How some parents put together quick meals
By Amy Tousman
Surveys show that people understand that good nutrition is important, but believe healthful eating takes too much time. Rushing between work, school activities, soccer and hula can leave busy parents scrambling for time to prepare nutritious, tasty meals for their children. The key to healthy eating is planning ahead.
To get your thinking going, here's how some parents get the family fed quickly.
Chris King, Straub Clinic & Hospital health education supervisor, has two young children. Before picking up her kids, she stops at home to put on brown rice. Since brown rice takes longer to prepare than white, this gives her a head start. The kids are hungry when they get home, so they eat a healthy snack such as fruits or crackers and cheese while dinner is being cooked. One quick meal her family enjoys is is broiled salmon, steamed broccoli and rice.
King plans the week's menu before going shopping. She buys what she needs for the week. Preparation for the next day's dinner is started the night before. Casseroles using ingredients such as fat-free cream soups, vegetables, lean hamburger or chicken, and fat-free sour cream lend themselves to advanced preparation. Ingredients are chopped and mixed the night before. The following day, after work, she bakes the casserole.
Kaiser Permanente registered dietitian Leticia Nagata, of Kane'ohe, cooks rice ahead of time and re-heats it in the microwave. When going out with her kids, she brings carrot sticks or frozen mixed vegetables (her kids eat it frozen) for them to eat on the way to the mall. She buys meat, chicken or lean char siu from a take-out place or Costco and mixes it with stir-fry vegetables at home. When she gets take-out, she brings it home and serves vegetables and fruit with it.
Nobumi Nakamura, a bilingual research associate, who lives in Kahalu'u, sautes vegetables and chicken in olive oil and mixes this with pasta, oyster sauce and Parmesan cheese. While the water is boiling for the pasta, she chops the vegetables. This meal takes 10-15 minutes to make. When rice is needed, she makes extra and wraps the leftovers in cellophane wrap in individual serving sizes, then freezes them for future use.
Ilona Alverez, a daycare provider at Emmanuel Preschool in Kailua, works from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Her favorite quick, healthy meal is pork tofu. This stir-fry dish can be made with lean pork, tofu and lots of vegetables.
Helen Stone, also of Emmanuel Preschool, likes to make tofu salad using canned salmon, plus lettuce, tomatoes and tofu.
Toni, a maintenance manager from Kailua, works long hours. Her time savers include: preparing the kids' lunches for summer fun and cutting up breakfast fruits the night before; cooking items such as chili, spaghetti and stews in bulk so that leftovers can be eaten the next day; and making use of canned and frozen items such as frozen pasta and frozen vegetable mixtures. A quick favorite for Toni's 'ohana is "lite" Spam and cabbage over rice.
Some other time-saving ideas:
- Use frozen, canned or precut vegetables.
- Buy "individually quick frozen," skinless, boneless chicken. Thawing isn't necessary, and the pieces microwave in minutes.
- Cook several meals at once (on your day off) while doing laundry. You can reheat them during the week.
- Use a pressure cooker to make stews and soups in 20 minutes.
- Delegate chores such as shopping, cutting up vegetables, putting on the rice and boiling water for pasta to other family members who get home early.
My favorite quick meals include:
- Homemade pizzas on ready-made crusts, topped with tomato sauce, vegetables, turkey sausage and mozzarella cheese. Serve with salad and fruit.
- Saimin (frozen type), vegetables and lean ham.
- Whole-grain cereal and fruit (doesn't have to be just for breakfast).
- Eggs, rice and stir-fry vegetables.
- Burritos using low- or no-fat refried beans, plain yogurt, salsa and cheese. You can buy the cheese already shredded. Serve with grilled vegetables or salad.
- Hot turkey and cheese sandwiches served with baby carrots and low-fat dressing.
- Pasta, tomato sauce and vegetables.
Many of you have found ways to balance busy schedules with family life. With some planning, nourishing our bodies and those of our keiki doesn't have to take a lot of time.
Amy Tousman is a registered dietitian at Straub Clinic & Hospital and a member of the Hawai'i Dietetic Association.
Hawai'i experts in traditional medicine, naturopathic medicine, diet and exercise take turns writing the Prescriptions column. Send your questions to: Prescriptions, 'Ohana Section, The Ho-nolulu Advertiser, P.O. Box 3110, Honolulu, HI 96802; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; fax 535-8170. This column is not intended to provide medical advice; you should consult your doctor.