Healthy Meals for Families

Meal planning for your family can be tough if there are varied tastes, diets, and schedules to consider. Healthy family meals can be yours with a little planning and perhaps a side of adventure!

Healthy Meals for Families
Photo by Nancy Yos
Finding healthy recipes for your family is good, but you can make all your meals healthier when you slightly change the way you cook. Think of your kitchen as the source of basic wholesome ingredients, and you'll find ways to use them -- and even improve them -- to cut salt and fat and add nutrients to your everyday meals.
Defat Your Meats
A lot of favorite recipes call for browned ground beef. When making chili, tacos, spaghetti or a hamburger casserole, brown the beef alone first. When it is cooked, tilt the pan, push the meat aside, and spoon off the fat. Proceed with the recipe--the meal will be much less greasy. Trim as much fat as possible from meats or chicken before roasting or braising. Poke duck skin all over with a fork before roasting so the fat will escape into a drip pan.
Eliminate Canned Soups
If a recipe calls for a salty canned cream soup, replace it with a homemade cream sauce. Simply melt 2 tbsp. butter in a pan, add 2 tbsp flour and stir to make a bubbly paste. Slowly add 1 cup of milk, and stir and cook until thickened. (This recipe can be doubled.) Replace canned broths with homemade stock -- vegetable stocks are quick. Bring a small pot of water to a boil, and add an onion, a stalk of celery and a peeled carrot, all chopped. Simmer for 20 minutes, strain and use.
Healthy Basic Ingredients
Replace butter if possible with olive oil. Fresh parsley is nutrient rich and can be added in large quantities to any dish, and then removed before serving. For families that are vegetable-phobic, soups are a great source of liquid nutrition--you can load them with vegetables, and then either serve them pureed or strain out some of the vegetables. Brown rice can replace white rice, and whole wheat breads and crackers can replace their white-flour counterparts.
Replace Soft Drinks
Sugary soft drinks and fruit drinks are a huge source of empty calories. At mealtime, water, milk or almost any other beverage is better. In summer, try homemade iced tea. Boil a quart of water, turn off the heat, and drop in 5 teabags. Let them steep until cool. Pour into a pitcher, and add the juice of 1 lemon and a half cup of sugar. Add about 5½ cups water and stir vigorously.
Bake
Home-baked cookies and cakes made simply of butter, flour, eggs and sugar, are fresher and more wholesome than the store-bought kind. You'll speed up your baking if you remember to set out a stick or two of butter to soften to room temperature a few hours before you want to make something. Many easy cookie recipes call for creamed butter, and creaming goes quickly if your butter is already very soft.
Resources
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The Fannie Farmer Cookbook; Marion Cunningham; 1986
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A Matter of Taste; Sylvia Windle Humphrey; 1965
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Healthy eating from the Food Network
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Some soft drink nutrition information
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More about parsley