Cooking Dinner on a Busy Schedule

How to make supper healthy and stress-free

from Stealth Health

18. Turn off the television during dinner. A study of 548 students completed at the Harvard School of Public Health found that the more television and videos students watched, the fewer fruits and vegetables they ate. Researchers theorize that television programs and commercials depict unhealthy foods, causing people to reach more often for soft drinks and chips rather than fruits and vegetables. A separate study from the University of Minnesota found television watching during dinner reduced fruit and vegetable consumption during the meal.

19. If your kids won’t eat what you put on their plate, bite your tongue. A study of 277 families completed at the University of Minnesota found that hassling children over their eating habits during dinner actually caused children — and their parents — to eat less nutritionally. Children and their parents consumed more fat during meals when they argued over eating behavior. The stress from the argument may have led to cravings for fatty comfort foods rather than an appetite for brussels sprouts and spinach.

20. Instead of forcing kids to clean their plates, enforce a one-bite rule. Encourage your children to take one bite out of all the foods on their plate. If, after one bite, they still don’t want to eat their spinach or broccoli, let them push it aside. This technique encourages children to try new foods, but doesn’t create a stressful eating experience. Involve young children in preparing any foods you want them to try. The sense of ownership will make them bolder.

21. When out of ideas, serve ready-to-eat cereal. This old bachelor standby provides a multivitamin’s worth of vitamins and minerals, along with some protein in the milk and fiber, if you choose a high-fiber cereal. More important, serving cereal may help the entire family slim down. In a study completed at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, people who ate a bowl of cereal in place of either lunch or dinner consumed an average 640 fewer calories a day and lost an average of four pounds of fat during two weeks. A variation on the cereal theme is to make up a great big bowl of muesli for the whole family, mixing cut-up fruit with low-fat granola or muesli cereal with or without nuts, fat-free plain yogurt, and honey. If you are lucky enough to have leftovers, it’s delicious the next day for the real breakfast.

22. Have breakfast for dinner. A great “breakfast” option for dinner is an omelet. Quick and easy to make, a great protein source, and relatively low in calories. Fill it with veggies instead of cheese, and you’ve got a complete meal in a frying pan!

23. Use parts of last night’s dinner for tonight’s meal. This allows you to cook once and eat twice. For example, if you have roasted chicken one night, use the leftovers to serve up chicken fajitas or chicken salad the next. Similarly, if you make grilled fish one night, try fish tacos the next. Prepare all key protein foods — chicken, turkey, fish, and so on — in larger-than-needed amounts so they will last two nights instead of one. Do the same with rice and other grain side dishes. Serve it up as a regular side dish one night and use the leftovers to make a casserole, stir-fry, or soup the next.