You want your kids to eat healthier but let’s face it: meal planning, shopping, prepping and cooking takes some serious time, not to mention all the clean up afterwards.
Aside from the occasional dinner in a restaurant or take out, every meal my kids eat comes out of our home kitchen. Thankfully, my husband cooks a lot too but suffice to say, we spend several hours each week to make sure our kids eat real, fresh, whole foods.
Through the years, I’ve discovered some easy kitchen hacks that have helped me save time and made my life easier. Here are 10.
1. Clean the Counter
If you’re like me and you like things clean and organized, then a messy kitchen counter can make you feel stressed out. Just as your bed must be made every day and the toys picked up every night, your kitchen counters need to be clutter-free so that you’ll actually look forward to cooking healthy meals.
Interestingly, research suggests that a messy kitchen can also make you and your family eat more. In fact, a February 2016 study in the journal Environment and Behavior found women in cluttered kitchens consumed twice as many calories from cookies than those who were in a tidy kitchen.
To keep your kitchen clean, store large kitchen appliances in the pantry, cabinets or drawers, donate those you don’t need and find a place for everything else. Have a system and a spot to store miscellaneous items like mail and papers from school.
2. Use Only One Pot
Instead of taking out several pots and pans to make dinner, save time by making stir-fries, one pot or slow cooker meals. Or roast foil packet dinners or an entire meal on one pan.
3. Grab and Go
Grocery stores make it easier than ever to get healthy meals on the dinner in no time. Rather than spending time to peel and chop vegetables, pick up mirepoix, minced garlic, sliced butternut squash and spiralized zucchini at the store, for example.
4. Put Healthy Food On Display
When it comes to getting your kids to eat healthier, make sure they can easily see and reach for healthy fare.
In fact, when fruit was placed in a colorful bowl, in a well-lit, convenient part of the school lunch line, sales of fruit increased by a whopping 105 percent, a July 2011 study in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior found.
Put a bowl of fruit out on the counter, store cut up vegetables in clear containers in the refrigerator or put individual bags of almonds in the front of the pantry.
5. Batch Cook
When your week gets hectic with work, school, after-school activities and other obligations, cooking healthy meals can easily fall by the wayside.
Yet simply taking an hour or two to pull together ingredients for smoothies, make individual portions of snacks, batch cook vegetables and pre-chop lettuce for salads can make your life much easier during the week. You can also make large batches of meals and freeze them so you’ll always have something ready for dinner.
6. Stock Up
When there’s nothing to eat and you’re tight on time, the fast-food drive-through or your favorite take out joint is usually the next best choice.
Yet if you have quick and easy staples on hand at all times, you can always get a meal on the table.
Stock your freezer with frozen vegetables, fish and cooked shrimp which is quick and easy. Keep individual mason jars with grains like quinoa or brown rice and cans of beans for a fast meal
7. Make Breakfast The Night Before
It might be a fast breakfast option, but most cereals aren’t healthy. If you can’t carve out the time to make a healthy breakfast in the morning, make it at night.
Set aside individual portions of ingredients for smoothies like veggies, fruits, chia seeds and almond butter. Make overnight oats in individual mason jars or a batch of egg “muffins” or a large frittata that your kids can eat over several days.
8. Use Small Dishes
How much your kids eat is just as important as what they eat. Kids can easily eat too much if you use adult-sized plates.
When you serve a meal or a snack, you can teach your kids about portion sizes by letting them use a measuring cup or bowl which will also make them feel empowered by their choices.
9. Serve a Buffet
Kids love choices so if you put out a buffet, they may actually eat healthier than when you serve one meal. Heat up leftover vegetables and proteins, add a salad and you can have a healthy dinner on the table in no time.
10. Clean As You Go
When I start to cook, I also load the dishwasher or clean the dishes at the same time. There’s nothing better than sitting down to dinner and a clean kitchen, but if you clean while you cook it also saves time on clean up after dinner.