An Angus Reid study, cited in a 2000 issue of Canadian Grocer, reported that Canadians spend an average of 20 minutes on dinner preparation, compared with two hours in 1985! Increasing demands on people’s time means that many Canadian families want fast, simple meals that fit into busy schedules. Canadians have less time to cook and are preparing fewer meals from scratch. Canadians are buying more products that will save them time and can be prepared or eaten quickly. Consumer trends in the United States show a demand for pre-made and take-out meals, as well as one-dish meals and there is also an increased demand for meals that can be eaten with hands, presumably for the daily commute or to be eaten at the desk, computer or workstation. The common theme among all of these trends is a demand for food and food products that will save time.
It is important to know that healthy eating does not have to be a big production! A “complete” meal includes 3 of 4 food groups as outlined in Canada’s Food Guide – Vegetables and Fruits, Grain Products, Milk and Alternatives, and Meat and Alternatives. For example, tuna sandwich on whole wheat bread with a glass of milk is considered a “complete” meal!
Check out the Nutrition Month 2014 page for more information on meals at home.
How Do You Save Time?
With little time to shop or cook, convenience foods seem to be the answer for many people. The downfall with many convenience-type foods is that they are often high in fat and salt and low in fibre. Use the Nutrition Facts table on the food label to compare products and make the healthiest choice. However, pre-prepared, pre-packaged foods aren’t your only option. What is more convenient than a bagel with a slice of cheese and a mug of juice? How about a fried egg sandwich with a glass of milk?
Time Saving Tips
- Cook extra rice or pasta and use leftovers in soups, casseroles, salads, stir-fries or wraps.
- Make double batches of recipes when you do have time to cook and freeze extra for lunch or dinner the next week.
- Freeze chopped green onion and bell peppers. They can quickly be added to recipes.
- If you don’t have time to wash and chop vegetables, buy peeled carrots, mixed packaged lettuce and frozen vegetables.
- If you are eating pre-prepared, pre-packaged meals, include some extra cooked or raw vegetables, as frozen meals often contain very few of these.
- Try something new in your travel mug. Instead of coffee in the morning, go for a peanut butter and banana breakfast shake. Toss 1 cup milk, 1 frozen banana and a teaspoon of vanilla in a blender. Add 1 tablespoon of peanut butter while blending.
- Throw together a meal-in-one salad. Toss some lettuce with a can of rinsed chick peas or canned tuna and some of your favorite vegetables. Top with shredded cheese and some salad dressing. Add a whole wheat roll to balance out the meal.
- Wrap it up. Use your leftover pasta or rice with leftover meat and vegetables to fill a soft tortilla shell. Add your favourite sauce (black bean, peanut or barbecue) and wrap it all together for a quick meal.
- Go for a bean-burrito. Heat some re-fried beans and spread on a soft tortilla shell. Top with your favorite chopped vegetables, shredded cheese and some salsa.
- Make your own gourmet pizza. Buy some pizza crust and top with your favourite sauce (pesto, barbecue, tomato) and your favorite vegetables, a sprinkle of cheese and throw it in the oven for 10 minutes.
Eating out can fit into a healthy lifestyle. The availability of healthy options at restaurants has increased, making it possible to make healthy food choices when eating out. The next time you visit a restaurant, think about the following information when choosing your meal.