Family Meals on the Fly

By: Kim Beavers Email
By: Kim Beavers Email

Most people want to feed their children healthy and wholesome foods. But there are those nights, you know the ones I am talking about, those crazy nights where everyone gets home a bit later than normal just in time to leave again for the next event whatever it may be.

I spend a lot of time talking about how to make healthy food and use less processed foods or convenience foods, but what about when you need to rely on convenience foods? Well, here is a list using some of the most common kid-type convenience food showing the healthiest in each category. Yes, it is true...I do rely on the occasional fish stick and hot dog on especially hurried nights--it is still better than a fast food meal, especially if you pair it up with fruits and veggies to go.

Chicken nuggets: Look for nuggets made without partially hydrogenated oil, with about 12-14g protein per serving. Serve with other finger foods, baby carrots, sliced cucumbers, grapes, or blueberries.

  • Ian’s Chicken nuggets

  • Applegate Farms

    Fish Sticks:
Typically fish sticks are made from Alaskan Pollock, which is a sustainable choice and is a decent source of omega-3 fatty acid with about 0.5g/3 ounces. Look for fish sticks with no partially hydrogenated oil, less than 10g fat, and 1 or less grams saturated fat. Serve with: green beans and mandarin oranges.
  • Ian’s Lightly Breaded

  • Dr. Pragers Fish Sticks (can only find these at Fresh Market, but they are my son’s favorite)

Hot dogs: Hot dogs come in many varieties these days, from Kosher to vegetarian. Some are made with all natural ingredients and no added nitrites. Nitrites are used to limit bacterial growth, but with modern refrigeration, the need for nitrites has declined. I have seen studies saying nitrites are bad and some saying they are fine. For me, the bottom line is: Limited consumption of nitrite containing foods. Nitrite containing foods are: luncheon meat, bacon, hot dogs, sausage, and other cured meats. Serve your hot dog with a whole wheat bun, vegetarian baked beans, celery sticks, and apple slices. Look for hotdogs with no more than 4g saturated fat. Good choices are:

  • Oscar Myer Premium smoked uncured hot dogs

  • Hebrew National Reduced fat hot dogs

  • Oscar Meyer reduced fat beef hot dogs (these are my favorite--yes, they do contain nitrites, but our consumption of other nitrite-containing foods is very low. Make the best choice for your family)

Microwave burritos: These are almost as fast to make at home as they are to buy. Here are some good choices from the freezer section of the store. Look for others with less than 3g saturated fat. Serve them up with orange slices.

  • Cedar Lane organic roasted vegetable and cheese or bean and rice burrito

  • Amy’s organic beans and rice burrito

  • Evol Bean, rice and cheese burrito

  • PJ Organic chicken and rice or breakfast burrito

  • Tina’s Bean and Cheese burrito

Veggie burgers: While perhaps not the most kid friendly fare, my son loved these when he was younger. Most of the Garden Burger brand varieties are low in fat and sodium.

Even quicker mini-meals on the fly

These are quicker than quick and make good hearty snacks or mini meals. I use these sometimes before a sporting event for the kiddos and then we have another mini meal or a real dinner after everyone gets home.

  • Whole grain crackers + vegetarian style baked beans + baby carrots

  • Hummus + baked whole grain chips + orange slices

  • English muffin + cheese slice + tomato slices (or English muffin + peanut butter + grapes)

  • Whole grain cereal + milk and banana (or yogurt in place of milk)

  • Cheese stick + whole grain tortilla + apple

Keeping some of these healthy snack-type foods around is always a good idea, because no matter how hard we try, busy families tend to eat on the run at least once a week or more.

Good luck planning your mini meals! Until next time, eat well, live well :)

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