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Cooking at home is more cost-effective than ordering in, better for your family’s health, and if you do it right, quicker, too. New York based nutrition expert Bonnie Taub-Dix, MA, RD, CDN, author of Read It Before You Eat It, shares the items you should always have in stock for delicious, kid-friendly 30-minute meals.
When you don’t feel like cooking …
Taub-Dix loves making salads -- and, yes, even for her kids. For those who find all that chopping and shredding a hassle, she recommends salads in a bag. Several bagged lettuce companies now make medleys with pea pods, carrots, croutons and even bacon bits. “You don’t have to start from scratch,” says Taub-Dix -- although she does advocate washing even prewashed ready-to-eat produce. To make your salads kid-friendly, create a salad bar at home. Lay out their favorite ingredients, like dried cranberries, sliced almonds, cheese and mandarin slices, and let them build their own. For a quick protein topper, use canned tuna or salmon, canned beans or a store-bought rotisserie chicken.
When you’re craving comfort food …
“Carbs and comfort go hand in hand,” says Taub-Dix. Luckily, satisfying that yen can be achieved in 20 minutes or less. Her go-to recipe for a heart-warming dish includes just six ingredients: chicken, pasta, chicken broth, frozen or fresh vegetables, olive oil and garlic -- all of which you should always have on-hand. Boil your pasta in low-sodium chicken broth. Meanwhile, heat olive oil and garlic in a sauté pan and add your vegetables. If you like a lot of flavor, season to taste with your favorite herbs, like pepper, thyme and oregano. Buying an already-barbecued chicken is the easiest way to go when in a time crunch, but you can just as easily sauté a pan of chicken tenders with your vegetables. (Just remember to toss them into the fridge to defrost in the morning). For picky kids, serve with shredded parmesan cheese.
When your kid is extra-finicky…
Sometimes there’s just no getting around your child’s cravings. When they refuse to eat anything but chicken nuggets, Taub-Dix says it’s okay to give them what they want – with a few rules, of course. Tell them they can have chicken nuggets for dinner, as long as they eat them with vegetables or a fruit cup, says Taub-Dix. “Secondly, not every chicken nugget is created equal. Some are more like cardboard and some are really chicken,” she says, which is why she advises a close inspection of the label. Make sure the first ingredient is chicken, so that the breading doesn’t outweigh the meat. Also, avoid brands that use sugar or hydrogenated fat.
The surefire crowd pleaser …
Who doesn’t love pizza? It’s a fun activity you can do with your kids, and an easy way to get vegetables onto their plate. According to Taub-Dix, you can buy pizza dough at the supermarket, go to the pizza store and buy dough, or just keep flatbread, pita or English muffins on-hand. “Every week, I would make different pizzas and they could choose their own toppings, like grilled chicken, pineapple or mushrooms, and have fun with it,” she says.
When your kids are done playing chef in the kitchen, make cleanup a breeze by letting them wipe down the counters and freshen up the air with odor-eliminating candles while your hubby does the dishes.
Print & Go Grocery List:
Canned tuna or salmon
Pasta or couscous
Dried cranberries, pineapple, mango or other fruit
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