With our busy lifestyles that could include conflicting schedules when it comes time for family meals eating a healthy diet can be challenging. While that may be true, there are still some sneaky tricks for healthier meal planning that are worth noting that can help improve what you serve your family. If you’re curious, I’m going to show you some devious ways to pump up nutritional value without a family revolt and causing yourself a lot of extra work.
Red meat, sausages, hot dogs are not the healthiest protein. The healthiest meat is grass-fed bison or deer. Even chicken and pork are loaded with growth hormones that some experts claim are just as bad unless you buy certified organic, which can be expensive if your family is on a budget. However, we have to eat something.
I’m not saying to give up meat completely, but one of the best sneaky tricks for healthier meal planning is substituting some beans over a portion of the meat in your recipes for casseroles, fillings for lasagna, tacos, enchiladas, chili, soups, dips, and sandwich fillings. You can add beans whole for dishes like chili, tacos and enchiladas or grind them a bit for your casseroles, cream soups to sandwich fillings and dips. Ground beans are perfect also in meatloaves. Check out my kid-friendly pizza mini -loaves recipe.
By the same token, you can also further boost nutrition by incorporating healthy grains like oatmeal in those dishes or when baking in place of a portion of regular white flour or any bread. Check out my oatmeal brown bread and favorite oatmeal bread recipes.
Another sneaky trick for redoing a favorite standby like lasagna is substituting the pasta for slices of broiled zucchini. I do that when I have zucchini on hand besides adding the ground beans. In fact, I also like to layer some fresh cooked mushrooms, red peppers along with plenty of onions and garlic in addition to the cheese and sauce. This goes over well with my family and gives me peace of mind that I just contributed more nutrition and snuck in extra vegetables without any complaints.
Have you noticed that some vegetables immediately get snubbed by children once they hit the table? If so, you may not want to blame the vegetable. On the contrary, I found that changing the method of preparation can make all the difference. For instance, boiled cauliflower instantly gets a sour face. Instead, I now cut the cauliflower in pieces and drizzle with three tablespoons of olive oil before sprinkling lightly with Parmesan cheese and baking in a 350-degree oven for about 30 minutes. Broiling cauliflower is another winning method in my house. What I am saying is try alternating your cooking method or adding a sauce or some cheese can improve your odds of getting reluctant eaters eating what they claim to hate.
Similarly, cooking fresh vegetables may be extra work than opening a can. However, another of these sneaky tricks for healthier meal planning is making a whole cauliflower, squash, carrots, etc. and then reheating for a few other meals. You have to peel and chop those vegetables anyway so this advanced preparation can help include fresh vegetables and increase nutritional value while saving you work later.
Something else that I found helpful as one of those sneaky tricks for healthier meal planning is altering the favorites like homemade pizza and macaroni and cheese. What I do to boost nutritional value and veggie content is frying up a package of fresh mushrooms in three tablespoons of olive oil, some red pepper and plenty of onion and reduce some of the cheese. Better yet, I like to switch some of the typical mozzarella cheese with some cheddar and American cheeses along with ingredients like sauerkraut or some broccoli and fresh spinach. Though I use some turkey sausage, I make a Bavarian Pizza that is out of this world that you may want to try for something different.
Greek yogurt has been replacing sour cream in my house lately. I substitute it when serving cooked rice as a side dish instead of butter or sour cream to top it. I also have been cooking with it in sauces, dips, and sandwich fillings as a binder with protein benefits. Likewise, another one of those sneaky tricks for healthier meal planning is serving it with fresh or frozen fruit for dessert over ice cream.
Oatmeal is another healthy grain and breakfast cereal that I like to serve the family instead of processed, pre-sweetened and more costly dry cereals or those packets of instant flavored oatmeal. The only problem is that oatmeal eaten regularly the same way can get boring. Therefore, I like to add some sweetened applesauce, cinnamon, and raisins instead of milk and sugar. Another tasty way is to add some unsweetened cocoa before you add the old-fashioned oats to cook and then a spoon of peanut butter and sugar. Kids adore this simple chocolate-peanut butter oatmeal with these nutritionally fortified changes to a healthy fiber, protein breakfast.
These are reliable sneaky tricks for healthier meal planning based on my experience. These devious methods work for me and can for you so I hope you give them a try. You also may want to read my earlier post with additional tips on gradually easing into healthier eating habits.