TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN
Four-year-old George Keown climbs on a piece of playground equipment while playing at at École New Era School with his older sister on a sunny Saturday afternoon.
The busy schedules of many families can make it difficult to always prepare healthy meals. Convenience foods and fast foods are easy to fall back on, because they require no preparation or planning.
While a frozen TV dinner is helpful on an especially hectic day, and a trip to the drive-thru is a special treat, it is far too easy for these shortcuts to become part of our routine.
A little bit of planning goes a long way when it comes to eating well. Not having enough time tends to be the biggest deterrent to preparing home cooked meals, so start by having your meals planned a week in advance.
This makes shopping easier, and will help you save money in the long run as you can take advantage of good sales on meat or produce by including them in the menu for the following week.
When you get home from doing your grocery shopping, wash fresh fruit and vegetables before putting them away. Chop vegetables so they are ready to use in upcoming meals. Keep containers of fruits or vegetables in an easy to reach place for children to grab when they need a quick snack.
A slow cooker can be a great time saving device. By doing all the preparation in the morning, the family can come home to a ready-made meal and a house that smells delicious. Slow cookers are great for soups, stews or chili, or for meats like pot roasts, chicken or pork chops.
When you have ingredients washed and cut in the fridge, a stir fry takes very little time to prepare. A do-it-yourself salad bar is fun; set out a variety of chopped vegetables, meats, cheese, chopped hard-boiled eggs, and some salad dressings and let everyone choose their favourites.
Wherever possible, make enough to have leftovers that can be eaten at home, work or school for lunch the next day.
You can help the whole family become more aware of healthy food choices by creating custom versions of the Canada Food Guide.
Go to the Health Canada website: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/food-guide-aliment/index-eng.php and follow the step-by-step process that allows each person to choose examples of some favourite foods in order to get an idea of what represents one serving. When you enter the person’s age and gender, the guide will advise of the number of servings suggested daily for each food group.
Helping your children learn healthy eating habits will benefit them now and for the rest of their lives. If you have fallen into the fast food or convenience food rut, take this opportunity to make some changes to improve the health and well-being of your family.
Shawna Munro works at the Elspeth Reid Family Resource Centre, a facility of Child and Family Services of Western Manitoba that offers parenting information and support.
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Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 10, 2013