What’s for dinner? A happy healthy new year - MetroFamily Magazine
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What’s for dinner? A happy healthy new year

by Madi Pontikes

It’s a new year, making it a perfect time to start fresh with your family’s nutrition. While eating “in” is typically the healthier option, cooking nutritious options for the entire family can feel overwhelming with the endless other to-dos life hands us. I hope these tips will help you feel empowered to feed your family well.

Find a food style.

I love to cook dinner for my family but rarely use a recipe. My rule of thumb is that our plates must have vegetables, a protein and a whole grain. I add fruit for my two girls, too. If you love to make crock pot meals, do them often. If rice and veggie bowls are you jam, go for it. Repeat your favorites.

Stick to the basics.

Oftentimes when we think of healthy eating, elaborate recipes with foreign ingredients come to mind. Every meal doesn’t have to rival a 5-star dining experience! Keeping meals simple can be key to long-term success.

Make more (and use eco friendly storage!)

I always double up on what I make so my husband and I can have leftovers for lunch. Leftovers can sometimes be bland, so adding hot sauce or flavorful cheese (goat or feta, yum!) can help change up the flavor. While you’re changing up habits this new year, invest in metal or silicone food storage
bins for a healthier, greener and more economical option.

Don’t shy away from frozen fruits and veggies.

Most people don’t realize frozen fruits and vegetables are often more nutrient-dense than fresh because they are flash-frozen at peak ripeness. It’s also more cost-friendly to buy your berries, fruits and veggies in bulk from the freezer section. I prepare the veggies by either baking or sauteing. We use frozen fruits and berries for smoothies, also a fantastic way to sneak more veggies into your diet.

Create a routine.

This is most important when it comes to creating a healthy household. If you try to wing it every day, you’ll inevitably take the path of least resistance, a drive-thru or delivery. If my husband is home before dinner, he takes on the kids while I tackle the kitchen. After dinner, one parent bathes the kids while the other does dishes. If my husband isn’t home before dinner, I do a crock pot meal that day or I set out an activity for the girls in the kitchen so they’re entertained while I’m cooking.

Remember all changes have a learning curve but after the initial work, it becomes your new normal. However, a huge part of your health is the mental aspect. If you need to schedule one night a week for take-out, do it and don’t lose sleep over it! Then ensure the rest of the week packs in some veggies.

“Kids aren’t always hungry, but they’ll always eat junk food.”

This advice from our pediatrician changed my perspective on feeding my kids. Kids are generally better than adults at eating intuitively, but if you’ve been blessed with a picky eater, I’ve found dips can help. I serve sugar free organic ketchup with meats and veggies and am always pleasantly surprised by what my girls will gobble up when they can have ketchup. Some other great dips are natural honey, low sodium soy sauce and all-natural ranch. Also, explain how eating serves your child’s body. My oldest will ask: “what’s this good for?” regarding our meals. For example, cheese is packed with vitamins that help strengthen your bones. This opens the discussion on the science of nutrition and positivity of nutritious food, creating a healthy attitude of gratitude toward eating.

Need a few ideas for simple meals to cook? 

Breakfast for Dinner Protein Pancakes:

Ingredients:

  • Kodiak Pancake mix
  • Chopped spinach

Instructions:

Combine the kodiak pancake ingredients into a blender

Add the chopped spinach

Blend mildly then pour onto a hot skillet

Cook until bubbles form and flip

Enjoy these as a quick breakfast or snack, or smother with peanut butter and maple syrup for a yummy breakfast-for-dinner treat.

Crock Pot Chicken:

Ingredients:

  • 1.25 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • ¼ cup low sodium chicken broth or chicken bone broth
  • 1 cup low sugar BBQ sauce

Instructions:

Place all ingredients in the crock pot or stove top slow cooker. Cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 3-4 hours. Break apart meat with a wooden spoon and two forks. Serve immediately

You can add this to a bowl of shredded lettuce, avocado, diced tomatoes and black beans for a delicious taco bowl. Combine this chicken with some quick brown rice and sauteed or steamed veggies for another simple, nutritious meal.

Other favorite recipes:

Editor’s note: This is the first article in a three-part series exploring ideas for cooking as a family from local moms.

Madi Pontikes is an early childhood educator, personal trainer and the creator and owner of Move by Madi. She creates workouts that fit into the modern mom’s daily routine, sheds light on the real aspects of healthy living and parenting and is passionate about promoting a mindset of loving your body for what it CAN do. Connect with Madi on Instagram @movebymadi or movebymadi.com, where you can find her favorite workout guide for the new year, the 12 Week Power Program.

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