Fredericksburg, Va – The Nutrition Journal reports that Americans have shifted toward eating out more and cooking at home less. With busy work and back-to-school schedules, many parents find it difficult to find the time to make home-cooked meals. Yet the American Journal of Preventative Medicine reports that the amount of time spent on food preparation and cooking may have implications for ones overall diet quality and health, and that a greater amount of time spent on home food preparation is associated with a higher diet quality. The good news is that parents who are juggling back-to-school hours and work can fit in healthy home-cooked meals that are quick to prepare, nutritious, and delicious.
“Parents love to be able to feed their kids good, nutritious foods. That’s why we have created free tools and recipes to make cooking fast, easy and delicious,” says Dr. Nimali Fernando, a Fredericksburg, Virginia-based pediatrician who founded The Doctor Yum Project. “Not only cooking at home better for a family’s health, but it also saves them money, because eating at home is usually much more affordable than dining out.”
While the benefits of eating home-cooked meals are well documented, many parents are still unsure how to make it fit into their busy schedule. Here are 5 back-to-school busy schedule tips to help get healthy meals on the table quickly:
- Plan ahead. On the weekend, sit down and make a list of what your family will eat for dinner all week long. Then head to the grocery store or farmers market to get the items you need for those dishes. Knowing what to make is often half the battle, so you can just look at your list on the refrigerator and get started making the meal.
- Use what’s on hand. Pantries often have lots of food, yet people don’t know what to do to put it all together and make a meal. The Doctor Yum Project has taken on solving this problem by offering a free online tool, the Meal Maker Machine, that will help people create a recipe using the ingredients they have on hand. Simply input the items you have on hand and the system will create a convenient recipe for you.
- Get everyone involved. Help spread the cooking tasks among the family. Get other family members involved in meal prep by assigning tasks to each person. Even younger children can help with age-appropriate tasks to help with getting the family meal ready.
- Do prep work ahead. When you do have time on the weekend, take half an hour to wash, chop, and get your vegetables ready that will be used in recipes throughout the week. This way, you can reach into the refrigerator and pull out the chopped and prepared items that you need for your recipe. Another option that can help is to do batch cooking on the weekend, where you make up a few meals that can be frozen or put into the refrigerator. Those meals can then be pulled out and heated up during the week as needed.
- Give pressure cooking a try. Pressure cookers like the popular Instant Pot are all the rage because they are a great way to help get healthy meals on the table quickly. This new generation of pressure cookers makes cooking healthy food so easy with other features like saute, slow cook, and yogurt making. Drop in ingredients like dried beans or tough cuts of meat, set the time and walk away while your dinner cooks up fast. This style of cooking lets you be free to focus on other after school activities like sports, homework, and more. Check out doctoryum.org for pressure cooker ideas that will be sure to please.
“Work and school schedules can certainly make people feel pressed for time when it comes to getting meals on the dinner table,” added Heidi DiEugenio, director of the Doctor Yum Project. “Yet, when you do you will feel better knowing that your family is eating healthier, and you will have likely saved some money. Start the school year off cooking at home and it will soon become a habit, getting easier as the year goes on.”
Quick, healthy recipe from the Doctor Yum Project website:
Prep time: 8 minutes
What you need:
2 cups basil (fresh, loosely packed)
⅓ cup parmesan cheese (grated)
¼ cup broth (chicken or vegetable)
2 tablespoons walnuts (or pinenuts)
1 clove garlic (use two cloves for more intense taste)
2 tablespoon olive oil
¼ teaspoons salt
black pepper (to taste)
Pulse all ingredients in a food processor until everything is well-mixed. Serve over pasta or however you enjoy pesto! Works great on sandwiches, drizzled over grilled meats or veggies.
Dr. Fernando created The Doctor Yum Project, an organization with the mission of transforming the lives of families and communities by providing an understanding of the connection between food and overall health, as well as empowering them with the tools to live a healthy life. The project offers healthy cooking classes, child nutrition classes, cooking camps for kids, hands-on cooking instruction for families, first foods classes, a teaching garden, and online tools to help families make healthier meals. They also offer a preschool nutrition program, with 40 classrooms and almost 600 participating preschoolers.
Dr. Fernando, otherwise known as Dr. Yum, is a board-certified pediatrician. She is also the co-author of the book “Raising a Healthy, Happy Eater: A Parent’s Handbook” (The Experiment, October 2015). To learn more, visit the site at: www.doctoryum.org.