With the hustle and bustle of back to school approaching, your family might find it challenging to enjoy dinner together, consistently. Putting a healthy dinner on the table and making it one your family will enjoy is not as hard as you might envision.

Down the Line: Have an assembly line style night where everyone builds their own meal.

Set out ingredients for family favorites such as burgers, tacos, chili, rice bowls or sub sandwiches. Then, let each family member go through the line to make their dinner.

For example, grill lean burgers and place them on a plate.

In separate bowls, put toppings like tomatoes, lettuce, low-fat cheese, guacamole and onions.

Most children enjoy the independence and “control” of putting together their own meal.

Outside the Box: Dinner does not always have to consist of a “main course and two sides.” Dinners can be composed of entrée salads, casseroles or stir-fry meals.

A one-pot stir fry is as easy as heating oil in a skillet, adding fresh or frozen vegetables and stirring in leftover lean meat.

Serve over rice or pasta for an instant, complete meal.

Breakfast for Dinner: Eggs are a great source of protein and when topped with shredded low-fat cheese add calcium and vitamin D to dinner. Turkey bacon is also an excellent alternative to high-fat bacon.

For a source of complex carbohydrate at dinner, try whole-wheat toast, whole-grain pancakes or waffles and fresh fruit.

Leftover Night: Multiple leftover options can be exciting for kids and can offer an opportunity for creativity. Select several items (not older than 3 days) to serve and let the family create an entrée combination they will enjoy. Leftover night is a great way to empty your refrigerator and reduce clutter; plus it ensures your family limits the amount of food wasted. Some foods, such as lasagna, may actually taste better the next day!

Crockpot Meals: Many dishes with long cooking times can actually cook independently in the crockpot while you are out for the day.

Crockpots are excellent ways to come home to a great meal; add ingredients before leaving in the morning, set to low heat and serve when the family is home.

An alternative is to roast a whole chicken in the oven with vegetables while you complete other household tasks during the day.

Carey Stites is a certified personal trainer, group fitness instructor and a Registered Dietitian with a master’s degree in nutrition. Carey is currently the Registered Dietitian working with Wellstone in Harker Heights. Contact her at carey.stites@smchh.org.

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