Prioritize your well-being by making mindful choices in the kitchen. Achieve balance and variety in your meals by including foods from all five groups. Save time and enhance nutrition by pre-chopping fresh produce. Choose cooking methods that preserve nutrients and avoid unhealthy fats. Sweeten dishes with natural fruits and read food labels for healthier options. Elevate flavors with herbs and spices. Small changes in food preparation can yield significant health improvements.

 

Warm sunlight bathed the great room while the soft strains of Joshua Redmon’s saxophone wove magic in the background. Ellis and Tara lay across the L-shaped sofa where baby Lee slept happily between them. Both were engrossed in March Madness. It was early Sunday afternoon, a time during the week for relaxing and not thinking about the demands of their respective careers.

Ellis sat up to stretch. “I’ve been thinking about what’s better than a buzzer-beater three-pointer. A well-prepped meal waiting for us during the week. Want to talk about some food hacks we can use to make mealtime better?”

Tara glanced at the baby, “Yes! As far as I’m concerned, we need all the shortcuts we can get. Breakfast is particularly hard because now we’re trying to dress and feed baby Lee, get dressed for work, and get out the door on time. I saw a new study that shows there’s a 21 percent increased risk for heart disease among people who skip breakfast. So, let’s start there. We know the importance of Balance and Variety in our daily meals. We should include a wide range from all five food groups: fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods, and dairy or fortified plant-based alternatives. If we do it right, we can create a colorful plate, and our bodies will get the essential nutrients we need to thrive.”

True. How about a breakfast bowl that includes a mix of protein, whole grains, and veggies? Maybe a High-Protein Breakfast Quinoa Bowl?”

That sounds good. Speaking of veggies, how about we tackle the next hack: Pre-Chopping Fresh Produce? Working together, it should only take about an hour.”

Agreed. Let’s set aside an hour on Sunday for washing, peeling, and chopping fruits and veggies. That way, they’ll be ready to toss into stir-fries or salads.

“It will also be a good time to cut up the foods Lee loves to grab. We can pre-chop and cook some apples and pears.”

“I can’t wait for Lee to start walking so he can pitch in,” laughed Ellis. “What about Healthier Cooking Methods? We don’t want to zap all the nutrients out of our meals.”

Definitely. That’s why instead of deep-frying, let’s grill, bake, or steam. These methods enhance flavors and maintain food’s deliciousness without introducing extra calories or unhealthy fats.”

“Flavor makes all the difference. If it is bland or tastes bad, that’s no bueno. You know how much I like salmon. I’m thinking about lemon-herb baked salmon for dinner. It’s quick, healthy, and pairs well with a side of quinoa.”

Salmon is my favorite fish, too, so that sounds perfect. And speaking of flavor, our next hack is to Sweeten with Fruit. Skip the refined sugar and use natural sweetness.”

Agreed. The best way to reduce sugar in our diet is to satisfy those cravings with fruit. How about a mango salsa to top the next time we grill chicken? It’s mango season, so there’s plenty available.”

Tara smiled. Winter fruits are abundant now, and spring fruits are starting to appear in markets. A delicious dessert right now would be a simple fruit salad with berries and a drizzle of honey. We would have to mash them up, but Lee would love it, too.”

Ellis nodded, “Last but not least, Read Food Labels. We need to be savvy shoppers.”

Well, we do a good job, but it’s important to be label-savvy when it comes to canned or packaged foods. We must read those labels carefully and only buy foods with no added sugars, low sodium, or whole ingredients. We also need to be vigilant about portion sizes and nutrient content. After all, Lee deserves that level of vigilance.”

“You’re right. We are parents now. And let’s not forget to Add Flavor with Herbs and Spices.”

Fresh basil, cilantro, garlic, turmeric, and ginger can elevate dishes without sacrificing health. So, let’s get creative and experiment with different combinations to enhance those flavors naturally. Our taste buds will thank us!”

Ellis picked up Lee, held his hand out to Tara, and began to sway with both. “With these hacks, our meals will be quick, easy, delicious, healthy, and on point. And maybe—just maybe—we’ll have time for a dance with our son. Baby Lee gurgled happily in the arms of his parents.

And so, as Joshua Redman’s saxophone notes danced around them, Ellis and Tara embarked on their Sunday meal prep plan. Because in their busy lives, good food was more than sustenance—their shared joy and quiet celebration. 🍽️🎶👶

The characters Ellis and Tara are fictional, but the food hacks are real. Bon appétit!

 

 

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