As the American healthy consumer guides evolve, so has the food guide pyramid. This one triangular building block of choices has been altered to appear in the form of a plate. The plate is a more visual way to associate portion size and helps children and adults alike maintain a healthy balance. The new food guide also includes healthy habits such as:
- Taking smaller portions
- Making half your plate fruits and vegetables
- Switching to fat-free or low-fat milk
- Choosing whole grains
- Watching your sodium intake
- Drinking water instead of sugar-filled beverages
But even healthy choices are hard to make when you don’t have a healthy go-to meal plan on hand. Here are five easy-to-make recipes to get your weekday meal planning off on the right foot.
1. Toad in a Hole
This family-friendly breakfast is fun for all ages. With a good mix of all the food groups, this quick and easy recipe can help jumpstart anyone’s mornings.
- 100% whole wheat Bread
- Fruit (such as an apple or a banana)
- Low- or non-fat milk
- Baking sheet
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
- Cut out small circles big enough to hold a cracked egg in a few pieces of 100% whole wheat bread (enough to feed your family)
- Grease a baking sheet and lay out pieces of bread
- Crack whole eggs into the circles
- Bake for 8-12 minutes.
Put these tasty pieces of bread on plates and add a piece of fruit and a glass of milk to round out this quick and easy morning meal.
2. Apple or Pineapple Chicken Quesadillas
Having a hard time getting your family fond of fruit? Try mixing it with a little Mexican flair to get this food group on your family’s good side.
- 4 whole wheat tortillas (8-inch wide)
- 1 cup cooked shredded or diced chicken breast
- ¼ lb. low fat shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1 apple, sliced or 1 cup pineapple chunks
- ¼ cup mild salsa (make from scratch for less sodium!)
- Heat a large skillet on medium heat
- Add a tortilla to the skillet
- Add shredded mozzarella cheese, chicken, and choice of fruit
- Place another tortilla on top and wait for the cheese to melt
- Let the cheese melt a bit and then flip the quesadilla over to brown the top tortilla
- When the cheese has melted and the tortillas are crisp, remove the quesadilla and let sit
- Cut the tortilla into triangular slices
Serve this recipe with a salad to sneak some fruits and vegetables into dinnertime for compliments instead of complaints.
3. Beef Barley Stew
Stew is a great meal to make ahead, and provides leftovers that are often even better than the first meal. Stew is a great family favorite that can also be packed for lunches, allowing you to get the most bang for your buck.
- 6 ounces lean stew beef in bite-size chunks
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 3 large cloves of garlic, minced
- 3 -4 large carrots, sliced
- 1 pint sliced mushrooms
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 4 cups low sodium beef broth
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 stalk celery
- 1/4 cup barley
- Lightly coat beef in flour and brown in a saucepan
- In a large saucepan or stock pot, heat oil
- Sauté garlic, onion, celery, mushrooms and carrots for 8-10 minutes
- Add broth, barley, bay leaves and beef
- Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 45 minutes or until barley is tender, stirring occasionally
Serve with whole grain bread. Add a small fruit and yogurt parfait for dessert to round out the meal. You can pack this lunch for the kids by throwing soup, a small carton of milk, and an apple together for a quick and healthy solution.
4. Sloppy Joes and Fruity Jell-O
This family favorite is quick, easy, and fun. And with the right ingredients, it can be healthy too! Use 90% lean ground turkey in place of ground beef to lighten up your lean protein.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Half a small onion, diced
- 1¼ pounds lean ground turkey
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ cup water
- ¼ cup tomato paste
- 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tsp. yellow mustard
- Whole wheat hamburger buns
- 2 cups baby carrots
- 1 package Jell-O
- Cubed fruit (apples, nectarines, pineapple, and tangerines)
- Mix Jell-O per package instructions, and add fruit.
- Cook beef and celery over medium heat until meat is brown. Strain any fat.
- Add remaining ingredients and cook over low heat for 15 minutes or until thick
- Over medium heat, cook beef and celery until meat is browned and celery is tender. Pour off fat, if any. Add remaining ingredients and cook over low heat, uncovered. Wait for flavors to blend and until slightly thickened.
- Steam baby carrots until still slightly crisp.
5. Tacos and Baked Apples
- Shredded lettuce (use romaine for vitamins and minerals)
- Chopped tomatoes and olives
- Diced onions
- Light sour cream
- Shredded low-fat mozzarella cheese
- Corn or wheat tortillas
- Canned low-sodium black beans
- 90% lean ground beef
- 1 apple per person
- Sauté onions in a large skillet
- Cook ground beef in a large skillet and drain any fat
- Rinse black beans and warm in a small sauce pot
- Warm corn tortillas in the oven
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
- Scoop out the core from top of the apple
- Stuff each apple with 1 tablespoon light brown sugar and 1 tsp. butter or margarine.
- Sprinkle with cinnamon.
- Place apples in a baking dish.
- Bake in a preheated oven for 15 minutes, until sugar begins to caramelize and apples are tender.
This is a quick and easy dinner, offering a self-serve option with a built-in mix of grains, vegetables and black beans. Serve with a glass of low fat milk and follow it up with an easy apple dessert.
Use these quick and easy recipes to keep your family healthy and happy while whipping up dinner with less stress.
photo courtesy of satanoid and David Berkowitz