Studies show that families who sit down to regular meals together tend to eat better. Like most Canadians, you're probably juggling work and family life, leaving little time to cook and eat together. Here are some simple ways to plan ahead to make your meals heart healthy.
Obstacle: I don't have time to cook!
We all have days when we just can't get home in time to make meals. Here are some tips to overcome time crunches.
Prepare foods ahead of time. While making one meal, slice extra onions, dice extra peppers, cook extra brown rice or whole-wheat noodles and marinate meat so that they're ready to use for the next night's meal.
Take short cuts. Use pre-cut vegetables, bagged salads, pre-sliced meat and pre-grated cheese.
Make double batches of your favourite recipes on weekends and freeze them. Simply defrost in the refrigerator overnight, heat and serve for an instant supper during the busy week.
While roasting one meal in the oven, throw in some sweet potatoes, beets and squash in another roasting pan. When cooked, cool and store the roasted vegetables in the fridge for next night's meal.
Cook stews, soups and casseroles in a crock pot. The food will stay heated and be ready to eat when family members arrive home. Try our crock-pot Hungarian Chicken dinner.
For heart-healthy recipes for your children, go to Kid-Friendly Meals.
For more tips on getting your kids eating heart-healthy foods, subscribe to our free e-newsletter, He@lthline for Parents.
Quick and healthy meal ideas
- Mix a jar of pasta sauce (some come with six vegetables) with fresh, ready-made whole-wheat, meat-filled ravioli.
- Cooking time for ravioli: 5 minutes
- Stir-fry onions, celery, broccoli with fresh, store-bought BBQ chicken, diced. Serve on whole-wheat couscous.
- Cooking time for the stir-fry: 15 minutes.
- Cooking time for couscous: 5 minutes.
- Heat ready-made, cooked pork roast in microwave and serve with fresh salad of red-leaf lettuce and tomato.
- Cooking time for pork roast: 10 minutes in microwave.
Obstacle: We don't eat meals together!
Children these days have hectic schedules from soccer practice and dance classes to ice skating and guitar lessons. Here are some ways to work around a busy schedule so that you can eat meals together more often.
Plan dinner around the day's schedule. On activity nights, cook a casserole in the crock pot (started in the morning), which will be ready when everyone gets home. Take healthy snacks such as single-serve yogurts, cottage cheese, cheese sticks, homemade mini oatmeal muffins, pre-cut vegetables and fruit to calm the munchies before dinner.
Set menu themes to encourage everyone to be home for the meal. Spaghetti and meatball Tuesdays, home-made pizza Fridays, Sunday pancake brunches are just some ideas.
Let each member of your family take turns choosing their favourite recipe for dinner. Get children involved in the cooking. If they make it, they're more likely to eat it!
Plan family picnics and outings so that you can all sit down and eat together. Take this opportunity to catch up on the day's events and news with the whole family.
Reassess your family's schedule. If you're out most nights of the week, maybe cutting back on one or two activities will allow you to spend more time eating and being together.
Be a heart-smart shopper
Grocery shopping for healthy foods today can sometimes be complicated and time-consuming. To help you quickly identify products that can contribute to a healthy and balanced diet, the Heart and Stroke Foundation created a not-for-profit food information program called Health Check. This program is suitable for you and everyone in your family age 2 and over.
The Foundation's dietitians evaluate every food in the program, based on Canada's Food Guide. When a food product has been reviewed and meets the criteria, the Health Check symbol and the Heart and Stroke Foundation name are placed on the packaging.
The Health Check symbol can be found on thousands of grocery products, including grains, dairy and alternatives, meats and alternatives and oils.
Last reviewed: April 2011