Q : My family and I all arrive home about the same time every night. Everyone's starved. They get cranky if they have to wait very long to eat. Or they spoil their appetites by nibbling on snacks. What would you suggest?
A : Help your family dine healthy when they're hungry and want to eat with these tactics:
Have some nutritious snacks ready to tide them over until the meal is on the table. For example, rather than serving milk with the meal--offer them some milk right away. Or, keep on hand some of those individually wrapped cheese sticks as a quick and healthy snack. A low-fat or non-fat yogurt would be another possibility.
Consider whole fruit such as apples, or raw veggies such as carrot sticks as another munchie to help hold hunger at bay. An advantage of these snacks is they can't be chomped down in a bite or two like a cookie or chips. The result: Your family is less likely to overload on snacks that require some chewing.
Prepare a "first course" the night before that your family can eat while your main course is cooking. This might be veggies and a low-fat dip. Or, enjoy a salad that you or a family member assembled the previous night.
Set the table before everyone leaves for the day. This saves one last minute task. Plus, it makes it appear that supper will be served soon!
Enlist various family members to help speed up the cooking, plus keep them occupied until the meal is on the table!
Assemble quick meals the night before, such as ready-to-heat casseroles. Add a bread, a salad, milk, and you've got a meal.
Visit your nearest library and check out several cookbooks that offer quick recipe ideas or surf the Internet for recipes. Try several recipes until you find some that work for your family. Then follow the practice of many food service institutions: Set up a series of cycle menus. For example, you might choose to repeat about 10 evening meals throughout a season.
If you like, periodically change the night that meals are served. For example, change stir-fry night from Monday to Wednesday some weeks. Or, there might be one "special" food your family enjoys at a particular time--maybe Friday night is pizza night.
FoodTalk E-mail Newsletter, University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension in Lancaster County, http://lancaster.unl.edu/food/ FoodTalk.htm