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Easy, fast and healthy dinners

For busy parents, a trifecta of adjectives describes the ideal family dinner: fast, easy and healthy, says Angela Lemond, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Families are looking for creative ways to get healthy dinners on the table quickly,” she observes. A growing set of options lets you feed your family fast without sacrificing nutrition.
 

Delivery

The easiest way to get dinner on the table is to have it delivered to your door. We’re not talking about take-out. Several services allow you to order complete meals or groceries online and have them delivered to your home.


Fresh Direct
develops relationships with farmers, fishermen and ranchers to provide the freshest produce and meats, says  chief marketing officerJohn Leeman.

“A lot of people think it’s a disadvantage to shop for produce online because they can’t see it,” says Leeman. On the contrary, he says, because Fresh Direct’s website showcases what’s in season, it helps shoppers pick the freshest produce. Nutrition information for any item is just a click away.

The site offers both fresh and frozen quick meal options. Site tabs include ready-to-cook, heat and eat, and 4-minute meals.  Items for kids’ palates include Chicken Dunk-Lings, Neato- Burritos and Cheesy Ravioli-Yos.

Cost: Comparable to grocery stores, plus delivery costs

Available: Center City Philadelphia now; in the majority of PA and NJ suburbs by the end of January


Peapod
which is affiliated with Giant Food Stores, delivers typical grocery store fare to your home. “I love it,” says Maggie Polisano, a mom of two busy teenage girls from Ambler, PA. “It helps me keep fresh produce in the house, and it helps keep me organized.”

“It helps people stay disciplined,” adds Peg Merzbacher, Peapod’s director of marketing, “because you don’t have the temptations of being in the store.” The site’s customizable Nutrafilter tab helps shoppers sort through items by caloric, fat or sodium content, or by allergens. 

Cost: Comparable to grocery stores, plus delivery costs

Available: Most PA suburbs


Plated
delivers portioned ingredients that you can turn into a gourmet meal for your family in about 30 minutes. “We’re trying to make it easy and exciting for people to cook,” says the company’s creative director, Elise Jordan. Each meal has a protein and locally sourced vegetables, and ranges from 600 to 800 calories. Plated is developing vegetarian, gluten-free and other diet-specific menu options for the future.

Cost: From $10 per serving

Available: “From DC to Boston,” says Jordan.
 



Dining out

Healthy Restaurant Finders

Dietitian-approved restaurant choices:

HealthyDiningFinder.com

KidsLiveWell Program


KidsLiveWell
is an initiative of the National Restaurant Association that aims to provide healthy kids’ menu options.

While participating restaurants have made progress in offering healthier options, Lemond recommends “being vigilant any time you’re eating out.” Think about portion size and the ways the restaurant makes its food taste good, she advises, including added fat, added salt and added sugar.



Do-it-yourself

“In the best-case scenario, you cook the meal yourself and involve your children in the process,” says Lemond. Here are tips for preparing your own healthy meals from scratch.

• Look for minimal ingredients. “If (a recipe) has more than 10 ingredients, it’s probably too complicated for a weeknight,” advises Lemond.

• Repurpose the meat. Use one type of meat two nights in a row, but try a different recipe for the second night.

• Double the recipe. Eat it for two nights or freeze the second half for another time.

• Fill your freezer. Spend one day a month cooking for future nights. Visit Onceamonthmom.com for recipe ideas.

No matter which approach you choose to get dinner on the table, “the key is practical planning,” says Lemond. She recommends taking 15 or 20 minutes each week to plan what you’re going to make for dinner. “A little bit of forethought is going to take you a long way,” she says.

Suzanne Koup-Larsen is a contributing writer to MetroKids.

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