5 Easy Steps to Eliminate Processed Foods: Part 2 – Keep it Simple

Broccoli, Brown Rice and Tofu with Peanut Sauce

Broccoli, Brown Rice and Tofu with Peanut Sauce

Fewer ingredients.            Less time cooking.            Quick, easy, simple meals.

Busy lives lead to quick easy meals on the go, meals that often are not cooked at home or meals that are cooked at home out of a box or the freezer aisle from the grocery store.  Working parents come home after long days with kids that have often participated in after school activities.  Everyone is hungry, tired and has work to do before they crawl into bed and most likely not get enough sleep, and then wake up and do it all over again.  One way to ensure that you prepare and your family eats a healthy, homemade meal is to keep it simple!  Here are 10 tips on how to keep it simple in your kitchen:

  1. Have about 10 go-to meals that your family likes that take under an hour from start to finish to make.
  2. Choose meals that allow you to prepare things ahead of time and freeze if necessary.  Prep and cook anything that you can ahead of time.
  3. Make extra food when possible to freeze.  **I always have soup in the freezer to pull out for dinner if necessary
  4. Choose recipes and dishes that have 5 or less ingredients.
  5. Plan, plan, plan!  To the extent that you can, plan out your meals.  You are more likely to actually make dinner when you have a plan and are able to carry out that plan.
  6. Don’t be afraid to serve leftovers or disguise leftovers into another dish.
  7. Go grocery shopping the same day every week and have a “clean out the fridge” meal the night before you go grocery shopping.
  8. Utilize kids that like to help.  My kids, different ones at various times/stages, love to wash and chop veggies, add ingredients, and stir/mix things.  It always seems like more work in the moment, but years later you will have a child who can actually help you in the kitchen!  Never, I repeat never, deny a child who willingly wants to help you in the kitchen!
  9. Have a positive attitude about dinner prep.  Even if you aren’t yet to that happy place about cooking, try to find something positive about it.
  10. Have a dinner ritual that everyone can participate in and look forward to so meal time is more engaging for everyone and eat together as a family in a media-free environment.  Yes, this includes the cell phones!  **At our house, we take turns sharing a positive and a frustration about our day.  I got this idea from a friend in Corvallis who shared with me that her son’s frustration for that day was that his friend (my son) told him he was moving back to Florida.


Here are my list of 10 go-to meals that I rotate on a regular basis and continue making over and over again until someone complains.  At which point, I make a few new meals and then go back to said rotation for another few weeks until someone again complains.

  1. Stir fry with peanut sauce:  brown rice or brown rice noodles, peanut sauce, sauteed tofu, and a vegetable (most often broccoli)
  2. Black bean soup with a side vegetable
  3. Lentil soup with a side vegetable and homemade bread or muffins
  4. Whole wheat pesto pizza
  5. Taco salad:  Salad with various veggies, beans, corn, brown rice, shredded cheese
  6. Pasta:  Whole wheat pasta, tomato cashew sauce, vegetables and beans/tofu
  7. Sweet potatoes, few different veggies, sauteed tofu OR a store-bought meat substitute (this would be a processed food, and yes, I do have it once a week because everyone loves it and it mixes things up…..and I deserve a break once in a while!)
  8. Quinoa:  quinoa, beans, veggies
  9. Sandwiches or wraps:  Usually hummus, veggies, cheese with a veggie whole wheat pasta salad or cole slaw
  10. Breakfast for dinner:  Whole wheat pancakes or waffles, sometimes store-bought vegan sausage meat substitute, sometimes eggs/omelets, fruit, green smoothie

As you can see, this is nothing fancy.  My family will eat this rotation for at least a month before someone complains.  Actually, I have found that children prefer the predictability of a meal rotation schedule.  There is variability within the meals.  I switch up vegetables, always offering a variety of different produce, but the basic essence of the meal is always the same on that night.  Also, I do NOT cook more than one meal.  I know there is debate about this, and many families cook different things for different children, but I feel this leads to power struggles with food.  No one is always going to like everything, but if you have a few things to choose from no one will go hungry.  I also set out the meal with everything separated, and everyone serves themselves.  This allows for more choice about how food is eaten, and this usually leads to happier kiddos!

Keep it simple!  Cook the same things again and again, plan ahead, freeze extras, enlist your kids to help, and lead by example!  You are instilling life long positive associations with healthy food into your family.  It just takes a little forethought and planning, and you will be on your way to a week full of homemade, whole food meals!


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