Feeding a family is no easy feat. Even if everyone will eat the same foods, finding recipes that are relatively quick to prepare and healthy is a challenge in and of itself. When you have to account for everyone’s specific preferences and dietary restrictions, preparing meals can turn into more of a dreaded chore than a labor of love. That’s when people stop cooking, resorting to unhealthy processed or fast food, and missing out on family meals that keep our bodies and our relationships strong and healthy.
Luckily, there are plenty of healthy, easy-to-prepare entrees out there that every member of your family can enjoy without added stress to the chef. Whether you and your family members are trying to lose weight, eat less meat to be more environmentally friendly, or just prefer vegetarian options every once in a while, we’ll teach you how to find well-rounded recipes that work for families with diverse tastes and dietary needs. We’ll also focus on breakfasts, lunches, and dinners that your family will want to eat over and over again. Bon appétit!
Finding the right foods to feed your family shouldn’t be a struggle. Then again, with new diet fads trending every season, it can feel impossible to keep track of what constitutes healthy eating. The good news is that if you follow a few simple rules, you can cook confidently for your loved ones.
- Focus on fresh. Put simply, food is better when it’s fresh. Not only does it taste better, but it’s also more nutritious. Free of additives and full of nutrients, filling up on fresh meat, cheese, and vegetables can help you lose weight, improve your heart health, and even promote dental health. And if you buy it at your local farmers market, you’ll also be supporting local growers, reducing your environmental impact, and saving money on healthcare costs over time.
- Season with care. Too much salt, sugar, or butter can turn even the best meal bad. Try seasoning with natural alternatives, like herbs, citrus, and vinegar. You can even change up your cooking method to impart more flavor by sautéing or roasting your veggies with just a little bit of oil and sea salt.
- Plate properly. No matter your healthy eating goals, serving size matters. A simple trick to avoid overeating is to use smaller plates. Tips, like repackaging bulk foods into smaller servings, reading food labels, measuring serving sizes, and skipping second helpings, can also help you control your portions.
The key to meal planning for families is simplicity. Family meals should be easy to source, prep, and modify for each member’s dietary preferences. So, we’ve picked options composed of a base dish and toppings suitable for both vegetarians and meat eaters. As a bonus, these dishes are easy to save and store as leftovers, saving you time on shopping and prep.
- Tacos. Suitable for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, tacos are a go-to menu item for healthy families with diverse tastes. Start with soft tortillas or hard shells. Then, offer a choice of protein for the filling, like grilled chicken or black beans. Toppings like salsa, lettuce and tomato, low-fat cheese, and avocado are healthy for everyone. When you’re done, pack everything away in individual containers to repurpose. Swap out your protein for sausage or eggs the next morning, and you have breakfast!
- Salads. A base of greens and veggies only takes minutes to prepare and serve, and putting them together can be a great way to introduce your child to cooking and kitchen safety. Meat-eating family members can add diced deli meat, while vegetarians can add nuts, seeds, or tofu for more protein.
- Pasta. Pasta is a great base to which you can add meat or vegetable-based sauce, pesto, or even salad dressing. Add a side salad and homemade garlic toast, and you have a complete meal.
- Smoothies. Smoothies are a quick, easy option for meal replacements or just to satisfy your sweet tooth. Blend fruits, veggies, and greens with protein powder made from peas or whey, depending on your family’s preference, for a healthy, on-the-go breakfast or snack.
- Pizza. Creating your pizzas from scratch is not just healthier than delivery; it’s a fun way for families to cook together. Family members can choose a red or white sauce, top with cheese, and add a variety of veggie and meat toppings. Then just bake, slice, and eat.
- Sandwiches. Nothing is simpler than a sandwich. Spice up your smorgasbord of bread, meats, veggies, and cheeses with a selection of specialty sauces.
- Soups. Like the other items on this list, soups are simple to make and then customize with extra ingredients. For example, a vegetarian baked potato soup can be customized with toppings like cheese, chives, and bacon. You can also make them in large quantities and freeze them for later.
See? Feeding family can be affordable, easy, and even fun. To ensure your family’s vegetarians and meat eaters all stay happy, healthy, and well-fed, you just have to remember the rules and plan ahead. And remember: the family who eats together, stays together. Instead of leaving the work to one person, use meal prep and cooking as an opportunity to spend time with the people you love the most. Just be sure everyone knows the rules for kitchen and food-handling safety