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If you find yourself doing dinner at the drive-thru on your way homeMetroHealth wants to help you make time for healthy family meals during hectic weeknights. Some strategies include:

  1. Plan ahead. Before you go shopping on the weekend, try to plan for the week. Usually there’s a night most of the family will be home for dinner, so save family favorites for those nights. If you have free time on the weekend, grill chicken in advance, make a big salad, cut up fruit and make a big batch of brown rice or quinoa, a high-protein grain.
  2. Keep it simple. Many of us salivate over gourmet meals on Pinterest or in magazines, but sometimes these complex recipes can be real night-killers. Look for one-pot meals or those with fewer ingredients, like brown rice and beans, which can be flexible with other ingredients you have handy, like chicken or vegetables.
  3. Stock the staples. Stock up on basic healthy foods that are the building blocks to quick meals. This includes lean protein like chicken, salmon or tofu, whole grain wraps and dark leafy greens. Look for ways to incorporate these healthy ingredients into family favorites.
  4. Make the freezer your friend. Keep a stock of items like premium frozen vegetables, individual frozen chicken breast tenderloins (that can be cooked from frozen), veggie burgers and more. Frozen fish is often flash-frozen at sea and thaws quickly under running cold water.
  5. Rock around the Crock-Pot. There are many healthy slow cooker recipes that require just a little planning and result in a healthy, hot meal waiting at home, like turkey chili with your favorite veggies. Try to avoid pre-made slow cooker meals or sauces, as they are often high in sodium and other preservatives.
  6. Embrace meatless meals. Vegetarian meals are healthier and cheaper than those containing meat, and can even take less time to make. Try a homemade or frozen bean burger with a side of steamed broccoli and a piece of seasonal fruit like an apple or pear. And eggs aren’t just for breakfast – try scrambled eggs with a little cheese, spinach and peppers, a side of fruit salad and a whole grain English muffin.

Keep MyPlate in Mind
The MyPlate program focuses on eating from the five food groups:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Proteins such as lean chicken and fish
  • Dairy

If including all five food groups sounds challenging, a peanut butter sandwich on whole grain bread, with carrot sticks, an apple and a glass of milk meets MyPlate recommendations.

Hot and Zesty Shrimp and Broccoli Pasta

This recipe is a healthy and family friendly choice for hectic weeknights.


  • 1 pound shrimp (peeled and deveined, cooked or raw) (can substitute with chicken breasts)
  • 2 pounds (2 heads) broccoli
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper, or to taste
  • 8 ounces whole grain penne pasta
  • 1 red pepper, rinsed and cut into 1/4-inch strips (1 cup)
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese


  1. Clean and cut broccoli into small bite sized pieces. Steam in water until just fork tender, about 3-5 minutes. Set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, according to package instructions. Drain pasta, reserving 1/4 cup cooking water. Return to pot.
  3. Sauté red pepper strips, garlic and shrimp in olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and crushed red pepper. Toss in broccoli. Pour mixture over pasta. Add some reserved cooking water, if needed. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
  4. Serve warm.