Planning meals for your family

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By Kay Kennedy

Anyone who cooks meals for their family wants to prepare nutritious meals that are tasty.  Great meals do not just happen. They take time and preparation, but following a few tips and planning meals in advance is beneficial for you and your family. By planning meals you can provide side dishes that appeal to everyone.  Planning your meals in advance could help you refrain from unnecessary purchases at the grocery store and have fewer leftovers. One of the best things about meal planning is that you create fun, family time where everyone can appreciate one another.

There are many ways you can plan meals and taking a little time each week to do so can save time, money and effort.  When planning meals, use cookbooks and grocery advertisements to make menus and a shopping list. Consider purchasing cookbooks with appetizing recipes that you want to try or ask your friends for tried and true recipes that you know your family will love. This will save time and money at the grocery store.  Look in the pantry and refrigerator to see what you have leftover that could be used again. Using leftovers saves money and prevents the loss of foods to spoiling.  To save time while cooking, consider combining made-ahead frozen dishes with easy-to-prepare side dishes.

It’s important to take into account the nutrition offerings of each meal.  Think of meal patterns by what your family needs the most of in the way of nutrition. Since eating five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables is a big challenge for many families, start with a fruit and/or vegetable and then decide on a protein dish that will compliment your choice. Include a hot or cold vegetable that goes well with the main dish.  Select a hot or cold beverage, remembering to meet the daily milk requirement.  Finish with a dessert such as fresh fruit, yogurt or pudding.  Desserts are not always needed, but if you decide to include one, consider the number of calories in it.

Healthy meals should be colorful and tasty, using delicious blends of flavors and textures.  Consider using a crisp food with a soft food for a scale of texture.  The use of color helps make a meal satisfying too.  If the main dish needs color, serve it with a colorful vegetable or salad.  Combine bland flavor with a zesty food; use seasoning to bring out taste and flavor.  Remember to serve hot foods hot and cold foods cold.  For example, serve hot pork chops with cold applesauce.  Make the meal balanced with hearty and light foods but also offer a variety of choices.  Vary methods of preparation for the same type of food served more than once in the same day.  And finally, create a pleasant setting that promotes good conversation between family members.

Taking the time and effort to prepare a great meal can be a rewarding experience for you and your family members and could become an important, lasting tradition. For more information and tips on planning nutritious meals for your family, contact the Washington County Cooperative Extension Service.