|"Fast" food at home?Learning to combine some convenience foods with staples and home-prepared foods can shorten dinner prep and help build confidence in the kitchen, said Procter, who offered this example:Consider purchasing a ready-to-eat rotisserie chicken; frozen vegetable mix; potatoes that can be scrubbed, cut into sections and steamed while vegetables are cooking. Add fresh fruit or frozen yogurt and a cookie for dessert to make a meal in less time than it would take to drive to a restaurant.Have leftover chicken? Remove it from the carcass and place it in a shallow, covered pan and refrigerate it for a second meal in a day or two, or wrap and freeze it for a future meal. Reheating is easy -- leftovers also can be served as chicken salad or in chicken pot pie, by combining cut-up leftover chicken with mixed vegetables, and gravy. Biscuit topping can be added before baking.Chicken soup is another possibility, by combining chicken broth with leftover chicken and adding canned or frozen mixed vegetables and pasta or rice. Simmer the ingredients together.See more! Five quick and healthy dinners with rotisserie chicken |
The ready availability of fast food makes it an easy choice. These restaurants usually offer some food choices that are lower in calories and fat, but rarely market them as aggressively, says Procter, who offered tips for reducing calories, fat, sodium and sugar:
Some families make it a rule to drink milk at home, but allow choosing other beverages -- fruit juice, carbonated beverages, or other drinks like lemonade -- when eating out. "The importance of calcium-rich milk for children (and adults) should not be overlooked. Milk usually is available in restaurants, but may cost a few cents more than beverages that offer fewer health benefits," Procter says. Should children drink reduced-fat milk? "[Normal-weight] children age two and under need the nutritional benefits of whole milk. Older children can, however, benefit from drinking lower-fat milk," she says. (Note: Monitoring children's cholesterol and triglyceride levels as well as blood sugar levels is something that should be discussed with your health care professional.)
"Eating out can seem like the simplest choice -- parents report that they run short on time and lack confidence in the kitchen." But, she says, "Learning to become more confident in the kitchen isn't difficult. It takes some practice, but usually gets easier each time."Making a healthful meal at home doesn't have to be time consuming or expensive, says Procter, who offers these tips:
Investing a little time in learning basic cooking skills and grocery shopping strategies can save time, money and make eating at home faster, easier and healthier.Another bonus: Cooking and eating together at home can strengthen family relationships. Children often share more about their lives while helping a parent prepare dinner than they will when simply asked "How was your day?" Procter says.