When life gets busy, it’s all too easy to reach for convenience foods and takeout — but these are usually not the healthiest choices, and are often loaded with extra sugar, salt, fat and other additives.
Preparing meals at home allows you to use fresh produce and whole foods to create healthier family meals, and it doesn’t have to be difficult or take all day. We’ve rounded up some of our favorite healthy recipes and meal ideas from across the internet that are delicious and quick and easy to make too.
Top Ten Healthy Family Meals
These recipes will satisfy the whole family, even picky eaters. You’ll be a supermom with these awesome meals in your repertoire.
1. Rainbow Buddha Bowl
Buddha bowls are our favorite way to feed your family healthy, fresh ingredients, and this bowl is a great recipe to start with. These trendy bowls are named for the roundness of a Buddha belly, but no worries — the healthy veggies here won’t contribute to a round belly. The best part about this recipe is it’s totally customizable — swap out veggies for any picky eaters or family preferences. Plus, many of the components can be made in advance to take the pressure off weeknight meal prep. Roast the chickpeas and veggies on the weekend and save in the fridge for later.
At mealtime, let your family fill their bowls with their favorites. Encourage the kids to arrange their veggies in rainbow colors — and what kid doesn’t love rainbows? Eating the rainbow is an excellent way to get in the full spectrum of vitamins in a beautiful way. This combo of healthy whole grains, beans as well as both roasted and fresh vegetables, topped with a tasty sauce, provides nourishment for the whole family in an Instagram-worthy presentation. The prep is quick and easy, and you can toss the leftovers together for an even easier salad for tomorrow’s lunch. Once you get comfortable with this recipe, feel free to experiment with different veggies and sauces to mix things up.
2. Sheet Pan Spicy Tofu and Green Beans
This delicious dinner can’t be beat for quick and easy. For any busy mom, having fewer dishes to do is key, and this recipe needs only one pan and will save you time with cleanup.
Tofu is a healthier source of protein than animal proteins, with lower fat and zero cholesterol. If you’re new to tofu and wary about trying, know that there are some secrets to success. When prepared correctly, it is truly delicious. Pressing the tofu beforehand will give it a better texture and allow the tofu to absorb more of the marinade. There are different tofu presses on the market you can purchase to make pressing easier, but a couple of towels and a heavy pan work just as well too. To save even more time, you can also press and marinate your tofu the night before.
Summery, fresh green beans are not just crisp and delicious, they are loaded with good-for-you fiber, Vitamin C and Vitamin K. If your family has another favorite veggie, feel free to swap it in — or, better yet, add it to the green beans for more variety. Broccoli or cauliflower would also be delicious in this preparation.
3. One Pot Tortellini Primavera
This easy, delicious family meal can be cooked in one pot, and in a matter of minutes. Use packaged tortellini and throw your pasta and veggies in the pot all at the same time — saving you time and dishes. The word primavera means spring and in this dish, the spring vegetables shine. The recipe calls for broccoli, carrots, onion, asparagus and peas, but feel free to sub in whatever veggies you have on hand. It’s another way to eat the rainbow and feed your family healthy, whole foods loaded with vitamins and fiber.
4. Mushroom Burgers
When you’re craving a good burger, try this healthier alternative to fatty beef patties. With the savory, meaty taste and texture of mushrooms, you won’t even miss the beef. This recipe for mushroom burgers uses finely chopped mushrooms, formed into patties, but you can also use portobello mushrooms, leaving the caps whole as a tasty substitution for burgers. Either way, toast the bun, top with your choice of cheese if desired, and try a variety of vegetable toppings. Grill some peppers and zucchini along with the mushroom burgers for a flavorful topping, or serve with classic fresh sliced tomato and lettuce.
Instead of serving your burgers with the usual fries or chips, try a side dish of baked sweet potato fries. Superfood sweet potatoes are rich in fiber, potassium and vitamin A, and are a healthier swap for regular white potatoes. Try different spice blends on your fries to mix things up. Altogether, this meal provides a much healthier alternative to the classic American burger and fries and will keep your busy family satisfied.
5. Caprese Quinoa Salad
Perfect for warm summer days, this cool salad with Italian flair is a nutritional powerhouse, and is quick and easy to whip up. Cook the quinoa, chop the veggies and then just throw everything in a big bowl to mix up — what could be easier? You can get the kids involved in the prep work for this one, or prepare the salad in advance and store in the fridge for the week. Serve with some crusty whole grain bread, or dish up the salad into lettuce cups for a more fun presentation. It’s a filling meal the whole family will love.
The addition of quinoa to this recipe gives it a healthy source of protein — quinoa has all the essential amino acids, giving it superfood status. It makes a great base for this delicious summery salad, packed with vitamin-rich fresh vegetables.
6. Muffin Tin Lasagna
For a fun and easy take on family-favorite lasagna, swap out your big casserole pan for a muffin tin. The kids will love this meal idea and can help with the dinner prep. Instead of having to cook lasagna noodles separately and arrange just so, this recipe uses wonton wrappers as the base for the lasagna cups. Layer in delicious cheeses and garden-fresh tomato sauce and bake until bubbly.
Another version of this recipe adds in chopped vegetables, and you can customize it to your liking. Try adding in onion, zucchini, peppers, mushrooms or tomatoes to give these lasagna “muffins” extra flavor, texture and vitamins. The whole family will be thrilled with these creative mini lasagnas. They also make a great appetizer for parties and entertaining — top with fresh chopped parsley, a basil leaf or a sliced cherry tomato for extra wow factor.
7. Spinach and Bean Burrito Wraps
Takeout burritos seem to be getting bigger and bigger, and often come loaded up with fatty meats and cheeses, sour cream, and not enough veggies. While this delicious Mexican favorite can easily be a calorie bomb, there are ways to make burritos healthy — and still be delicious too. This recipe for spinach and bean burritos boasts a whole cup of nutrient-dense spinach and 13 grams of protein in every serving. Spinach is high in iron and calcium, among other important nutrients, so these burritos are a healthy pick for the whole family.
Choose wraps made of whole grains instead of plain white flour tortillas, and swap out white rice for brown, to up the nutrition factor of this meal. This recipe also uses Greek yogurt instead of sour cream, saving fat and calories. Try the suggested reduced-fat cheese or vegan cheese to cut fat and cholesterol. With a few simple swaps, you can still enjoy delicious Mexican burritos and stay on a healthy eating plan. The components of the recipe are quick and easy to make and can be prepared in advance and assembled at dinner as a time-saver.
8. Butternut Squash Pasta
Quick and easy to make, this delicious comfort food should be a staple of any autumn menu. In this recipe, the butternut squash is roasted and puréed along with raw cashews to make a creamy sauce for your pasta — without the heavy cream. Choose whole-grain pasta to up the protein in this meal — any shape will work, so pick your favorite. The peas and blended cashews also add to the healthy plant-based protein here. Butternut squash is low in calories and packed with fiber and many important vitamins and minerals.
Boasting only eight ingredients, this is one meal that can be thrown together easily on a weeknight. Make the sauce in advance if you want to save even more time. Top your pasta with chopped, fresh sage for a pop of extra flavor, serve with a side salad loaded with greens, and you’ve got a healthy family meal everyone will love.
9. Sweet and Sour Broccoli Stir-Fry
If you’re a fan of delicious Asian stir-fries, try this quick, easy and healthy version. Chop up broccoli and peppers — or any other favorite veggies — and in 15 minutes, your mouth-watering stir-fry is ready. The yummy sweet and sour glaze can be used with any stir-fry, making any vegetables appealing for even the pickiest eaters. Pair this classic stir-fry dish with a pot of brown rice or experiment with another whole grain. For more protein, add cubes of tofu to the mixture too.
The varieties of healthy stir-fries are truly endless. Try any one of the recipes from this stir-fry list and find your family’s favorite. Mix and match any of the combinations of vitamin-packed veggies, yummy sauces and healthy whole grains or whole-grain noodles. The beauty of stir-frying is that usually less cooking is better — overcooking means mushy veggies and lower nutrient counts, and you don’t want that. Lightly cooking the veggies maintains the most vitamins and keeps that fresh texture that makes stir-fries so tasty.
10. Greek Isles Pizza
Combining the tastes of the Mediterranean with family favorite pizza, this recipe has it all. This Greek pizza can be prepped and baked in less than a half-hour — perfect for busy families. Make your own crust or use a pre-baked one to save on time. Look for a whole grain crust to boost the nutritional content of this dish. Toppings like red onion, garlic, olives, sun-dried tomatoes and spinach pack in a variety of important vitamins and are delicious in this pizza.
Tomatoes, olives and spinach are stalwarts of the popular Mediterranean diet, which highlights fruits and veggies along with healthy fats. Olives are especially high in antioxidants and vitamins and are known for maintaining heart health and preventing diseases. Pizza that’s actually good for you — what could be better?
What Makes a Healthy Meal?
Each of the meals listed here is a healthy choice for your family. But what factors make a meal healthy? One of the most important things you can do in creating meals is to make sure that each meal is packed with vegetables.
A good rule of thumb is that veggies should take up at least half of the dinner plate. Fresh veggies supply your family with needed fiber, vitamins and minerals necessary for maintaining a healthy weight and preventing disease.
To this, add in lean proteins like beans and tofu, and “good” carbs — like those found in whole grains and starchy vegetables like potatoes. Healthy plant-based fats, like those from nuts, olives and avocados, are also necessary in a healthy diet. In fact, keeping your whole meal as plant-based as possible is best for your health, as it ensures lower calories and fat, more vitamins and minerals, and more antioxidants that fight disease.
It’s also a good idea to avoid highly processed foods, as they have lots of additives that you don’t need. Fast food, as well as frozen and prepared foods, are often high in sodium, preservatives and artificial ingredients that contribute to inflammation and disease. Minimize these effects by purchasing as much fresh whole food as possible and cooking healthy recipes at home. There are so many healthy, easy recipes to get you started — like the ones in this list — so your family will never run out of ideas for quick, good-for-you meals.
One more tip: Serve your family meals with water to drink. Many families don’t realize just how many calories are added in with other beverages like sodas and juices. These are okay to use as a treat, but not with every meal. If water feels too boring, try carbonated waters, or flavor your water naturally with berries, cucumbers, mint, basil or other combinations of fruit and herbs. You’ll stay hydrated without adding calories.
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