LiveWell Northwest Colorado: GO dinners for those on the go

Barb Parnell/For the Steamboat Today
Barb Parnell

It has been a perfectly good day and then someone asks the dreaded question, “What’s for dinner?” You want to serve a healthy evening meal, but you are tired, hungry and already anticipating post-dinner activities (e.g., sports, homework).

In addition to deciding what to have for dinner, you have to figure out when to have it. We know that dinner time is a critical time for family members to connect, and when families dine together, they tend to eat healthier (e.g., more vegetables and fruits, fewer high fat items) and drink fewer sugar sweetened beverages (e.g., soda).

In past articles, I have shared that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and lunch is the second. That leaves the evening meal as the least important meal of the day. Yet research shows that on average adults eat 40 to 50 percent of their daily calories and fat at dinner.

Planning is the key to creating healthy meals with the added bonuses of saving you time and money. Here are a few easy planning tips:

• Use a slow cooker. Load it up the night before or in the morning before leaving for the day and come home to a delicious, nutritious meal.

• Find a website or cookbook that provides menus and suggestions for weekly meal planning. Examples: Eating Well lists “A week of 5-ingredient dinners for less than $50.” offers “Sunday Cooking: 10 meals that will last the entire week.” Cooking Light offers 20 superfast healthy dinner recipes.

• Have ingredients on hand. Create a weekly grocery list and shop only from your list. Hint: Grocery stores tend to be less crowded in the early morning or later evening.

• Take 30 minutes on a day off and make the basic preparations for a week of meals.

• Prepare and post a list of your 20 favorite meals to refer to on those days when you can’t think of anything but the same old, same old.

• Mix and match using the same basic ingredients. A “health bowl” is a mix of a grain (quinoa, brown rice, faro or barley), green (romaine, arugula, spinach, mache, radicchio, kale, swiss chard or purple cabbage), vegetables/fruits, lean protein (chicken, canned or grilled fish, lean meat) and a light dressing. For more variety, add beans (chick peas, black beans, kidney beans), low fat cheese (feta, goat, ricotta, Parmesan), nuts or seeds. Check out the “health bowl” recipe in the Yampa Valley Health section.

With a little planning during the week, you can confidently answer the “What’s for dinner?” question. As to the when, you are on your own figuring out how to get everyone to the dinner table at the same time.

Barb Parnell is the community coordinator for LiveWell Northwest Colorado.

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