Alberta Cancer Foundation

Save time and eat healthy

When life is busy and time is tight, it can be hard to make healthy eating a priority, let alone eating meals with others. Multiple appointments, conflicting
schedules, family members who are too busy and long work days can be additional barriers to eating together as a family.

If you move healthy eating closer to the top of your priority list, you will be taking an important step toward good health. There are additional nutritional benefits to eating family meals, such as an increased intake of vegetables, fruit and calcium-rich foods, and decreased intake of soft drinks, especially for youth. This can lower the risk for becoming overweight, and eating together may also offer some protection against family members developing an eating disorder.

Here are some tips for healthy eating:

Stock your pantry and fridge with basic healthy food, including:

Vegetables and Fruit

  • Grain Products
  • Canned or frozen vegetables and fruit (choose ones without added salt and sugar)

Whole grain bread, rolls or crackers

  • Brown rice, oats, millet or quinoa
  • Canned or jarred pasta sauces (look for low-sodium versions)

Meat and Alternatives

  • Canned salmon, tuna
  • Low-sodium canned beans or lentils
  • Nut butters, nuts, seeds
  • Plain, un-breaded frozen meat, poultry or fish

Milk and Alternatives

  • Low-fat milk and low-fat cheese
  • Low-fat yogurt
  • Unsweetened fortified soy beverage

Assemble a healthy meal using these three steps to get you started. Each column below has healthy foods from each of the four food groups in Canada’s Food Guide.

  1. Pick an item from three or four of the Guide’s columns.
  2. Combine for a healthy meal.
  3. If possible, enjoy your meal with others (friends or family).

Meat and


and Fruit

Milk and


Heat brown beans, kidney beans, or navy beans

Put in a whole-grain tortilla

Serve with low- sodium salsa and sliced bell pepper

Grate low-fat cheese on the tortilla

Open a can of low-sodium canned salmon

Add to whole grain noodles in broth

Stir in frozen vegetables

Serve low-fat yogurt for dessert

Drain a can of lentils and mix with canola oil and Dijon mustard

Add cooked brown rice or barley

Serve on lettuce

Serve low-fat yogurt for dessert

Grill or bake chicken breasts with herbs and spices

Serve with cooked whole grain noodles

Add cooked frozen green or yellow beans

Serve low-fat milk to drink

Scramble eggs

Serve with whole grain toast, pita or tortilla

Add vegetables like mushrooms and spinach to eggs and then pan fry together

Top with grated low-fat cheese

Here are some more time-saving ideas to help you have healthy meals at home:

  • Choose a day of the week to prepare and assemble meal items which can be quickly put in a slow cooker in the morning, and you will have your meal ready when you get home.
  • Cook larger quantities of food when choosing quinoa, brown rice or vegetables, for example, so you will have them for other lunch or dinner meals
  • Try a grocery delivery service
  • Look for businesses in your community where you can assemble meals and take them home to cook at a later date.

Consider starting a cooking circle or cooking club with friends. These are groups of people who get together on a regular basis to cook. It can be a great way to develop skills and prepare healthy and affordable meals.

Karol Sekulic is a registered dietitian with Alberta Health Services who has expertise and interest in the areas of weight management, nutrition and communications.