Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Convenient Meal Ideas

The average American eats six convenience foods daily. If it is fast, edible and requires little-to-no preparation or clean-up, people will go out of their way to get to it, just to save a little time. If you are a family on the go, you understand the importance of convenience food. The faster, the better.

The thought of “convenience food” usually paints mental images like the ones seen in advertisements today. Cars pulling in and out of drive-through lanes, stopping in for a quick taquito at the local gas station, or even the dreaded “quick snack” vending machines at work. The fact is, there is a healthier way to eat while still keeping the same convenient mindset. Let's examine some of the healthiest convenience foods to enjoy at each meal so you can stay healthy on the go:

Breakfast

Many studies show breakfast to be the most important meal of the day. By skipping breakfast, your metabolism never gets up to speed and you feel like you are ten seconds behind for the rest of the day. But, breakfast is one of the most-skipped meals due to the inevitable rush to get out the door. Who's got time to make eggs, oatmeal, pancakes, waffles, hashbrowns, and all those goodies? Instead, breakfast for many often consists of a processed block of dough and powdered sugar, simply because it's more convenient. The biggest meal of the day doesn't have to come in a greasy paper bag.
Easy Breakfast Meals and Recipes

Why not start the morning off right with a breakfast burrito? Three minutes in the microwave, ding, and you are dining in style with a good amount of fiber and protein and not all of the empty calories. Or, plan ahead and make pancakes or waffles and freeze them. There are hundreds of recipes from whole grain to low-carb to gluten free. Warm them up in a toaster or skillet, add peanut butter and banana slices, and you have a well rounded breakfast of champions in just minutes.

Fruit and cereal bars are also great healthy, convenient breakfast foods. Grab a banana, an apple, and a cereal bar, and head out. The fruit is packaged by mother nature and ready to travel. And don't forget a cup of milk or juice. Throw that fruit and milk in a blender and you've got a great, healthy breakfast in a mug. If sitting down to a full course breakfast doesn't fit with your morning's schedule, that's alright; you've got a healthy meal on the run with these few simple foods.

Lunch

In the healthy convenience food arena, lunch is typically boring. A salad. Why not spice up your lunchtime with some instant couscous with tuna and whole wheat crackers? You get a healthy meal with protein, omega-3s, and fiber. Or, how about a bean, cheese and rice burrito? Quick to heat up and packed full of fiber and protein, it is the perfect lunch for the active adult. The fiber will keep you full and the protein will give you the energy to make it through the day.

For the bigger lunch, spring for a salad with vinaigrette dressing, holding the cheese and croutons. Your local grocery store will most likely have packaged salads in a great selection to satisfy any lunch craving. Put a couple slices of grilled chicken on top and you have a filling meal that will carry you the rest of the day.

Light lunch your trademark? Try yogurt with frozen fruit; a rich source of calcium, protein, and antioxidants. You can even mix this lunch up before you leave home, throw it in your refrigerator at work, and the fruit will thaw in the yogurt and be all ready for you to enjoy at lunchtime.
Check out some Kids Lunch Ideas


Snack

It is amazing how far a handful of trail mix will go. Not only is it convenient to grab and go, but it is full of healthy foods such as nuts and dried fruits. If your snack needs a little more 'umph,' you can try some carrots with hummus, tabbouleh salad or even a couple stuffed grape leaves.

The idea behind your afternoon snack is to give you a little boost through the midday blahs. Choosing a snack that picks you up instead of weighing you down is the smart thing to do. You can make your own trail mix, veggie and dip, or fruit plate so you control the ingredients, and the nutrients they provide. These smart snacks will help you zip through the rest of the day.
Kids Healthy Snacks and Recipes

Dinner

The last meal of the day should be comforting, nutritious, and filling. While it is usually not a great idea to go to bed on a full stomach, a hearty dinner is a great way to end the day. Using a can of clear broth or stock to make soup or stew is a great choice for healthy and convenient meals. A simple soup made with mixed frozen vegetables and brown rice in a pot of broth, is just as convenient as opening a can of prepared soup.

You can crank up the nutrition while keeping the convenience by adding a can of black beans to the soup. Corn gives soup or stew a great crunch while mushrooms or garbanzo beans round out the meal and add extra nutrition. In other words, you don't have to stand over the stove for hours simmering soup for it to be delicious and nutritious; a few cans can make a meal.

There are many canned options that are now offered in low sodium, reduced fat, and no sugar varieties. The healthier choices now available have taken away the unhealthy aspect of opening up a can of something for dinner, and don't we just love that convenience!

Convenience food does not have to mean drive-through or gas station. Finding healthy convenience foods for families on the go is not a difficult task. Grabbing a simple banana is convenient; putting two cans together can be healthy if you buy the right cans. Finding the healthiest convenience foods is simple if you look around your home and read the labels before you buy.
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