Planning Family Meals

A balanced diet should consist of carbohydrate, protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals in the right amounts and should limit salt, fat and sugar intake. Here’s how to plan such a meal quickly.

– choose a high fibre carbohydrate food such as potatoes or bread.
– select a variety of vegetables or salads that will go well with the carbohydrate food you’ve chosen.
– add a protein rich food such as fish, chicken, or dried beans or lentils. Red meat is fine occasionally and in small quantities, but don’t make it the centerpiece of every meal or it will considerably up fat intake.

For a minimum of effort and to avoid last minute crises, draw up a rough outline of menus at the beginning of the week. Vary the meals to make the best use of the available time and ingredients and to keep them interesting. Don’t forget to take into account the various special meals you need to prepare. Take the list along with you and you’ll find it makes shopping easier too.

Deciding what’s for dinner can be a job for the whole family. Ask family members what their favourite meals are and try to incorporate that into your schedule. You may also find that their suggestions provide you with extra inspiration when you’ve run out of ideas yourself.

For fussy eaters, watch what they order the next time you’re all out at a restaurant. You may be surprised with the results and it’ll provide some more useful inspiration for home.

Food is one area where lower bills need not mean you cut corners on quality as long as you shop with care. Cheaper cuts of meat are often just as tasty and nutritious as their more expensive equivalent. Less expensive oily fish such as mackerel and herring are a bargain too; nutritionally they’re just as good as salmon.

For added variety you might consider replacing a potato or rice regime with some inventive alternatives. How about pasta, couscous, corn tortillas, pita bread, dumplings, pastry, cracked wheat, noodles, bread rolls, oatcakes, chapattis or pancakes instead? Always use wholegrain products when available as this will increase fibre intake.

Sometimes you won’t have the time to prepare meals and on these occasions there is nothing wrong with pre-prepared meals from supermarkets – they can be just as nourishing and tasty. Do check the ingredients though to make sure there isn’t too much salt, sugar or saturated fats. Serve with a salad or baked beans and round off with fresh fruit to increase vitamin intake.

If you’re short on time you might also want to consider investing in a slower cooker and making curries casseroles and pot roasts which can be left to cook during the day while you’re out at work. Prepare the ingredients the night before and keep them in the fridge overnight, putting them on to cook before you head off to work in the morning. Alternatively choose food which can be microwaved grilled or stir fried as they can be cooked quickly when you get home from work.

For added inspiration why not check out some cookery books or magazines or search online. It can be great fun trying out new flavours and ingredients and you will help expand the palate of your kids. Try to include a new dish once a week if you can. You’ll soon find you will be able to mix and match and create your very own recipes.

You can also cook with leftovers, but in this case you’re better turning the leftovers into something else, it will be a lot more appealing than a reheated version of last nights meal. Turn a casserole into a pie or savory crumble or dice it into cubes for a curry.

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