns, who is also a busy mom of six boys. “At the same time, you don’t get burned out, and that’s key to staying motivated and inspired.”
To help you get started, Burns shares her top three simple tips to get delicious and nutritious meals on the table quickly.
Shop the freezer section: When you’re in a time pinch, frozen foods have many offerings that set a good foundation for any home-cooked meal, Burns says. Oftentimes, the quality is just as good as their fresh counterparts, and they eliminate many steps of prep time, whether you’re looking at entrees, veggies or sides. On top of all that, fruits and veggies are flash-frozen, which locks the nutrients in place.
Don’t sacrifice: If you know what to look for when shopping the grocery aisles, you can find convenient entrees and sides without sacrificing taste or quality.
Burns recommends Stouffer’s Macaroni & Cheese as one easy solution that helps you get a great meal on the table. It has ingredients that consumers would use in their own kitchens, such as freshly made pasta, butter, cheddar cheese and milk. Burns likes to serve it as a side to marinated chicken (see recipe below) and roasted seasonal veggies, because it’s a simple solution that makes her and her family feel good about dinner.
Maintain balance: Look to a variety of entrees and sides to bring a nutritional balance as well as delicious flavors to your dinner menu. Burns recommends opting for lean proteins like fish and chicken served with fresh or frozen veggies. Check out her how-to video, https://youtu.be/fKcY-jiTWJg, to learn more.
Marinated Garlic and Lemon Roasted Chicken Drumsticks with Honey Mustard Sauce
- 10 chicken drumsticks
- 1 large lemon zested and juiced
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 whole cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1 pinch each salt and pepper
- Minced parsley for garnish
Honey Mustard Sauce:
- 3 tablespoons melted butter
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1/2 cup mustard
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
In a bowl, mix together lemon juice, zest, olive oil, chopped garlic, paprika, oregano, salt and pepper. Add chicken drumsticks and toss to coat evenly. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. When ready to cook, let chicken come to room temperature for about 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Arrange chicken on oiled foil-lined sheet pan. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes. Flip chicken pieces and cook another 10 minutes until chicken reaches 165 degrees and is no longer pink.
Make sauce in a small bowl by whisking together the mustard and honey. Add water as needed for a workable consistency. With a small pastry brush, brush sauce over chicken and broil 5 minutes until bubbly.
Place chicken pieces on a serving platter and sprinkle minced parsley over all.
Source: Nestle’s Balance Your Plate