The landscape for family meals has never looked so different as it does today, with families across the country hunkered down together at home. While the current situation has changed pretty much every aspect of our lives, there are bright spots in our new routines, such as this: a new comprehensive study finds that family meals actually make families stronger on several fronts. Researchers found improvements in several family dynamics- such as connectedness, communication, and relationships-with more mealtime together. More good news? Fruit and veggie intake also got a boost.
At Earth’s Best, we are parents too. And we know meal planning is a whole new game when every meal is served at home, often with limited access to a grocery store or online delivery. We are here with you every step of the way, to help you stay healthy and sane while you do the important work of raising our next generation of heroes.
That said, it’s the end of the day, and you’re exhausted. Yet you still have to get something nourishing on the dinner table for your little one. Almost every parent knows that feeling of having no motivation to cook, or suddenly realizing your toddler’s tiny tummy wants to eat now. Yet if the thought of reaching for a frozen TV Dinner in a pinch makes you wince, you’re not alone. “TV Dinners” of yore were typically salty, overcooked, preservative-packed meals, cooked into oblivion, that offered little in the way of nutrition or healthy eating habits.
Today, the freezer aisle has undergone a revival, thanks to advancements in things like sourcing (more all natural and organic ingredients) and technology (for example, fruits and vegetables move from the orchards and gardens at record speed today, and are flash frozen within hours to lock in flavor and nutrition).
The surprising part? These better-for-you freezer friendly shortcuts can actually be healthier and more affordable than takeout, according to research. From cauliflower “rice” that’s ready in seconds, to frozen fish filets that come with a handy pack of bread crumbs and herbs for a flavorful crunch, families don’t have to choose between convenience and better sourcing or good nutrition.
While toddlers are at an age and learning stage where they should be joining family meals to reap both the nutrition and the social benefits (our Ultimate Toddler Feeding Guide will help you feed with confidence), in a pinch, serving up something fast can save your sanity. When that happens-here are 6 of our favorite fuss-free, freezer friendly mealsthat are easy to assemble, full of flavor and provide essential nutrients your little one needs to grow up to be big and strong, so they can leave their mark on the world.
- Earth’s Best® shish kebobs. Kids love to customize! On soaked wooden skewers alternate Earth’s Best® Frozen Mini Beef Meatballs with cubed bell peppers, zucchini, cherry tomatoes and chopped squash or fennel. Brush with your favorite sauce. The meatballs are precooked, so you can grill or broil just until the veggies are cooked through. Since toddlers cherish independence and love to customize, invite them to build their own.
- Zucchini spirals with pasta sauce and chickpeas. Cook 1 serving of frozen zucchini spirals according to directions, drain well. Sautee 1 tsp olive oil and 2 Tbsp drained chickpeas in a small sauté pan, add a few tablespoons pasta sauce (or pesto) of your choice and warm through. Toss with cooked zucchini noodles and garnish with parmesan if desired.
- Dumplings with Edamame. Whether packed with nutritious vegetables, or chicken or pork (preferably organic), dumplings can be sautéed in just a few minutes, and often come with dipping sauce -which always turns up the fun factor. Serve with steamed or boiled edamame either shelled, or in pods, depending on your toddler’s comfort and safety, plus a few slices of mango.
- Earth’s Best Quinoa-Broccoli- Nugget Bowl: I love quinoa because it’s a protein and iron packed, super speedy ancient grain that’s ready in just 12 minutes-so it will be ready at the same time the Earth’s Best® Frozen Nuggets are arriving toasty from the oven. Prepare quinoa according to package directions-and in the last 3 minutes, toss a few tablespoons of frozen chopped or speared broccoli on top; replace the lid so it keeps steaming. Check for doneness, then place a small scoop of the broccoli and quinoa in a bowl, and place toasted Earth’s Best® Frozen Chicken or Veggie Medley Nuggets alongside.
- Roasted corn chicken tacos. You only need a tiny bit of extra rotisserie chicken to whip up a nutritious chicken taco in a jiffy (and if you have a vegetarian like I do, seasoned beans from a pouch are a tasty and easy swap). Sautee a few tablespoons of frozen roasted corn with some olive oil; in a corn tortilla, place 1 oz pulled rotisserie chicken or beans , top with the roasted corn, a few slices of avocado, shredded romaine, and a squirt of fresh lime or fresh salsa; roll up and serve.
- Butternut squash tortellini + Peas. There are so many new innovative fillings in pasta, choose one with dark green (hello, Kale) or orange to help pack essential nutrients like vitamins A and K. Did you know peas are considered both a protein and a vegetable by the USDA? Adding a hefty handful cup of frozen peas to dinner bumps up the protein and fiber; to cook, simply toss frozen peas into the pasta cooking water in the final 2 minutes, then drain altogether and toss with butter or olive oil. Serve with sliced pears or your favorite in-season fruit.
Published: April 7, 2020
Last modified: April 16, 2020