10 Stupidly Simple Meals to Make Your Family When Time Is Tight

Eggs and leftover veggies are all you need for a nutritious and satisfying family meal. Getty Images/iStockphoto

Do you want to feel more connected to your friends and family, become more satisfied with your job and help your kids ace their grades at school? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, stop eating alone and start eating with your family. Research suggests that doing so can help you achieve all three aims – and more. The most recent report out of the American Academy of Pediatrics, for example, lists family dinners as one of the key strategies Americans can use to help prevent obesity and eating disorders among adolescents, and increase the amount of fruits and veggies in their families’ diets.

So as the kids head back to school and family life gets more hectic, turn to these ideas from registered dietitian nutritionists to get healthy meals on the dinner table with ease and minimal stress:

1. Baked Potatoes

Leslie Bonci, a sports dietitian and owner of Active Eating Advice, often ends her day with a baked potato stuffed with ingredients like beans, veggies, Greek yogurt, avocado and shredded cheese for a complete meal. Your whole family can do the same, and all members can dress their spuds with their toppings of choice.

Stocking up on potatoes can serve you at breakfast, too. Jim White, a husband, father and owner of Jim White Fitness and Nutrition Studios, for instance, roasts a big batch of potatoes at the beginning of the week and then doles them out each morning in egg burritos. The meal provides everyone in his family with the energy and protein they need to fuel their days.

2. Refrigerator Stir-Fry

Each week, Toby Amidor, author of “Smart Meal Prep for Beginners” and “The Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook,” purges the refrigerator of leftover veggies like peppers, mushrooms, broccoli, carrots and cauliflower to create a stir-fry. She marinates a boneless, skinless chicken breast in teriyaki sauce, cubes it and sautes it along with the veggies. She simultaneously tosses quinoa or brown rice with water in a rice cooker. Voila: The family has a well-balanced meal in 30 minutes or less.

3. Tuna Sandwiches

When pressed for time, Angela Lemond, owner of Lemond Nutrition, opens up cans of tuna and makes an assembly line of sandwiches to give her family a fast, heart-healthy dinner that’s rich in omega-3s. She serves them with a side salad of baby spinach, sliced red onions and ripe tomatoes for a complete meal.

4. Burgers

The bigger your family and the more diverse their tastes, the more challenging creating family meals that are acceptable to everyone becomes. But Jessica Crandall, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, refuses to be a short-order cook. So she grills lean beef burgers and sets up a make-your-own burger bar with a platter of whole-wheat buns and bowls of sliced tomatoes, avocados, eggs, cheese and sauteed peppers. Everyone is his or her own chef, and the leftovers can be used for lunch the next day.

5. Quesadillas

Quesadillas are the weekly go-to family dinner for Heather Mangieri, author of “Fueling Young Athletes.” She uses cooked, protein-rich chicken, steak, cheese or eggs and as many chopped vegetables as she can find in the fridge. The kids are happy because they get to choose their own toppings when rolling up their flour tortillas. More importantly, no food gets wasted in the Mangieri home.

6. Pasta

If it only takes one pot to cook it, it is on Keri Gans’ menu. The author of “The Small Change Diet” cooks pasta with store-bought lentil soup and frozen peas, and then tops her dish with fresh grated Parmesan cheese. Your family can do the same. Clean up is a breeze, too.

Because it cooks in about three minutes, angel hair pasta is a family favorite for Rosanne Rust, author of “DASH Diet for Dummies.” While the water is boiling to cook the pasta, she sautes frozen shrimp and peas in a nonstick pan. The cooked pasta is tossed in along with grated Romano cheese.

7. Salmon

WebMD nutrition director Kathleen Zelman always keeps salmon in her freezer since it’s a fish that defrosts quickly. She tops the thawed salmon with honey mustard, a mixture of chopped nuts and panko bread crumbs. Then, she bakes it in the toaster oven at 400 degrees F for seven to 10 minutes, depending on thickness. Along with a helping of a whole grain and a veggie medley mix, her family has a heart-healthy meal in minutes.

8. Bean and Veggie Bowls

Nutrition writer Amy Gorin’s no-cook meal is a bean and veggie bowl. She combines drained canned white beans or chickpeas along with pitted olives, halved grape tomatoes, diced red onions and some capers in a bowl. She tosses in a little olive oil and seasonings for a protein- and fiber-rich quick dinner.

9. Broccoli and Cheese Calzone

Elizabeth Ward, author of BetterIsTheNewPerfect.com, is a big fan of healthy convenience foods to get dinner on the table in minutes. A family favorite is a broccoli cheese calzone made with store-bought pizza dough, frozen chopped broccoli and shredded cheese. She bakes it at 400 degrees F for 20 minutes for a complete meal with just three ingredients.

10. Vegetable Omelets

Eggs appear weekly on the dinner table for Toby Smithson, author of “Diabetes Meal Planning and Nutrition for Dummies.” A vegetable omelet or baked eggs with spinach, cheese and salsa, along with whole-grain toast, are her go-to favorites. They’ll likely be among your family’s favorites, too.

Joan Salge Blake, Contributor

Dr. Joan Salge Blake EdD, RDN, FAND, has covered numerous nutrition and healthy lifestyle topic…  Read moreDr. Joan Salge Blake EdD, RDN, FAND, has covered numerous nutrition and healthy lifestyle topics for U.S. News’ Eat+Run blog since 2015. She is a clinical associate professor at Boston University, where she received the prestigious Whitney Powers Excellence in Teaching Award. She is the author of “Nutrition & You: Core Concepts to Good Health” and “Eat Right The E.A.S.Y. Way.” She is also the co-author of “Nutrition: From Science to You.” Joan is a sought-after speaker at conferences and has received the Massachusetts Dietetic Association’s Young Registered Dietitian, Outstanding Dietetic Educator and Outstanding Dietitian awards. Joan has conducted more than 1,500 media interviews and has been quoted in or written for outlets including The New York Times, Food Network, Newsweek, The Washington Post, Forbes, Prevention, WebMD, Consumer Reports, MSNBC, The Boston Globe, Boston Herald, USA Today, ABC.com, EveryDayHealth.com, iVillage.com, AOL.com, LA Times, Chicago Tribune, Business Traveler, Forbes, Newsday, Time, Today’s Dietitian, The Atlanta Journal Constitution, Boston Phoenix, Patriot Ledger, Readers Digest, Cosmopolitan, People, Parade, Cooking Light, Parents, Fitness, Parenting, Shape, Self, Weight Watchers, Woman’s World, Health, Redbook, Family Circle, Martha Stewart Living, Rachel Ray, Working Mother, Glamour, More, Sports Illustrated, Woman’s Day, All You and O Magazine. She was named by Good Housekeeping magazine as the expert to follow on Twitter for healthy eating. Joan has also appeared on CBS, The Early Show, CNN, CBS News, NBC News, NPR, WBUR, Fox Boston, ABC Boston, WBZ TV Boston, WHDH TV Boston, Pure Oxygen, Chronicle, Doctors on Call, and NiteBeat. Links to her media interviews can be found on her website. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram, and connect with her on LinkedIn.

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