Am I the only person who hits a point around Wednesday every week where I have run out of ideas for feeding my family? I mean, do they really need to eat three times a day everyday?! LOL Of course I feed the needy little munchkins, but that doesn’t mean I don’t get burnt out of the endless ‘what’s for dinner?’ battles. I was talking to a friend the other day and she was shocked that I – a dietitian with a nutrition & recipe blog – gets sick of making meals. And I was equally shocked that she would think I wouldn’t!
I don’t care how much you love food, or cooking, or even eating…. we all hit a point once in a while where we need a break. And when I start to feel this way, I rely on one secret weapon …. my slow cooker. I know InstantPots and AirFryers are all the rage, but I will always stand by my simple, cheap, one button slow cooker. I can make so many meals in it pretty effortlessly. And since they practically cook themselves, it frees me up to do all of the other thousands of things on my to-do list (except laundry…I will still pretend I am far too busy to fold clothes for as long as I can).
Why family meals are so important
So here’s the deal. As easy as it would be to give my kids a bowl of cereal for dinner and plop them in front of the TV to eat it when I am feeling burnt out, I try to avoid that as much as I can (trust me…I can’t say I don’t ever do this, but I try to limit it). Dinner time to me is family time. It’s a time where we catch up on our day, spend quality time together, and hopefully eat the food that I have made together.
Dinner with a kindergartner, a toddler, and a baby definitely isn’t stress free. And sometimes it isn’t even enjoyable. But I know the difference eating together as a family can make. Research has found that just by eating dinner together as a family your child will be 35% less likely to engage in disordered eating, 24% more likely to eat healthier foods, and 12% less likely to be overweight. Pretty amazing right?! It makes picking up all of that food off the floor worth it 😉
The Four Components of a Healthy Dinner
To help me plan out meals for my family that are nutritious, but also ones that don’t take a ton of effort to make, I use a specific formula. All of the family meals I aim to make include four parts: lean protein, produce, healthy fats, and whole gains. This helps to ensure the meal contains a variety of nutrients. And it also helps to make sure the mean has multiple options, because I know at least one family member will choose to eat only one food and secretly pretend the vegetables are invisible. But just having those other foods on hand and being exposed to them overtime will help to reduce those picky eating habits.
Adequate dietary protein is an essential part of a healthy diet. Proteins serve many critical roles in the body. For instance, they act as the building blocks to muscle tissue and also help to regulate appetite and stabilize blood sugar levels. But high fat animal proteins, such as sausage and bologna, are rich in saturated fats, which may have a negative impact on overall health. Although a good source of protein should always be provided at dinner, you should try to have it come from either a plant based source or a lean animal source. Options such as fish, chicken breast, eggs, beans, and lentils are all great sources.
Grains provide a significant source of energy to our body, but you need to take care when selecting grains that you are choosing 100% whole grain options. Refined grains contain little fiber and often have nutrients removed (although they are sometimes added back later on). Whole grains, such as brown rice and whole-wheat wraps, are rich in filling fiber along with B vitamins such as folic acid, helping to promote overall health and steady levels of energy.
It’s no secret that eating enough produce is an important component to overall health, but the majority of us just don’t get enough. The most recent research from National Fruit & Vegetable Alliance shows the majority of adults and children in the US fail to reach the daily recommendations for fruits and vegetables. One of the easiest ways to boost your overall intake is to make sure you have a fruit or a vegetable at every meal and snack. And dinner is no exception! Whether you mix in diced tomatoes with your pasta, add stir-fried vegetables to your rice, or enjoy a side salad with your meal, just make sure you add them in at each and every meal!
Fat often gets a bad rap, but plant-based fats offer many health benefits such as increasing your ability to absorb certain nutrients to decreasing inflammation and boosting heart health. Adding a good source of healthy fat into your dinner meal is a great way to ensure you get enough each day. Healthy fats are found in plant-based oils such as olive oil as well as in nuts, seeds, avocado, and olives. You can top a salad with chopped walnuts, cook up your vegetables in olive oil, or toss a handful of sesame seeds into a stir-fry. There’s so many ways you can add in healthy fats to your family’s meal when you get creative!
The easiest slow cooker chicken wrap recipe you will ever find
If you follow the above list, in just four easy steps, you can provide your family with a well-balanced, nutritious meal. But if you are looking at these steps and thinking that you do not have the time to whip up a meal with all of these components, think again. You can pull together a delicious and healthy meal in minutes. To show you how simple it can be, I created this easy Slow Cooker Balsamic Honey Chicken Vegetable Wrap recipe. It’s literarily a set it and forget it sort of a meal that almost cooks itself. All you have to do is toss the ingredients in a slow cooker in the morning. When you come home at the end of the day, just quickly shred the chicken (which takes almost no time at all thanks to the slow cooker), wrap it up in a Flatout, and serve. It’s that easy!
So tell me, what’s your biggest dinner challenge? And you need more ideas, don’t forget to follow me on Instagram @ErinPalinskiWade for all of my easy meal planning tips & recipes. And if you need more help meal planning, grab my free template to create a 7 day meal plan in just minutes!
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- 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast
- 3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 tsp cornstarch
- 1 tbsp garlic minced
- 1 cup red onion sliced
- 1 cup red pepper sliced
- 1/2 cup feta cheese crumbled
- 6 tbsp walnuts chopped
- 3 cups fresh spinach leaves
- 1 1/2 cup strawberries sliced
- 6 Flatout ProteinUp Wraps
- non stick cooking spray
Spray the bottom of your slow cooker with non-stick cooking spray and evenly space chicken breasts out on the bottom.
Pour vinegar, honey, garlic, and cornstarch over top of chicken.
Add in the red onion and pepper, cover, and set to high for 4 hours (or place on a low setting to cook for 6-8 hours).
After chicken has been thoroughly cooked, use a fork to shred evenly.
On a large plate, spread ½ cup of spinach leaves evenly over the Flatout ProteinUp wrap. Top with 1 ½ tablespoons of feta cheese and 1 tablespoon of walnuts.
Sprinkle ¼ cup sliced strawberries over top of spinach. Then top with the shredded chicken and vegetable mixture.
Roll into a wrap and repeat with the remaining wraps. Serve warm.
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
Carbohydrates 27 grams
Fiber 20 grams
Protein 33 grams
Fat 10 grams