Food affects our mood, weight, and overall health. Keep this article — or a folder with easy healthy dinner recipes — in your kitchen, or bring it when you shop.
When you’re coming home from a long day, it might seem easier to grab take out from an inexpensive restaurant, even a fast food chain. But you and your family will be happier as well as healthier if you eat nutritious meals together. A great deal of research shows that food affects our mood, weight, and overall health.
Keep this article — or a folder with easy healthy dinner recipes — in your kitchen. You might bring it with you when you shop. Stock up on the basic ingredients and buy the perishable items for two or three days’ worth of dinners. Buy frozen vegetables or prepare and freeze fresh vegetables, so you’ll always have options in the house. You can also cook beans in advance and freeze them in portions.
A simple rule of thumb is to include a generous amount of vegetables in every meal and tilt towards beans, nuts, fish, and chicken for protein rather than red meat. Choose whole grains like brown rice, buckwheat, millet or quinoa instead of potatoes. Or substitute beans instead. People think of beans as being fattening, but they are more nutritious than white bread or a baked potato.
Investing in a rice cooker helps: You can put brown rice (or other whole grains) and water in the cooker well in advance, and it’ll be waiting for you when you’re ready to eat.
Here are three easy healthy dinner recipes to try.
Salmon with kale and apple salad. Buy salmon fillets about an inch thick, enough pieces for everyone in your family who will eat it. A half-pound serving is plenty for an adult or teen; kids will eat less.
For the salad: soak a bunch of kale in lemon juice and olive oil for about 10 minutes. During that time, slice up a tart apple (Honeycrisp or Granny Smith are ideal). If your family likes sweets, add a handful of cut up chopped dates. Add to the kale, along with three tablespoons of slivered almonds.
When your family is ready to eat, place the salmon, skin-side up, in a pan greased with olive oil. Cook it about four minutes, then turn it over with a spatula, and cook for another three to four minutes. Some people like the fish to be a little pink in the middle; others like it cooked through.
You can serve the salmon on top of the salad. If you’d like to add something starchy, try a small portion of brown rice prepared in advance.
Make whole-wheat pasta — or look in the “gluten-free” section for pasta that that is based on soy, buckwheat, lentils, or brown rice. Read the directions carefully, and monitor the pasta — so it emerges not too mushy.
It’s easy to make a sauce that tastes creamy and rich without butter, cream, or cheese, all of which are high in not-so-healthy fats. Sauté onions and mushrooms with a little wine or soy sauce and spices you like. Add soy milk and cook, stirring occasionally, for five minutes. Instead of using ordinary flour to thicken the sauce, mix sweet rice flour or cornstarch with water and add that into the mushroom mixture. At the end, you’ll add a can of cannellini beans. Serve the pasta with a salad or green vegetable like broccoli or kale.
You might also look at the Ornish recipe for curried vegetables, and see how you might adapt it for your schedule and tastes.
Bean chili. You really don’t need meat in chili. When you combine beans with brown rice (or corn), you make a protein that is far better for you. Find any chili recipe you enjoy and stick to the beans.
Make your chili in advance on the weekend and freeze in portions. Or you can make it that night, using canned tomatoes, kidney beans, or black beans.
The key here will be to keep spices you like on hand, including hot sauce for the spice lovers in your brood. For a sweet Latino twist, add raisins.
Serve with brown rice, for a hungry crowd. Corn tortillas also work, but many prepared foods contain corn products so your family may already be eating lots of corn. Add salad or a green vegetable.
Once you have your eye on the lookout, you’ll see easy healthy dinner recipes everywhere. Your children can become attached to a healthy recipe as easily as to one containing lots of fat or salt or sugar. Often their pleasure comes from familiarity and knowing you’ve chosen to make a favorite.
April 19, 2017
Janet O’Dell, RN