Quick, easy meals

iStock_000017690173XSmalldinner

Here are some great ideas on quick, easy meals from a mum, dietitian and nutritionist. These quick, easy ideas will provide great meals for the kids!

There are times when we are all in a hurry and want a quick easy dinner. Quick and easy doesn’t have to mean takeaways. If you have some basic ingredients in your cupboard, then you should be able to make a quick and nutritious meal.

A quick & easy, yet balanced meal:

Quick and easy does not mean that you should disregard balance though. A balanced meal is more likely to satisfy you and help to maintain energy levels. It will also help control or reduce your desire for extra snacking later.

To achieve a balanced meal it is important to include the following three things:

Protein in the meal

Protein helps to control appetite and energy levels. Good protein choices include – lean meat, chicken (no skin), fish (tinned or fresh), eggs, cheese, yoghurt, milk, nuts, dried beans and lentils (you could use tinned beans).

Carbohydrate – quick and easy

Carbohydrates are important for energy and appetite control. Carbohydrate foods that may be included in a quick evening meal include rice, pasta (dried or fresh), kumara, potato, corn, bread based options (e.g. bread, pita pockets, pizza base, burritos), fruit, yoghurt and milk

Vegetables

Including a good range of vegetables each day is important. Encourage your children to “eat a rainbow” each day – that is a variety of different coloured vegetables (and fruit) . Vegetables offer a wide range of vitamins and  minerals, as well as antioxidants, which work to protect our body from damage.

Finally don’t forget a drink!

For children the best option is to encourage water or milk.

Here are some suggestions for quick and easy meals:

  • Grab a pizza base and top with your favourite toppings, and serve with a salad – or use pita breads as a pizza base
  • Rotisserie chicken, baked potato, coleslaw
  • Grab a burrito kit, some chicken or mince and salad – just as much fun for the children to eat but not as high in fat as nachos
  • Pasta (dried or fresh) with a tin of tomatoes, add shredded chicken or grilled bacon or tinned tuna, plus a variety of quick cooking vegetables, serve topped with some grated cheese – for extra flavour don’t forget to add some basil and/or oregano
  • Home made hamburgers – grill either pre-made meat patties or bacon and add lettuce, tomato, pineapple, beetroot etc.
  • Spaghetti bolognaise – pre prepare mince bolognaise in batches in the freezer
  • Baked stuffed potato – add almost anything of your choice: fish, bacon, ham, cheese, chopped (or diced) vegetables.
  • Ham, or other cold meats, and salad with either baked potato or heated dinner rolls
  • Stir fries are a really quick meal to make – grab some stir fry sauce, schnitzel, vegetables (fresh or the frozen stir fry mix) and cook some noodles, rice or couscous to go with it.
  • Stir fried rice – very quick especially if you have cooked the rice the day before (store it in a sealed container in the fridge) – add vegetables, bacon or tinned fish.
  • Vegetable omelet – serve with some bread
  • Couscous can be a very quick and easy alternative to potato, rice or pasta – if you have never cooked it before just follow the instructions on the packet. You can add lots of other things to the cous cous to make it a complete meal as well. Try it with tinned chick peas plus finely chopped salad vegetables and some dried fruit. Add a squeeze of lemon or your favourite vinaigrette dressing.

Ingredients in a quick and easy meal

Remember even if you want a quick meal you still need to have the ingredients on hand! Make sure you keep some basic items in your cupboards. The list below identifies some extras to think about – obviously you still need the real basics like flour, sugar, milk, cheese, eggs, salt and pepper etc…

Pantry:

Rice, pasta, couscous, canned tomatoes, tomato paste, variety of sauces (soy, sweet chilli, Worcestershire), tinned fish, range of herbs (or grow fresh ones!), some key spices such as cinnamon and ginger, stir fry sauces, stock (the liquid tetra packs are superior in flavour to the powder stocks you can buy).

Freezer

Chicken, bacon, mince, frozen pita pockets, variety of frozen vegetables.

Enjoy!

Useful Articles:

For great ideas on eating out with kids, without resorting to chicken nuggets and chips, check out our article on Eating Out

For tips on dealing with hungry children when you’re out and about see our Kiwi Families article on healthy Snacks

Fiona Boyle

Fiona Boyle is a registered dietitian and nutritionist. She runs a private practice and gives nutrition advice to individuals and families to help meet their health needs and personal goals.

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