Meal Time Fixes for Busy Families

October 21st, 2016 by Live Well Omaha Kids

Written by Carrie Miller, MS, RD, Nebraska Extension Educator

bio-carrie-schneider-millerBetween work, school, and children’s activities it may be a challenge to find time to eat meals together with your family.  Give yourself permission to think outside of the traditional family dining image.  Your family will reap the benefits of eating together in a variety of different situations.

Between my children’s activities and work I must admit that sometime our family meal times are rushed and not always held in the conventional setting.  During dinner we turn off the TV, and put the phones away so that we are able to be present with one another. During most of our meals the conversation is lively and sometimes it’s more quiet, allowing us to reflect on our day and fuel up for our next adventure. It is recommended that meal time conversation with children not always revolve around the food they are eating, or in some cases not eating. Making family meal time positive and comforting for children is important. Mealtime conversation starters are a fun way to engage with your family and keep meal time’s positive. Find fun conversation starters here.

Time is the most common meal time barrier. Below are meals you can prepare the night before, and cook in a slow cooker during the day, or prepare in- between school and activities.  For more information on meal planning, food preparation, nutrition, and food safety check out

Sweet and Sour Pork in the Slow Cooker

8 servings

2 lb. pork, boneless 2 (20 oz.) cans pineapple
chunks, in juice
2 tsp. paprika 1 lb. baby carrots
1 tsp. salt c. vinegar
¼ tsp. pepper ¼ c. sugar
2 T. vegetable oil 3 T. cornstarch*
2 onions, sliced 1 T. soy sauce
2 green peppers, chopped 4 c. rice, cooked (optional)
  1. Cut pork into 1-inch chunks. Sprinkle with paprika, salt, and pepper.
  2. In a large skillet, heat oil. Brown pork, stirring often, for 4 to 5 minutes.
  3. Place onions, green pepper, and baby carrots in a 4-quart or 5-quart slow cooker. Place pork on top.
  4. Drain pineapple, saving the juice. Pour 1 cup of the juice into the slow cooker.  Set pineapple and remaining juice in the refrigerator.
  5. Cover the slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours until vegetables and pork are cooked.
  6. In a small bowl, combine vinegar, sugar, cornstarch, soy sauce, and ½ cup of the remaining pineapple juice, adding water if necessary to make ½ cup. Mix well.  Stir into slow cooker.  Add pineapple chunks.  Cook on high for 10 to 15 minutes or until sauce is thickened.
  7. Serve over hot rice, if desired.

* Substitute 3 tablespoons flour for the cornstarch.  The sauce will not be as thick but just as tasty!

Nutrition Information per Serving: Calories 440, Total Fat 21 g (32% DV), Saturated Fat 7 g (33% DV), Cholesterol 95 mg (31% DV), Sodium 450 mg (19% DV), Total Carbohydrate 32 g (11% DV), Dietary Fiber 4 g (16% DV), Sugars 21 g, Protein 31 g, Vitamin A 180%, Vitamin C 100%, Calcium 6%, Iron 10%.

Slow Cooker Chicken Noodle Soup

6 servings

2-3 lbs. chicken,
skin and bones removed
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 cubes chicken bouillon 1 c. carrots, chopped
4 c. water 1 c. noodles, uncooked
 ¼  c. onion, finely chopped 1 tsp. seasoned salt
  pepper, optional
  1. In a slow cooker, place all ingredients, except noodles.
  2. Cook on low heat for 8 to 9 hours.
  3. Turn to high heat and add uncooked noodles.
  4. Cover and cook for 10 minutes or until noodles are tender. If soup is too thick, add more water.
  5. Serve hot.

Nutrition Information per Serving: Calories 150, Total Fat 3.5 g (5% DV), Saturated Fat 1 g (5% DV), Cholesterol 70 mg (23% DV), Sodium 670 mg (28% DV), Total Carbohydrate 7 g (2% DV), Dietary Fiber 1 g (4% DV), Sugars 1 g, Protein 21 g, Vitamin A 2%, Vitamin C 6%, Calcium 2%, Iron 6%.

Cheesy Lasagna

12 servings

12 lasagna noodles, uncooked T. dried parsley or
¼ c. fresh parsley, chopped
1 (32 oz.) pkg. low-fat ricotta cheese*  1 Egg
3  c. Mozzarella cheese, shredded, divided 1 (26 oz.) jar spaghetti sauce
¼ c. Parmesan cheese, grated
  1. Preheat oven to 350º Spray a 9×13-inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.  Set aside.
  2. Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions.
  3. In a medium bowl, mix ricotta cheese, 2 cups of the Mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese, parsley, and egg until well blended.
  4. Pour ¾ cup of spaghetti sauce into prepared baking dish. Spread with a spatula to cover the bottom of the dish.  Top with 3 lasagna noodles.  Spread ⅓ of the cheese mixture over the noodles.
  5. Repeat sauce, noodle, and cheese layers two more times.
  6. Place remaining 3 noodles on top and spread remaining sauce evenly over noodles.
  7. Bake for 35 minutes.
  8. Sprinkle with remaining 1 cup of Mozzarella cheese.
  9. Bake another 10 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.

* Cottage cheese can be used instead of ricotta cheese.
*Optional: Add veggies such as zucchini, tomatoes, carrots, mushrooms with the spaghetti sauce.

Nutrition Information per Serving: Calories 280, Total Fat 13 g (20% DV), Saturated Fat 7 g (36% DV), Cholesterol 65 mg (21% DV), Sodium 560 mg (23% DV), Total Carbohydrate 22 g (7% DV), Dietary Fiber 2 g (6% DV), Sugars 1 g, Protein 20 g, Vitamin A 15%, Vitamin C 8%, Calcium 45%, Iron 8%.

Taco Twist

8 servings

3 c. corkscrew macaroni, uncooked ¼ c. green pepper, chopped
1 (15 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 lb. lean ground beef 1 c. low-fat Cheddar cheese, shredded, divided
1 (1.25 oz.) pkg. taco seasoning mix   ½ c. non-fat sour cream
  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Spray a 2-quart baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.  Set aside.
  2. Cook the macaroni according to package directions.
  3. In a large skillet, brown ground beef. Drain fat.
  4. Add taco seasoning, tomato sauce, and green pepper to meat.
  5. Bring meat mixture to a boil. Remove from heat.
  6. In a large bowl, combine cooked macaroni, ½ cup cheese, and sour cream. Spread on the bottom of prepared baking dish.
  7. Top with the meat mixture and remaining ½ cup cheese.
  8. Bake for 30 minutes.
    *To lower the sodium use low sodium taco seasoning, and low sodium tomato sauce.

Nutrition Information per Serving:
Calories 300, Total Fat 7 g (11% DV), Saturated Fat 3 g (14% DV), Cholesterol 25 mg (8% DV), Sodium 820 mg (34% DV), Total Carbohydrate 38 g (13% DV), Dietary Fiber 2 g (7% DV), Sugars 3 g, Protein 21 g, Vitamin A 8%, Vitamin C 10%, Calcium 8%, Iron 20%.



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