I am excited to announce our guest post today is from Devon, the founder of Eastside Make-Ahead Mamas. Devon is a mom who works full-time and needed a way to prepare healthy meals for
her family even on those busy weeknights. She started Eastside Make-Ahead Mamas, a group of moms who get together once a month to prepare make-ahead meals in “swap” style for their families. She also runs the Eastside Make-Ahead Mamas Blog, where she shares recipes, tips, and tricks for preparing healthy, time-saving, make-ahead meals. Follow her on Twitter at @MamasMakeAhead. Visit the Eastside Make-Ahead Mamas Blog for more great make-ahead recipes and tips!
As a reader of Five a Day the Fun Way, there’s no doubt you already know the benefits of eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day. But let’s face it: while the theory is sound, the concept often fails in the execution stages. If you’re like me, you’ve discovered that providing fresh fruit and veggies for your family often means going to the grocery store more than once each week, planning and organizing meals and snacks ahead of time (and before the grocery store trip!), and then taking time to prepare all of those fresh foods can be a challenge. Here are just a few ways that you can use make-ahead cooking techniques to work more fruits and veggies into you and your family’s everyday meals.
Breakfast. The smartest meal of the day! Here are a few ways to make it even smarter:
- Dice onions and bell peppers of all flavors. Pack (densely) into an ice cube tray, and top off with chicken broth. Sautee one “veggie cube” in your omelet or breakfast burrito each morning.
- Chop and then “flash freeze” fruit by arranging it on a cookie sheet in the freezer, all in one layer. Leave for a few hours, and once hard (but not necessarily frozen through), divide into individual portions in freezer bags. Pull them out to top your cereal or oatmeal, or simply eat as finger food during the commute.
Morning Snack. This meal was a hurdle for me, as my default for years was a sugar-packed latte. Now, I skip the latte and opt for one of these:
- Try a fresh fruit smoothie. Puree one cup frozen fruit in a blender with some agave nectar or fruit juice for sweetener. Add milk for some protein.
- Pack some fruit on a stick; because everything is better on a stick!
Lunch. Making your lunch ahead is a great way to save time in your morning routine!
- If you have access to a microwave at work, re-heating leftovers from your favorite veggie-packed make-ahead dinners is a great start to eating a healthy lunch.
- Most kids at school don’t have access to a microwave, so we pack cold lunches for them. Check out these five tips for a nutritious make-ahead lunch from Five A Day the Fun Way.
- Add guacamole (a fruit!) to your child’s sandwich instead of mayonnaise. To keep it healthy, don’t mix in sour cream or mayo to make your guac; avocados and a few spices are all it takes
Afternoon Snack. A carb-rich afternoon snack can exacerbate most people’s natural tendency to get sleepy in the afternoons. These protein-packed veggies can help boost your energy during that afternoon slump:
- A handful of peanuts, tree nuts, or sunflower seeds. (Vacuum seal them, such as with a FoodSaver – they’ll keep for months or more on your shelf!)
- Corn tortilla chips with hummus. (Yes, you can freeze hummus and guacamole. They will just need a good stir once they thaw.)
- Cold quinoa salad, topped with diced red bell peppers and black beans.
Dinner. I never miss this opportunity to load up on the veggies. Here are some ways to make sure you never miss them in your dinner, even when you miss your trip to the store:
- Keep an extra bag of frozen southwest vegetable blend or mixed vegetables in your freezer. Mix them in with your starch (such as rice, quinoa, or even pasta or mashed potatoes). When it comes to simple veggies for dinner, bags of frozen veggies can’t be beat.
- Make ahead one-pot meals. These not only minimize the dishes that need to be cleaned at the end of the meal, but they also are a great way to sneak vegetables (and colors!) into your meals.
- Skip buttering your bread, and roast garlic instead! It spreads on just like butter, but provides numerous health benefits; and yes, it’s a vegetable!
Dessert. Don’t think dessert is a great opportunity to get your five a day? Think again!
- Again, commercially frozen bags are your friend. Peaches, strawberries, tropical blend; you name it, you can keep it ready and on-hand!
- Thaw frozen fruit and serve alone. Add a tablespoon of agave nectar for an extra sweet treat.
- Remember the fruit puree for smoothies above? Freeze it on a stick, and you have homemade popsicles
There’s no limit to the ways you can make-ahead fruits and vegetables to work in your five a day, even on a busy schedule. For more healthy make-ahead ideas for getting in your five a day, visit Devon’s blog, the Eastside Make Ahead Mamas Blog. How do you make ahead your five a day? Let us know!