Whether your household is small or large, celebrating Family Meals Month can be fun and simple when you focus on the season. Since September is fruit and veggie month, too, here are five ways to make your fall meals tastier, healthier, and more memorable. Best of all, these tips are easy enough that the kids can help!
- Reinvent your recipes. We all have our favorite dishes we make all year. Why not give them a small tweak? Simple, balanced and budget friendly changes can boost nutrition (and flavor, too). Sandwiches at lunch? Add bell pepper strips instead of just lettuce for color and crunch. Mashed potatoes at dinner? Leave the skins on for added fiber (be sure to wash thoroughly before cooking and mashing). Casserole? Cut back on the oil used in the dish, use reduced-fat versions of favorite ingredients like cheese or milk, and/or choose a leaner meat to slice a few calories while preserving the familiarity of the dish.. Challenge the kids to think of creative ways to tweak their favorites. Learn about age appropriate kitchen tasks to involve the whole family.
- Focus on Fruit. Fall favorites like apples and pears are juicy and versatile! From appetizer to dessert, fruit fits in. Slice a pear and add to a salad with blue cheese, nuts and a simple olive oil/vinegar dressing. Serve applesauce with pork dishes, or try butternut squash soup with apples or pears. For dessert, replace two crust pie with a delicious apple crisp. Leave the skins on the apple for a fiber bonus that saves time, too.
- Vary your Vegetables. It’s easy—take a casserole and add in more vegetables than the recipe calls for. Start by doubling the items already in there. Starting with a dish with no veggies? No problem. Go by color! For example, add a bright pop of green with broccoli or green beans in macaroni and cheese,. Pasta? Chop some onion, bell pepper, and cauliflower to add into the sauce. Try sautéing first for more flavor.
- Keep it simple. One dish meals like chili, stew, or a hearty soup can make meal prep and clean up a snap. These are also great options to incorporate budget friendly, nutrient rich options like beans, too! Cook up large batches on the weekends, then freeze into family sized portions for busy weeks. This is a great option for small and large households alike. Vary sides such as a hearty bread, whole grain crackers with cheese, salad, or sandwiches to keep that one bowl interesting while mixing the nutrient rich choices served up each week.
- Salad-ify your choices. Salads work well for easy and nutritious meals year round. When the chillier weather starts, warm things up by roasting all your favorites and adding to crisp salad greens while still warm. Try wedges of sweet potato with arugula and parmesan cheese, or cauliflower over mixed greens along with beans, cheese and salsa for dressing. Top with shredded cheese, olives and other taco fixings for a fun taco salad. Find fun new dressings that work well warm or cold. Use leftover salad in a wrap or toasted sandwich for lunch the next day in place typical salad condiments and plain raw veggies. Pack bread separately to toast before eating if a toaster is available, if not, use a Panini press at home and pack it for a cold version.
What’s your new twist on fall family favorites?
Kim Kirchherr, MS, RD, LDN, CDE, FAND