Mealtimes help hold busy families together. With everyone present at the table, you have the chance to ask how each one is doing and allow them to share things they want you and the rest of the family to know.
Having everyone at the table is also the best way to ensure that everyone in the household is eating something healthy every day. By serving balanced meals, you enable them to get the nutrients they need to stay fit and function properly.
Serving healthy dishes at mealtimes, though, can be a problem if you are busy every day. When you don’t have enough time to prepare and cook well-thought-out meals, you may resort to giving your family food that is high in empty calories but low on nutrients.
Having a weekly meal plan ensures that you give your family healthy, balanced food to eat every day.
With a weekly meal plan, you will be sure you get everything you need when you go shopping or have your groceries delivered to your home. You can do this by creating a list that includes plenty of vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, and other nutritious ingredients that you can use to make healthy dishes.
When you have all the ingredients you need for the meals you want to serve, you can prepare them beforehand. Doing so reduces the time you spend on preparing dishes and ensures you feed your family on schedule.
Meal Planning Tips
If it’s your first time to plan weekly meals for your family, follow these tips so you can go through the process with few or no hassles and serve healthy dishes that everyone will love:
1. Create a master list of 10 to 15 meals every week.
Making a list of dishes to prepare every week is the cornerstone of meal planning.
List down 10 dishes that everyone in your family looks forward to eating. Add recipes for five new ones that you would like them to try. These meals will be the ones you will serve for the whole week.
If you are not sure if your family will like the dishes you want to prepare, ask them for their suggestions.
Make sure the dishes you choose are balanced and contain vegetables, fruits, and other nutritious ingredients. Examples of these are stews, stir-fried veggies, pasta bowls, and curry.
When you are creating the meal plan for the following week, try to add new dishes. Also, avoid serving the same things weekly so that your kids won’t find your meals repetitive and boring.
2. Select lean proteins that you can use for batch cooking.
Proteins are staples in family meals. The healthiest ones are lean cuts of chicken, pork, beef, fish, and seafood.
If you choose the right protein sources, you can do batch cooking every week. This is a meal prep strategy that allows you to cook large portions of ingredients or dishes to cut your prep time for other meals or have leftovers for other mealtimes.
Chicken breasts, ground beef, and fish fillets are excellent proteins that you can batch cook. For instance, you can sauté minced meat, place them in separate containers, and freeze them. You can then add this ingredient to your tacos and pasta dishes.
3. Include at least two vegetable side dishes in your daily meals.
Vegetables are packed with different vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that they can be complete meals themselves. They are also low in calories, which means everyone can eat large portions without worrying about their waistlines getting bigger.
To ensure everyone eats these healthy foods (especially your young picky eaters), try to cook two veggie dishes that will accompany your entrée. Stir-fry cauliflower and steam asparagus so that your diners have two options and choose the one that is more to their liking.
Don’t hesitate to prepare two dishes since you can serve the leftovers for dinner or lunch the following day. If you store them correctly, you can also add them to other meals you will cook.
4. Include fruits in your meals.
Like vegetables, fruits are also packed with a variety of nutrients. As such, don’t forget to include them in your meal plans.
Choose salad recipes that have fruits. Additionally, opt for fruit-based desserts. Examples of these are parfaits with berries and pastries with peach or mango toppings.
Consider adding fresh fruits to your family’s breakfast as well. Add some berries to their bowls of cereals and oats.
5. Make your shopping list.
Once you have your meal plan for the week, create your grocery shopping list. Doing so ensures you won’t forget to buy your key ingredients.
A shopping list also helps you stay within your budget for your groceries and avoid buying items that you don’t actually need.
Try to organize your list by category so that your trip to the supermarket will go faster. Do the same if you are shopping for groceries online and having them delivered to your home.
If you are shopping online, it will be best to save this list on your mobile device since you can copy, paste, and edit it on the app when you use it next time.
When you follow these tips, you can ensure your family will eat healthily all week without the usual hard work and stress that you often experience when you don’t have a meal plan.
Xavi Nunes is the Co-Founder and CMO at El Grocer, a digital platform for grocery stores and specialty and gourmet shops in the UAE. The company is reinventing the grocery shopping experience, integrating the best local stores into the mobile-first environment.