It’s no secret that home-cooked meals are often healthier than eating out – but once kids are in the mix, making an elaborate lunch or dinner often feels like a lot of work. So here’s my take on busy mom meals: I’ve put together a practical guide that prioritizes a healthy diet while streamlining the cooking process at home.
I make it a priority to cook (at least) 5 nights a week, which can be challenging as a mom of a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old. Sometimes this means I have to distract them with something that will likely make a bigger mess in order to do make dinner – but I have found that making healthy meals at home is key to sustaining a healthier lifestyle.
I understand that every mom’s situation is different – but these tips may help to provide all the advantages of a home-cooked meal with a little less stress and time-commitment that’s associated with it.
Weekly Theme Meals
I thought it would be fun and useful to include this idea of setting a “theme” for each weekday. With a set “theme” for every night, you will know what to expect each week – and your family will as well. It takes some of the stress out of meal planning when you already have an outline of what each weekday will entail when it comes to healthy, home-cooked meals.
Plus, you might have weeks where you eliminate meal planning altogether because recipes you’ve created in the past come to mind that work for you and your family. This is just an example and can be customized based on the preferences of your family and your lifestyle! Each week you could try to change up the flavor profile a bit so it’s not too redundant.
Example Theme Ideas
Meatless Mondays. Yes, it’s not that original – but there’s no refuting the evidence that consuming some plant-based meals can be quite beneficial to our health. Plus, “meatless Monday” just has a nice ring to it.
Taco Tuesday. Again, nothing new here – but this theme offers some versatility, and it doesn’t have to always be tacos. It could be a chicken fajita power bowl, enchiladas, or burritos in a healthy whole-grain wrap.
Whole Grain Wednesdays. A night where you prioritize whole grains that are high in fiber. Examples include quinoa, farro, barley, brown rice, wild rice, and millet.
Salad Thursdays: Salads are nutritionally dense with no cooking required! Plus, the sky is the limit here with so many customizations available.
Fish Friday: Fish, specifically tuna, herring, mackerel and salmon, is one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. Research on fish shows it can improve our cardiovascular health, decrease inflammation and cognitive decline, and lower risk of depression and anxiety.
Carefree Saturday: Take the day off for eating out, ordering in, or having meals with friends.
Soup Sunday: Soup is so versatile, a one-pot meal packed with veggies and fiber.
You could replace any of these days with whatever you want here. Like “sheet pan Sundays” – where you utilize easy sheet pan meals.
Embrace Batch Cooking and Meal Prep
One of the most effective time-saving strategies for busy moms is batch cooking. Set aside a few hours during the weekend to prepare larger quantities of staple ingredients to be stored for later in the week. Make a large batch of lean protein, like chicken, and either freeze in Ziploc bags or use within 3 days.
Or, plan to meal prep veggies for the week. This way, you can easily assemble quick and healthy dinners on busy weeknights – cutting down on the prep time.
Utilizing a vegetable chopper can help streamline this process, so you have veggies chopped for the whole week!
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Sheet Pan Meals and One Pot DInners
Sheet pan meals and one-pot dinners often require little preparation – they’re simple, packed with nutrients and utilize less dishes! When I am out of ideas, I often just pop some raw chicken on a sheet pan with diced veggies and potatoes and drizzle with sriracha or a tasty sauce.
Here are some easy meal recipes to utilize:
— 25+ Easy Sheetpan Dinners from The Girl on Bloor
— One Pot Mexican Chili
— Vegetarian Taco Skillet from Two Peas and Their Pod
— Easy and Healthy Soup Recipes from The Clean Eating Couple
Utilizing the Air Fryer
An air fryer is basically like a smaller convection oven – with less preheating and cooking than an actual oven. They work well when multi-tasking – like cooking raw chicken, fish or steak, while also sautéing veggies on the stove.
Check out these 30 easy air fryer dinners from Insanely Good to get some ideas, but don’t hesitate to utilize TikTok or Pinterest to find more healthy ideas.
Meals in the Crockpot
Not much beats the convenience of a crockpot. Need some ideas for healthy slow-cooker meals?
Home Delivery Services
Over the past few years, meal delivery services have exploded – which means the variety of meals offered has only increased. For example, Home Chef offers 30 different meals every week with carb-conscious, calorie-conscious, vegetarian, Gluten-free and keto-friendly options.
It can be a more expensive option, but these meal services help to decrease some of that mental load by eliminating meal planning and the never-ending list of items to put on the grocery list. Most services even offer quick sheet-pan dinners and meals made in less than 15-minutes.
Balancing Convenience and Nutrition
One of my favorite tips for meals as a busy mom is combining convenience staples from my pantry with fresh ingredients from the fridge. You can easily throw together a healthy meal using canned or frozen vegetables, microwaveable rice packets, and already cooked chicken.
Figure out some healthier sauces that your family loves to enhance the flavor, to always keep on hand for some throw-together meals.
Read food labels, and watch for sodium or higher calorie convenience foods.
An example would be:
— A microwaveable rice packet.
— Frozen cauliflower and broccoli.
— Buffalo Wild Wings Parmesan Garlic Sauce.
— Frozen or air-fried chicken.
— A simple soup using chicken broth, canned beans, tomatoes, ground Italian sausage, and noodles.
If you like this tip, check out my post on easy, last-minute dinners for a more comprehensive guide.
Busy Mom Meals: Cooking Dinner Doesn’t Have to Feel Impossible
Family togetherness, healthier eating, portion control, and cost-effectiveness are just some of the benefits of home-cooked meals. I get that it’s hard to prioritize cooking dinner at night as a busy mom. After you’ve had a long day, it seems so much easier to just order out. However, once you figure out a strategy or plan that works for you and your family it becomes much easier to adhere to.
I hope this guide inspires you to cook more well-balanced meals at home, even when it doesn’t feel ideal.