What's a Healthy Dinner?

Health dinner with veggies Sometimes at the end of the day when everyone is tired and hungry, parents feel pressured to get the dinner served as quickly as possible. Eating in a healthy way takes a back seat to getting the food on the table. In times like these many of us turn to fast foods or processed meals. These meals are high in calories and do not give the family the nutrients they need. This type of food can cause us to gain weight.

For busy families who want to stay healthy, this type of processed eating is not going to cut it. These foods may be okay in a pinch, but they definitely should not be the rule of thumb.

Remember, healthy eating habits for parents translates into healthy eating habits for the kids as well. With planning, busy families can get off the fast food merry-go-round and start serving the type of healthy dinners their bodies need.

MyPlate Food Portions What is a healthy dinner anyway?

A healthy dinner basically includes the five basic food groups: fruits, vegetables, proteins, whole grains and dairy. MyPlate, USDA's new food pyramid, gives us a simple guide to follow on what food groups we should eat and the portion sizes of each.

For example, a typical dinner includes 4-6 ounces of protein, like lean meat, chicken or fish. That's roughly the size of a deck of cards. The protein covers about a quarter of the plate.

Covering another quarter of the plate are complex carbohydrates, like whole grain bread, legumes or beans, brown rice, or whole wheat pasta. A portion size is roughly the size of your palm.

The remaining half plate is covered with a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables. A serving of skim milk, unprocessed cheese or yogurt sits off to the side.

Family gathered around to eat a well balanced meal Fats should be kept to a minimum with most being unsaturated oils. Carbohydrates should come in the form of whole grains, beans, and legumes. Very little processed sugar should be consumed.

The best way to achieve this is pre-planning. The evening before, plan what you will eat the next day. Package your snacks into portion sizes and put together your meals.

Weekends are a good time to cook several meals for the week ahead. This way, the meals can be separated into containers and frozen to be warmed up later. Because you have prepared the food, you know what types of ingredients are in it.