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Home-made Meals for You and Your Family

Home-Made Meals – For You and Your Family
By Bushra Bajwa

Traditional home-cooked family meals are too important to become a thing of the past. I feel healthy and good about myself after eating a nutritious meal prepared at home, knowing all the fresh ingredients that went in to it. What’s more, after a busy day, sitting down with my family and catching up with each other is a fun and relaxing time to look forward to.

Healthy Home-Cooked Meals

Who doesn’t like to snack on donuts, ice cream, or fries when out of the house? And isn’t it easy to feed kids macaroni and cheese, fast-food burgers, or a pizza for their dinner? That’s because these things, like most convenience foods, are instantly gratifying and time-saving! But when we remind ourselves of the ammonia, excess salt, trans fats, and many other harmful substances that we may be consuming, we can aim to make better decisions for the benefit of our health.

We can sustain a healthier diet through home-cooked meals. Meals and snacks prepared at home can eliminate our consumption of unnecessary chemicals and extra ingredients that are found in convenience foods. And when our meals are well planned and prepared, they can provide us with good nutrition. The key is to get a balanced diet and in order to achieve this goal I like to keep an image of a nutritional guide (such as one suggested by the government, doctor, or nutritionist) in the back of my mind as I plan my family’s meals. That way, I can make sure we are eating a variety of foods to supply the nutrients we need and also the right amount of calories to maintain a healthy weight.

Another advantage of home-cooked meals I like is that I can cater each meal to our individual dietary needs. I’m often anemic, so I like to get plenty of iron-rich foods. I also make sure I add enough fiber to my son’s diet so that he does not get constipated. And if you have diabetes, a family history of osteoporosis, or any other special dietary requirement, you too can focus on eating the right foods for you and eliminating the bad ones.

Some Tips for Grocery Shopping

Shop in natural and organic grocery stores – buying ready-made sauces or meals from here can be an option (check ingredients)

Go to a farmer’s market – for fresh whole foods harvested at the peak of their taste and nutritional quality

Shop the peripheries – in most supermarket fresh produce lines the walls and processed foods dominate the center aisles

Pick a variety of different colored fruit and vegetables – each color has its own benefits

Choose whole-grain – minimize consumption of white flour

Buy precut, frozen or canned fruit and vegetables – to help save time

Check ingredients. Avoid products:
That contain high fructose corn syrup,
That contain MSG,
If sugar is listed in the top three ingredients,
That contain other ingredients that you cannot pronounce and do not recognize as food (i.e. a chemical).

The Value of Family Meals

Home-cooked family meals go further than good nutrition. Family meals can contribute to a stronger familial bond. It is great to have a time in the day when all the family gets together. This can foster closer parent-child and sibling relationships. It also lets children know they have a support network where they can share concerns and successes. This can also help them better deal with challenges like peer pressure.

A sit-down family meal is also a great way to enhance spoken communication skills, an important tool which is often neglected in today’s digital world. Younger children can learn simple manners such as taking turns to speak, listening to others, and saying please and thank you. And as they get older, children can practice how to talk about themselves and what happened during their day as well as discuss general interest topics and current affairs. Learning how to be a good conversationalist starts at home.

Making Home-Cooking Possible

I’m sure you agree that a nutritious meal prepared at home is the healthiest option for your family. But for most of us, the greatest challenge to a better diet is having the time to prepare meals ourselves. So here are a few tips and suggestions for busy parents on how to make cooking at home a part of your lifestyle:

  • Conscious stocking. I find that my trip to the grocery store is the make or break of my healthy diet. If I add a bag of frozen fries, a bottle of soda, or a tub of ice cream to my cart, there is no reason for me not to consume this when I get home. The key is not to let junk food enter your home. Stock your pantry and refrigerator with healthy snack food such as strawberries, crackers and cheese, and fruit yogurts. And buy healthy ingredients to use in cooking such as a variety of vegetables, whole grains, and olive oil. That way, no matter how hungry you and your kids are, and how short you may be on time, you’re only option for eating is good, wholesome food!

  • Plan your meals ahead of time. It’s very tempting to order a pizza or stick some frozen chicken nuggets in the oven if you haven’t planned anything for dinnertime, it’s 6pm, and the kids are hungry. Also, sometimes I have a great meal idea, but when I step into the kitchen I find that I am missing some of the ingredients I need. I find it really helps to have my week’s meals planned out ahead of time. That way I can get everything I need from the grocery store in one weekly trip. Also, I know what preparation I need to do for each meal ahead of time and how long it will take. Planning is a great way to ensure that a busy schedule does not take you off track!

  • Involve your children in a fun way! This is another great bonding tool. Find tasks that are fun and suitable for their age, such as mixing the granola or playing a game such as who can find the most fillings to put in their sandwich. This can be fun for the kids, reduce your workload, and get children in the habit of helping out.

  • Make your own cookbook. Like any skill, cooking requires researching, experimenting and revision. Try a few different recipes before you find some that work best for you and your family. Try to come up with at least 20 good recipes for your family so that you can go about three weeks without any repeats. Add variety in terms of ingredients, type of cuisine, and method of cooking so you don’t get bored. Once you have your set of tried and tested recipes, you don’t have to spend so much time thinking about what to cook, finding a recipe, and making appropriate modifications for your family.

  • Simplicity is the key. The best part of my recipe book is my “super” one-dish recipes that are quick to prepare, contain ingredients that I always have at home, and are nutritious and taste delicious. As there is already so much to do each day, we do not want to add to our to-do lists with a complex meal idea. For this reason, keep it simple. That way cooking does not have to be another chore.

  • One meal for everyone. I find it really helps to have my 18-month-old son eat the same food as we do and at the same time as us. This way I do not have to cook two separate meals, and dinnertime does not span the entire evening. You might have to make some adjustments though. For example, since my son cannot eat food as spicy as my husband and I, I cut back on the chili, or add it later to our plates. Also, my husband and I have gotten in the routine of having an earlier dinner.

A healthy diet for our families requires time and effort but, when we consider the benefits to our health, the investment is well-worth it! Home-cooked meals are also important to foster happy communication around the dinner table and instill lifelong healthy eating habits in our children. The above tips can help make home-cooked meals a part of your lives.


Recipes

Granola

I make this for my husband and this amount usually lasts him about a month.

4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
2 cups sliced and silvered almonds
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup chopped walnuts
3/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup honey

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Toss the oats and nuts together in a large bowl. Place oil and honey in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Pour the liquids over the oat mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until all the oats and nuts are coated. Pour into a 13 by 18 by 1-inch sheet pan. Bake, stirring occasionally with a spatula, until the mixture turns a nice, even, golden brown, about 25 minutes.
Remove the granola from the oven and allow to cool, stirring occasionally. Store in an air-tight container.

Serve as follows:
Place half a cup of blueberries, half a banana, and a diced peach (or other fruits of your choice) in a cereal bowl. Add 2 tbsp yogurt. Add 1 tbsp honey. Top with 3/4 cup granola. Or if limited for time, just eat with plain yogurt.

Paella

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tomatoes finely chopped
2 onions finely chopped
Half a red pepper finely chopped
1.5 cups rice
3 cups vegetable stock
Pinch of saffron
Half a cup of peas
Half a cup of sweet corn
Salt and pepper

Place olive oil in a saucepan. Add the tomatoes and onions. Fry for about 5 minutes on medium heat until soft, add the peppers add fry for two minutes. Add the rice. Stir well and add the stock. Bring to the boil then add saffron, peas and sweet corn. Season to taste. Simmer on low heat for 12 minutes.

Grilled Salmon with a Spinach Salad

Place olive oil in an ovenproof dish. Add half a teaspoon garlic, some lemon juice, and salt and pepper according to taste. Place 1lb salmon in the dish, skin up and cover with foil. Bake at 400F for 20 mins, turning the salmon over half way and removing the foil.

Place 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 teaspoon sugar in a salad bowl. Add 5oz fresh spinach, one can mandarin oranges (without the liquid), half a cup of sweetened cranberries and half a cup of chopped pecans. Toss and refrigerate.

Bushra Bajwa lives in Issaquah, WA with her husband and 18 month old son. She works as a freelance writer and blogs on health, fitness and beauty for women at www.shineonhealth.blogspot.com.

 

 

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