How I Find Time to Workout & Balance a Healthy Lifestyle
How to Find Time for a Healthy Family Dinner
Family dinners are important for mental and physical health, but work, school, and extracurricular activities can sometimes get in the way. With some planning and foresight, you should be able to carve some time out for your family to eat together. Instead of spending an hour cooking a new meal every day, you can batch cook and freeze meals to cut down on time. Your family can also help out to reduce the burden.
Setting a Schedule
Start small.If family dinners are not already a regular practice for you, it may be easier to start with one or two dinners a week. Once this has become an established practice, work your way up to three or four. Soon, it will become an ingrained part of your schedule, and you can have family dinners everyday.
Write dinner into your calendar.With work, sports, homework, and other responsibilities, dinner may not be a priority. To help make it one, set off an hour or two for dinner in your calendar. Try not to let any other activities interfere with this time.
- Try to aim to have dinner at the same time every day. You can of course adjust this schedule if something pops up, such as sports practice or a late day at work.
- If you plan on cooking fresh meals every day, you may want to build in that extra cooking time into your schedule.
Plan your meals in advance.At the beginning of the week, decide what your family will be eating every night of the week. Find healthy recipes online or in cookbooks. Write out your shopping lists so that you can buy every single ingredient ahead of time, and go shopping for all of the ingredients at once.
- If you're struggling with ideas for meals, ask your family what they want. This can help you focus your meal planning towards things that they enjoy, and it may also give you new ideas for meals.
Avoid unhealthy snacks before dinner.Once you have an idea of what time you will be eating dinner, you can eliminate snacks from the schedule. Stop giving processed snacks like cookies, chips, or crackers about an hour or two before dinner. If your children are hungry, give them a small healthy snack like apple slices or carrot sticks to tide them over until dinner.
Reducing Cooking Time
Prep meals at the beginning of the week.If you have a day at the beginning of the week free, you can make all of the meals for that week in advance. With a little bit more time and planning, you may even be able to cook an entire in one day. All you will need to do is heat the food. This is a great if you have a busy work schedule or not much time to cook. Some healthy meals to make in advance include:
Invest in a slow cooker.You can put ingredients in a slow cooker in the morning and come home to a fully cooked hot meal. Slow cookers are also great for making meals in large batches. Some wholesome things you can cook in a slow cooker include:
Freeze meals.If you make large batches of food, you can save them by freezing. This will reduce waste and save time. Stick the extra servings in a plastic container or freezer bags. If you need a quick meal sometime later in the month, you can thaw it out and cook it.
- You should let foods cool completely before placing them in the freezer. You can hurry this process up by letting them cool in the refrigerator.
- If using freezer bags, make the bags as flat as possible. This will help them thaw more quickly.
- Label the food with both the date you cooked it and the meal name before placing it in the freezer.
Choose convenient foods.Some foods are fast but still healthy. Try to pick healthy foods that are easy and quick to make. This is especially helpful with side dishes, such as vegetables or starches.
- Frozen vegetables are just as healthy as fresh vegetables. They usually only take a few minutes in the microwave to cook.
- You may be able to find pre-chopped vegetables at your grocery. You can usually find chopped onions, garlic, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, or carrots.
- If you want warm rolls at dinner, you can buy premade frozen dinner rolls that will heat up in the oven. You can also buy premade dough, and bake it yourself.
Involving the Entire Family
Assign different tasks to family members.Preparing dinner together not only saves you time but it teaches children important responsibilities. Choose tasks that are developmentally appropriate for your child. Include your partner to also help out to foster a family atmosphere.
- Young children (under the age of six) may be able to help set the table, wash dishes, and help stir ingredients.
- Older children (ages six to twelve) may be able to wash vegetables, stir pots (if supervised), pour water, set out serving dishes, and clear the table.
- Teenagers should be able to help you with most aspects of cooking and cleaning.
Take turns with your partner.If both you and your partner or spouse have busy schedules, you may want to try taking turns making family dinners. Look over both of your schedules, and agree on times when you can each make the meal.
Consider a family breakfast instead.Dinner is traditionally the meal in which the entire family gathers to eat. That said, if dinner does not work for your family, you might consider having a family breakfast instead.
Encourage conversation.Family dinners are a great time to bond, and if your family enjoys the meals, they’re much more likely to stick to the meal schedule. Try to come up with interesting topics for discussion. If the children don’t answer right away, you can start discussion by giving your own answer. You might try asking:
- If you could go anywhere in the world, where would it be?
- Are you meeting any interesting people at school?
- Have you had any interesting dreams lately?
- If you had a superpower, what would it be?
- If you could meet anyone from history, who would it be?
- If you could have any animal in the world as a pet, which one would it be?
- If your children start helping while they’re young, they’ll grow up to learn to cook themselves. They may even be able to cook meals for the family as teenagers.
- Find a pattern that works for your family. It is ok if you prefer to eat later rather than earlier or if you decide you want a family lunch instead.
- Try not to let too many outside activities interfere with the family meal. Treat the meal as a priority.
- Drink water instead of soda at dinner to help cut down on calories.
Video: How to make healthy eating unbelievably easy | Luke Durward | TEDxYorkU
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