Quick Vegetable Side Dishes
Build good habits to get greens at each meal with the ‘dump and drizzle’ or ‘dump and dip it’ method
Family life is a real juggling act, especially when it comes to healthy meals.
Life goes fast, some days it’s really hard to catch your breath. Add the chaos of kids and suddenly life for a family can be a real juggling act.
How can we ensure we get good, wholesome foods while budgeting time and resources? How can we skip convenience foods and cook vegetables that taste good? This is the never ending question in the minds of busy parents, but truly applicable to any of us. Time… oh time!
Don’t fret! In most instances, good planning and organization can help you buy, wash, chop or slice fruits and vegetables in nice colorful containers and have you looking like the next Martha Stewart. Do you find this a boring, mundane task? Try listening to a podcast while you prep and you’ll find move prep work to do so you can keep listening! And once the work is done, you will be thankful you can grab a container and quickly be able to add fruit, veggies and beautiful color to your plate. But until you reach your Martha goals, there’s a lot you can do to improve nutrition that doesn’t involve much time at all.
Need a time-out from food-prep? Trying to make take-out healthier?
Some nights we just need a time-out from food prep and the kitchen. In this case getting fruit in is not so difficult because you can pick, wash, bite and chew, hooray! But getting veggies in can seem like climbing Mount Everest. For instance, take Friday night when you come home exhausted and think “mmm what’s for dinner?”
Having no plan set and no desire to get the kitchen dirty you might think “it’s a pizza night”. Some people force themselves to order a vegetarian to get some veggies all in one bite. At our house, however, Hawaiian, pepperoni or simple cheese pizza are the go-to favs. This means we will have a veggie-free dinner. For one night, that’s ok but if your house is anything like mine, where pizza night can come once a week, adding in a side of veggies in the most easy, thoughtless way possible is a real bonus.
Try these Two Healthy Ways to Prep Quick Vegetable Side Dishes
Here is when I use my two most basic (zombie-proof) food prep techniques: the dump and drizzle and the dump and dip it.
The dump and drizzle requires me pulling out a pre-washed (three times!) salad mix with a store bought dressing. Done in 10 seconds- dump the leaves in a salad bowl and drizzle with dressing. You can get all kinds of salad mix these days: coleslaw, plain spinach, spring mix with almonds and apples, deluxe mixed leaves all conveniently in one bag or container. The only trick here is to purchase it on your weekly grocery run and to keep it fresh. Sooooo easy!
Now the dump and dip it requires pre-washed ready-to-eat bags of carrots or veggie stick trays and a hummus or ranch dip. Or go for other prep–free options such as cherry tomatoes or sugar snap peas that simply need to be washed, not sliced. Dump the carrots or veggies sticks in a sharing plate with a dip in the center. While you are waiting for take out to arrive, serve the veggies. Voila! Done!
A basic habit that grows
These simple techniques set the habit of adding color and more nutrients to your meals, even when you don’t have the ready to eat stuff on hand. Some pizza nights, 5 minutes before the pizza arrives, I have been motivated to wash a few veggies and fruits and make a nice colorful platter for the kids to nibble on (it’s heart-warming to see my husband join in).
I noticed that washing garden lettuce and making a balsamic vinaigrette takes a maximum of 5 minutes with a good spinning lettuce washer. The habit has grown and with time I have gotten the kids involved to wash the leaves or make the dressing. Sure, the task moves from taking 5 minutes to 12 minutes, but the time spent with my little ones talking about their day while teaching them a basic skill is priceless. Time becomes not about feeling rushed, but about slowing down and enjoying the simplicity of a task with someone you love.
But until we get in that habit or that joy of the moment and time is pressing, just take a deep breath and tell yourself “here we go, it’s a dump and drizzle or dump and dip it meal”.
Looking for more ways to get your family to eat more vegetables?
Try these tips here in our previous articles on the blog:
- How to Eat More Veggies When you Don’t Like Them
- How to Drag a Reluctant Partner into Better Eating Habits (Without a Family Fued)
- Got a Picky Eater? A Dietitians Top 10 Tips for Working Through Picky Eating
- Nutrition Tips for Junk Food Addicted Teens
Looking for more simple meal planning tips and healthy recipes for a healthier lifestyle? Sign up for our weekly newsletter for a healthy recipe of the week (and nutrition articles and videos with a balanced living philosophy to help encourage healthy habits but still save room for your favorites). Our nutrition newsletter is written by the Online / Calgary Nutritionists on our team who each hold a professional Registered Dietitian license to ensure you are getting credible advice.
Daniela O’Brien is known for her contagious smile, warm approachability and collaborative approach to nutrition counselling for individuals and families. Her non-judgemental, calm demeaner mixed with confidence and clear direction is especially helpful when families are struggling with meal planning challenges, picky eating, health issues and complex eating disorders. Daniela specializes in Disordered Eating, Emotional Eating, Weight Concerns, Pre/Post-natal, Infant/Kids/Family Nutrition and offers services in both English and Spanish.