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You can have a balanced meal even on busy nights

Elizabeth Hall, Community Contributor • Apr 4, 2018 at 5:15 PM

Spring is here, which means outside events, sports and other activities are in full swing. Busyness often makes planning a healthy dinner a regretful afterthought. With a little preparation, there are easy and quick ways you can get a balanced meal in front of your family even on busy nights.

Prepare a Meal in Advance: Create your own healthier “Lunchable” by including all food groups in the divided sections of a lunch box. Pair whole grains with lean proteins, fruits and vegetables for a balanced meal. You could also wrap up all the food groups in a whole grain tortilla for easy eating. This is the perfect opportunity to reinvent leftovers into a tasty meal such as leftover whole grain noodles in a cold pasta salad with vegetables and Italian dressing. When you are really in a bind, pack snack foods to tide you over. Include at least one lean protein and one high-fiber carbohydrate, which will help keep you fuller longer and give you energy.

Frozen Meals. While frozen meals can be high in sodium, when you are really pressed for time, using a frozen entrée paired with healthier sides may be a convenient option. Look for less than 500 milligrams of sodium per serving, and find a meal that is high in fiber and has at least 7 grams of protein. Frozen individual meals are often too low in calories especially for active teens, so amp up the nutrients with an additional serving of fruits or veggies.

Meal in a Jar. Jars are perfect for combining food groups in a simple container that can go with you anywhere. Enjoy breakfast for dinner by prepping overnight oats or a frittata that can be microwaved right in the jar! Make yogurt parfaits ahead of time topped with whole grain granola and fruit or mix up a smoothie and freeze until ready to eat. Layer your favorite salad ingredients in a jar with heartier vegetables on the bottom or utilize leftover chicken for a deconstructed chicken burrito in a jar. Top with dressing or salsa for a delicious meal on the go!

Elizabeth Hall, MS, RDN, LDN Corporate/Retail Registered Dietitian, Food City

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