Healthy Meal Planning for Busy Parents

A mom prepares a meal for her family with the help of her toddler.
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Dinnertime is a chance to sit down and connect with your family over a healthy and nutritious meal. For many parents, though, the evening is the busiest part of the day — checking backpacks, reviewing homework, starting to prepare for the next day or returning home for a busy day at work.

Meal planning is just one way to take the stress of out the evenings and stock your kitchen with healthy, wholesome ingredients your family will love. Sometimes, though, meal planning itself can be a challenge. It can be overwhelming to carve out time to sit down and plan a week’s worth of meals that make everyone happy. Fortunately, a few simple strategies can make meal planning something your entire family can embrace.

Plan Meals as a Family

Gather your kids and spouse around the table to quickly brainstorm some dinner ideas. This not only gives your kids a chance to have a say in meals — and increases the chance they will at least eat a few bites — but it also helps take the burden off you to think of new and tasty dinners for every night. Lay out ground rules to make sure suggestions are realistic and healthy options for your family. All meals should include:

  • Lean protein
  • Vegetable or fruit
  • Whole grains

Set aside 10-15 minutes one day each weekend to come up with a few ideas for dinner.

Make It a Routine

Setting up “themes” for each night’s dinner can also help your family come up with healthy ideas for dinnertime. A few to try include:

  • Meatless Monday
  • Taco Tuesday
  • Leftover Wednesday
  • Breakfast-for-Dinner on Thursday
  • Pizza Friday

Make One Trip to the Grocery Store

Once you have your menu, make your grocery list and hit the store. Gather up all the ingredients you’ll need for upcoming meals. If fresh ingredients won’t make it all week, plan your next grocery trip and set aside time for it. And if your local store offers a pick-up option, even better. Take advantage of anything to help make your trip to the grocery store a little easier and less stressful.

Prep Ahead When You Can

This can be a tricky strategy to implement, especially when weekends are full of sports, activities and chores. Set aside an hour or two to put groceries away, organize your items and prep ingredients ahead of time. Invite your kids to join you in the kitchen. It can help speed things up and offers a great opportunity to connect and talk about the upcoming week.

Enjoy the Evenings

Once you’ve done the work, it’s time to sit back and enjoy the results. Use the time spent prepping, cooking and sitting at the table to talk with your family about their day. Listen and relax with your loved ones over a healthy, wholesome meal.

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