Fake a Homemade Dinner

By Karen Ansel, MS, RDN, CDN
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Family meals are making a comeback, and that's good news for several reasons. "Dinnertime may be the only time a family can get together and find out what's going on in each other's lives, so families who eat together are closer," says Bethany Thayer, MS, RD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "What's more, children who regularly eat with their families are more likely to have healthy diets and get good grades in school. At the same time, they're less likely to suffer from depression or experiment with cigarettes, alcohol or drugs as they get older."

If you don't have time to whip up a homemade meal, you can still enjoy all the benefits of a family dinner. Here are four speedy meals you can dish up without breaking a sweat.

  • Frozen ravioli with store bought sauce and a salad.
    A well-stocked pantry and freezer can go a long way in cutting down on last minute trips to the supermarket. Fill your pantry with go-to ingredients like your favorite tomato-based pasta sauce, whole wheat pasta and polenta, and load your freezer with different varieties of gourmet ravioli, stuffed shells or manicotti. Dinner will never be more than 20 minutes away.

  • Rotisserie chicken, frozen mashed potatoes and peas.
    When it comes to frozen veggies you can lose the guilt. Because they're flash frozen within hours of harvesting, frozen vegetables may actually have more nutrients than fresh which can sit on store shelves for days. Plus, they're ready in the microwave in minutes. In addition to peas, load up on edamame, carrots, corn, chopped spinach and even mashed potatoes. Buy vegetables without sauce and toss with a little heart-healthy olive oil instead.

  • Veggie burgers with a cucumber salad.
    A vegetarian meal doesn't have to mean hours slaving over the stove. Keep staples such as veggie burgers and whole-wheat buns on hand for a meatless meal you can throw together on the fly. Serve with sliced cucumbers drizzled with your favorite light vinaigrette dressing.

  • Grilled chicken Caesar salad with French bread:
    For the ultimate healthy convenience meal slice up store-bought grilled chicken breasts and toss with hearts of romaine and light Caesar dressing. If you have a few minutes to spare, bake up a loaf of frozen whole-wheat dinner rolls or French bread and the house will smell like you've been baking all afternoon.

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