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Preparing Healthy Meals for the Whole Family!

Some people are just easy to please and ready to eat whatever is set before them. Other people are so picky it seems like nothing pleases them, and especially if it is considered “healthy” or “good for you.” How can we plan, buy, and prepare for kids or those who don’t understand the importance of eating healthy?

A great place to start is to know where to find the healthy foods in the grocery store. Generally, buying food from the outer aisles of the grocery store is a good practice. That is where you find the fresh meat, fresh fruit, fresh vegetables and dairy products. Those items are usually on the healthy list. You can also find foods in the frozen food aisle – fresh frozen vegetables and fruit with no added salt or sugar. Many whole grain foods such as whole grain pasta, brown rice and whole grain bread are found in the middle aisles.

It is also a good idea to read the nutrition labels on the packaged foods to understand what’s in the food. Here are some tips on how to slip all these good food items into your menu!

Meat and Cheese BurritoChoose lean meat. Add a small amount of black beans and cabbage – continue to increase the amount of vegetables over time
Beef StewThink about adding a small amount of another vegetable (or in lieu of beef) such as sweet potatoes or chard
CerealChoose a whole grain, low sugar cereal
Rice dishUse brown rice or mix brown rice with the white rice, (eg. half and half) to start out
Peanut butter and jellyUse whole grain bread or use one slice of whole grain and one slice of white to make it a variety sandwich
OatmealAdd sliced strawberries or blueberries – fresh or frozen- for sweetness instead of adding sugar
Side DishConsider experimenting with fresh vegetables and dips the family might enjoy

If you have children, engage them in the grocery shopping. Have them choose a new vegetable or fruit to try. There are some really interesting looking ones out there that they may want to challenge you to try too! For example, try prickly pears or elephant fruit. Include the whole family in planning a few menu items for the week. Use a fresh fruit or vegetable with every meal as your mantra.
Another barrier to healthy eating is not having enough time in the day to cook. Here are some quick and easy suggestions you could try!

Chicken StripsThaw frozen chicken strips and add to frozen vegetable stir fry. Pour the stir fry over brown rice for a quick and healthy meal.
Roasted ChickenRemove the skin and pull the chicken off and place on each plate. Add a baked potato (8-9 minutes in the microwave) and consider a side salad. You can even grab the premixed lettuce and just add the dressing.
Egg omeletsMake the eggs and then add a vegetable of choice and some shredded cheese. Spinach, zucchini, or tomatoes work well.
QuesadillasUse pre-shredded cheese, cabbage slaw and optional meat of your choice. Or try a taco bar with meat, cabbage or shredded lettuce, shredded cheese, cherry tomatoes and guacamole.

Here are some recipes to help you with your meal planning. The American Diabetes Association’s food hub can give you more ideas. Give these tips a try and healthy eating can be a family affair.