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4 Tips for Making Healthy Meals for Kids

A family prepares dinner in the kitchen
(Image credit: <a href='http://www.shutterstock.com/pic.mhtml?id=46368046'> Family cooking photo</a> via Shutterstock)

It's 5:45 p.m., and you're racing home to get dinner on the table for the kids. You don't want them to eat dinner too close to bedtime, so you don't have much time to prepare and cook something healthy and nutritious. What do you do?

Maybe tonight is one of those special occasions where you let someone else do the cooking for you. So, you pack up the fam and head to the nearest restaurant. At least they'll be getting a nutritious meal, right? Maybe not.

According to a study in March from the Center for Science in the Public Interest, 97 percent of kids' meals get an "F" in nutrition. If you think about what's served to children at restaurants, though, it shouldn't come as too much of a surprise. Fried chicken fingers, burgers, fries and soda are staples on children's menus across the nation.

So, it's probably best to avoid temptation and just cook a quick meal at home. Here are some tips for making sure you can always throw a meal together in a short time.

  1. Designate a shopping and prep day. As soon as you get home from the grocery store, start chopping. Cut up the veggies you'll need for the week and store them in airtight containers in the fridge. They'll be great for snacks and dinner prep.
  2. Have some go-to meals. Stir-fries are amazingly quick meals that can also be nutritious. Play around with a few recipes to see what your family likes, and stick with one. This way, you can always keep the ingredients on hand for a quick meal.
  3. Realize that you don't have to be super mom all the time. You don't always need to make meals from scratch. Frozen veggies are a great substitute for fresh (just avoid canned vegetables, if possible).
  4. Cook one or two big meals and plan to have leftovers. Just because they are leftovers doesn't mean they aren't still nutritious. Whatever you made last night is probably a lot better than fried chicken fingers and fries.

Healthy Bites appears on MyHealthNewsDaily on Wednesdays. Deborah Herlax Enos is a certified nutritionist and a health coach and weight loss expert in the Seattle area with more than 20 years of experience. Read more tips on her blog, Health in a Hurry!

Deborah Enos
Deborah Enos, CN, also known as "The One-Minute Wellness Coach," is The Health Coach for busy, working people. She pares her good-health messages down to simple and fast bullet points that can impact lives in 60 seconds or less. Deborah serves as a board member of the American Heart Association.  In addition to writing the Healthy Bites column for Live Science, Deborah is a regular on FOX Business News, NBC and ABC, and is a frequent contributor to The Costco Connection, Parade Magazine, Self Magazine, Good Housekeeping and USA Today. Deborah is also The One Minute Wellness Coach for The Doctors TV Show.