Time is a precious commodity in busy families, but providing healthy meals doesn't have to use a lot of it. Quick, easy breakfasts can provide the calcium, protein and vitamins kids need to stay sharp all day, while well-rounded lunches that are low on sugar can prevent an afternoon slump. Arming yourself with recipes for dishes that freeze and reheat quickly, as well as last-minute meals, ensures proper nutrition and more time for other things.
When you don't have the time or energy to cook in the morning, you can still serve a fast, healthy breakfast. Whip up yogurt, apple juice and frozen fruit in a blender for a breakfast smoothie. Layer any flavor of yogurt with sliced bananas, blueberries and granola for a quick breakfast parfait. Mix cottage cheese with fruit, such as pineapple or diced peaches, and serve with whole grain crackers.
It seems daunting to serve a hot breakfast on weekday mornings, but don't forget that the microwave is your friend on busy days. Cook a big batch of steel-cut oatmeal on the weekend. It will keep for a week in an airtight container in the refrigerator and heat up quickly in the microwave. Add berries and skim milk for a full breakfast. Scrambled eggs only take a few minutes to cook, particularly if you use liquid eggs. Try spreading a thin layer of zippy Southwest salad dressing on whole grain tortillas, and roll up scrambled eggs, diced tomatoes and pre-grated cheese for breakfast burritos.
Sandwiches are a staple of cold lunches, and when they're made with whole grain bread, lean protein and lots of fresh vegetables, they provide the basis for a nutritious meal. However, cooking ahead provides ingredients for a wider variety of quick lunches. Keep cooked, diced chicken in the freezer and mix with grapes, celery and almonds for a chicken salad. Frozen drumsticks and wings packed in an insulated container will thaw safely by lunchtime. Include other finger foods for a picnic-style lunch, such as sliced vegetables and fruits, whole grain crackers and hard boiled eggs.
Insulated containers make a hot lunch possible on cold days and provide a nice break from sandwiches. Freeze homemade soup in small batches and warm it in the microwave in the morning. If you use commercial canned soups, look for low-sodium versions. Warmed up leftovers are perfect for lunch, and insulated beverage containers are especially good for a vegetable stew with white beans or low-fat turkey chili. Include a salad, single-serving container of creamy salad dressing, whole grain dinner roll, and a piece of fruit for a complete, filling and nutritious lunch.