No matter how much you love to prepare fabulous, healthy meals for your family, there will always be days where you just can’t pull it off. But whether it’s an unexpected crisis at work or simply a case of forgetting to remove the casserole from your freezer, we’ve got you covered.
With the following simple and semi-homemade meal suggestions, you can have a delicious (and nutritious) dinner on the table in 15 minutes or less.
1. Rotisserie Chicken
A rotisserie chicken — which you can pick up anywhere from Walmart to Whole Foods — is a busy parent’s best friend. The serving options are endless, but when time is at a premium, simply shred the chicken and serve it with whole grain rolls and barbecue or buffalo sauce.
Picky eaters can eat their chicken plain, while family members with more adventurous palates can build their own sandwiches. Include toppings like pickles, lettuce, tomatoes, or ranch dressing if you have them on hand.
Suggested sides: Frozen vegetables, pierogies, 2-minute cole slaw.
2. Mexican Pizza
Spread refried beans on soft tortillas or crunchy tostada shells, then top with shredded cheese and salsa and bake until heated through. Serve with sour cream, avocado slices, and diced tomato.
Suggested sides: Corn and black bean salad, orange slices, strawberries and bananas topped with vanilla yogurt.
3. French Dip Sandwiches
Pile deli roast beef and swiss cheese on hard rolls or French bread, and broil until cheese is melted and bread is toasted. Serve with au jus. If you don’t like roast beef, try a similar variation by piling deli-roasted turkey breast on toast slices and topping with heated gravy. Eat with a fork and knife.
Suggested sides: Steamed green beans, raw vegetables, Yakisoba 4-minute stir-fry noodles.
Serve omelettes for dinner and you’ll take care of two things at once — your family will have a nutritious meal and you will get to use up all the leftovers in your fridge. Experiment with unique flavor combinations — spinach, red peppers, kalamata olives, and feta cheese elevate the simple omelette to a culinary delight.
Suggested sides: Fast Pan-Fried Potatoes, toasted whole-grain English muffins, fruit salad.
5. 15-Minute Tortellini Soup
Add fresh vegetables and refrigerated tortellini to your favorite chicken stock or broth for a hearty and satisfying soup that’s ready in minutes.
Suggested sides: Whole grain dinner rolls, spinach salad with cranberries.
6. Self-Serve Salad Bar
Start with a bowl of salad greens, and let family members build their own salad from a self-serve salad buffet. Be sure to offer a variety of proteins, grains, and fruits/vegetables.
- Include protein sources like leftover chicken, steak, or tofu. Canned tuna or salmon, hard-boiled eggs, and kidney beans or chickpeas are also excellent sources of protein.
- Serve plenty of vegetables — shredded carrots, diced celery, peppers, cherry tomatoes, beets, broccoli, and cauliflower are all family-friendly choices.
- Don’t forget fruits! Strawberries, pears, grapes, and orange slices add a sweet twist to salads. Dried cranberries or figs are also delicious.
- Nuts, seeds, croutons, and various cheeses can add extra flavor (and nutrition).
- Quinoa, couscous, or brown rice can be be used on top of or in place of greens — it’s a great way to incorporate whole grains (and use up leftovers).
- Remember, children don’t need to eat a traditional salad to get a healthy meal — try letting them mix and match their favorite grains, proteins, fruits/veggies, and dips or dressings in a muffin tin for an easy and creative meal they’re sure to love.
by Alyssa Chirco with Parenting Squad
Alyssa Chirco is a freelance writer, parenting blogger, and mother of two from St. Louis. She has a degree in English Literature and Film and Media Studies. She spends her days playing Legos, diffusing sibling rivalry and hoping her house will magically clean itself if she ignores it long enough. And no, she does not believe she is wasting her education.