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