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.
1. Cold Breakfast
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.
2. Hot Breakfast
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.
3. Cold Lunch
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.
4. Hot Lunch
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.
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