The kitchen table is a gathering place for families to come together, whether it is for breakfast, lunch, dinner or a snack. This time together is sacred.  It is where your day is discussed, where problems are worked out and a balanced meal is consumed. So, what is your family going to eat tonight? How are you going to create a fast, nutritious meal the whole family can enjoy? Let’s plan ahead!


Plan your meals ahead of time. Make a list of meals you and your family would prefer to eat and create a grocery list that will allow you to make these meals for the whole week. This also saves time, money and promotes healthy meals for your family. Studies show that families who plan and prepare home-cooked meals are more likely to consume smaller portions, fewer calories, less fat, salt and sugar. Click here to read more.

Following your menu plan will also allow you to prepare some foods ahead of time. For example, you can wash and trim fruits and vegetables in the beginning of the week so they are ready to use!

For fast and simple ideas click on this link for quick and easy recipes. You can even attend your MOVE!® class and see if your VA offers a Healthy Teaching Kitchen session to get more recipe ideas. Ask your VA dietitian about what’s available at your facility.


Keep your kitchen stocked with foods you can make in a hurry:

  • Vegetables- fresh or frozen
  • Fruits- fresh or frozen
  • Beans
  • Canned or frozen poultry and fish
  • Whole grain bread
  • Whole grain pasta
  • Brown Rice
  • Low-fat cheese
  • Low-fat yogurt
  • Skim Milk
  • Eggs (hard boiled)



When preparing your meals, try to use fast cooking methods such as broiling, sautéing, stir-fry or the microwave. Roasting and baking take longer. When you are really in a bind, you can try no-cook meals. Make a salad and add canned chicken, tuna or beans. Cold sandwiches, raw vegetables and yogurt dip with fruit are also great ideas.


Cook for today and later. You can make lean ground beef for tonight’s taco dinner and for tomorrow’s spaghetti. Home-cooked items can last 5-7 days when properly stored. When making stew or soup, make a large batch, divide it up into smaller portions, and freeze it for use throughout the week or month.


Get the family involved while the meal is being prepared. Ask your children or grandchildren to set the table, pour water or help mix ingredients. This will not only help them learn, but you will be able to spend time with them! A study about shared family meals and nutritional health of children and adolescents from the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics showed that your child may be 35 percent less likely to engage in disordered eating, 24 percent more likely to eat healthier foods and 12 percent less likely to be overweight when engaging in family mealtime. Read Do Family Meals Really Make a Difference? for more information.

See how you can get the family involved through the Choose My Plate site. Your day might be busy, but gathering your family for meals is important too. Plan to have family meals at least three times a week, if possible. So, shut off your televisions and silence your phones. By working together, a balanced meal can be created for the whole family to enjoy!

Need more help creating healthy meals? Contact your local VA Nutrition clinic, MOVE! weight management program or see if your VA has a Healthy Teaching Kitchen. The MOVE website and the VA Nutrition Website have success stories, education materials and more information about the program.

Erin VaillancourtErin Vaillancourt has been a registered dietitian at the Saginaw, Michigan VA Medical Center for the past 7 years. She has a CDE in diabetes management and an MS in Nutrition from Central Michigan University. Erin works in the outpatient MOVE clinic counseling Veterans individually focusing on weight reduction and diabetes. She also teaches a variety of classes and support groups through the Healthy Teaching Kitchen, MOVE! Program and Diabetes Management Programs.


Share this story

Published on Aug. 13, 2015

Estimated reading time is 3.5 min.

Views to date: 48

More Stories

  • During Sickle Cell Awareness Month in September, the American Red Cross emphasizes the importance of a diverse blood supply to help meet the needs of those with sickle cell disease – the most common inherited blood disorder in the U.S.

  • CaringBridge, a free online tool to communicate health news to family and friends, is celebrating its 25th anniversary.

  • Shahpur Pazhman flew Black Hawk missions in 27 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, resupplying and relocating Afghan ground forces and evacuating casualties to safety. Thanks to Bridge My Return, he's back in the air.