Five Time-Saving Shortcuts To Healthy Weeknight Meals

Author: Calgary Weight Management Centre |

Blog by Calgary Weight Management Centre

With two kids at home and one on the way, I've been finding it a bit challenging to get a healthy, balanced homemade meal on the table at a decent time (before 7 pm). Even when I map out my day and start dinner preparations early, I still find that I'm scrambling at 6 pm (with a toddler climbing up my leg) trying to get dinner on the table. Gone are the days when I had three solid hours to prepare dinner, clean, relax, etc. during nap time. Not to mention the fact that a new school routine starts next week! So, I've had to become a bit more efficient when it comes to preparing meals and has discovered a few short-cuts. Here they are:

1. Plan ahead (even just a little):

If you haven't planned ahead, you will likely be missing one (or several) of the ingredients that you'll need for dinner. If you are planning on having spaghetti but don't have pasta, there goes that plan. If you wanted to make homemade pizzas but don't have any cheese, I guess you're on to plan B. Get my drift? Meal planning for every single meal may seem a bit daunting and time-consuming (I'm with you), but planning weeknight dinners is very doable and, trust me, it will save you a lot of stress. Meal plan on your smartphone, on a piece of paper, on a chalkboard in your kitchen or use a meal planning app like Food Planner (there are several though). When you do your grocery shopping, make sure that you have a list of everything you need for your dinner meals so that you don't forget any key ingredients.

2. Choose leftover-friendly meats:

Preparing and cooking the meat portion of the meal tends to be the most time-consuming, so why not save yourself the hassle of cooking a different meat every night and instead, make a leftover-friendly meat dish on Sunday or Monday that can get you through at least two or three left-over meals during the week. For example, on Monday night, I roasted a whole chicken and then with the leftover meat made BBQ Chicken Pizza one night and healthy chicken fried rice another night. Trust me—this will save you a lot of time and energy.

3. Buy ready-to-eat vegetables:

Ever notice that your veggies often spoil in the fridge? This is likely because they are stuck deep in the back somewhere, uncut and unwashed. What has really helped me is rinsing and cutting up my veggies as soon as I get home from the market or grocery store. Another easy solution is to buy ready-to-eat veggies like organic green salad mixes, pre-sliced mushrooms, mini cucumbers, snap peas, baby tomatoes, carrots, or raw veggie trays. These are great to toss in a salad, stir-fry, omelet, or simply eat on their own.

4. Get your kids involved:

You may think that involving your kids (especially your younger kids) in dinner prep will create chaos in the kitchen, but it can actually decrease the chaos. It allows your kids to focus on one task (minimizing the damage control that you may be doing during meal prep otherwise) and gives them a sense of pride in being a part of the dinner-making process. Pull up a stool and get your child to pour ingredients into a bowl, sprinkle seasoning on meat, or drizzle olive oil on veggies. Last night I had my son throw away the ends of the veggies I was cutting and he was SO proud of himself for helping. There are many other tasks that you could assign to your kids, like setting the table or reading a recipe out loud. Getting your kids involved in meal prep also provides both short-term benefits (they are more likely to eat it if they had a hand in creating it) and long-term benefits (cooking skills, confidence, healthy relationship with food).

5. Have "Brinner"!

Breakfast dinners are the best. Whether it's French toast or whole-grain pancakes paired with Greek yogurt and fruit, or a muffin-tin veggie omelet on multigrain toast with salsa, having breakfast for dinner will save you lots of time, and make for a fun meal that the kids will love!



Weight Management Doctors, Registered Dietitian, Nutritionist, Psychologist

Serving clients from across Alberta, including Calgary, Airdrie, Okotoks, Chestermere, High River, Langdon, Cochrane, Strathmore and other surrounding areas.