How to Cook Quick, Healthy Family Meals

Page content


Eating a nutritious breakfast can help get your family off to a good start in the morning. Aim for a mixture of complex carbohydrates, unsaturated fat and protein. Your family breakfasts can range from traditional oatmeal to unconventional leftover pizza.

Oatmeal provides soluble fiber. Place two cups of steel-cut Irish oatmeal in a slow cooker and add eight cups of water. Add dried fruit, vanilla, cinnamon or your preferred seasoning and cook on a low setting overnight. If slow cooking isn’t your forte, cook instant oatmeal in your microwave and offer a variety of fresh fruits and cinnamon to top it off.

If your family prefers cold cereal, encourage them to pair the bowl with a piece of fruit like a banana or a kiwi. Stock your kitchen with low-sugar, high-fiber cereals made from whole grains. If healthy cereals tend to bore your kids, suggest that they try mixing different cereals together in the same bowl. Offer chopped walnuts or almonds as a healthy cold cereal topping.

Other quick, healthy family meals for breakfast include toast or English muffins topped with peanut butter, yogurt or Greek yogurt with granola, cottage cheese topped with sliced fruit or scrambled eggs with toast. On your family’s toast use peanut butter, almond butter, or another butter substitute with healthy fats instead of margarine or actual butter.


Quick, healthy family meals for lunch can consist of sandwiches, salads,or dinner leftovers. Lunch should provide a healthy balance of lean proteins, carbohydrates and fiber from vegetables or fruits. Stock your fridge with a variety of lowfat cold cuts and lowfat sandwich spreads. Offer your family whole grain, unrefined bread, shredded lettuce, tomatoes, and sprouts. Picky eaters may prefer to assemble their own sandwiches. Peanut butter is a healthy choice for vegetarians, but beware of the fat content. Choose a lowfat variety or spread it thinly.

Lunches prepared in advance can help save you time the next day. Package dinner leftovers in plastic containers to take to the office or school. You can also assemble a tossed salad ahead of time and portion it out into portable containers.

Accompany your family’s lunches with their favorite fruits or vegetables. Easily portable ideas include apples, baby carrots and pre-sliced celery.

Skillet and One-Pot Dinners

Skillet dinners and one-pot dinners can save you time both when you are preparing the meal and when you are cleaning up afterward. Many one-pot dinners are familiar comfort foods such as homemade macaroni and cheese or creamy chicken pot pies. You can reinvent these traditional dishes and make them healthier by using lowfat cheeses, whole grain pastas and adding more vegetables or serving them with a large salad. Or you can toss together healthy ingredients and invent your own one-pot meal.

Invent your own quick, healthy family meals by assembling your family’s favorite ingredients. Start by deciding which type of meal you’ll make such as soup, casserole or a skillet dinner like a stir-fry. Then select your starch such as brown rice, whole grain pasta or diced potatoes. Add a protein such as sliced firm tofu, non-breaded chicken, lean cuts of beef or lentil, kidney, or black beans. Add plenty of vegetables, pairing them to go with the rest of your ingredients. For example, chicken and beef pair well with fresh broccoli, asparagus, bell peppers and snow peas. Sprinkle your meal lightly with a low-sodium sauce and seasonings. If you decide to use cheese, make sure it is lowfat.

Other Dinner Shortcuts

For an even quicker meal, cheat a little. Grab a pre-roasted chicken or turkey from your local deli and pair it with vegetables and a starch like cornbread or whole grain dinner rolls. Keep plenty of frozen vegetables in your freezer to save time. You won’t need to chop them; just toss them in a skillet and add seasonings. Use the leftover poultry the next day in salads, soups or tacos. When you do cook from scratch, make a large batch. Freeze the extra and save it for another day.


Eating Well, “Overnight Oatmeal,”

Elizabeth M. Ward, MS, RD, “Quick Healthy Meals for Busy Families,”

Mark R. Vogel, “Follow the Recipe,”

Martha Stewart, “Make Chicken Salad with Leftover Chicken,”