Back to School – get healthy dinners to the table in minutes

By June Shannon Nutrition News   |   31st Aug 2018

Our expert dietitian Sarah Noone shares her tips for time-pressed parents, on how to prepare healthy dinners for hungry scholars in record time.

Savour the leftovers

One way to cut down on preparation time is to make the most of leftovers. Sarah suggested that leftover roast chicken for example could be mixed with salad leaves, peppers, tomatoes, grated carrot, a little olive oil and some wholemeal pasta to make a tasty chicken and pasta salad. She also advised that leftover fish can be flaked though rice with onion, sweetcorn, chopped tomatoes and beans or used to make fish cakes while Fajitas are an easy way to use up cooked mince. Even leftover vegetables such as sweetcorn or green veg could be added to stews, curries or a frittata as a thrifty way to save time, Sarah added.

Think quick meals

Something quick like a stir fry is a great option when under time pressure. Just cut up some chicken, stir fry with coriander, garlic, ginger, black pepper and a little lemon juice and add in some frozen Asian style vegetables and noodles.

Sarah also suggested trying tinned fish in spring water. It is already cooked so can be added straight to salads, omelettes, jacket potatoes or tortilla wraps. Another option is to spruce up baked beans as a fun fast meal by adding some spice like paprika and chopping in some onions, garlic and mushrooms to help boost your daily veg intake. Something as simple as mixing onions, tomatoes, mushrooms and peppers into scrambled eggs and serving on wholemeal toast can work well, not only as a time saver but also to add variety to weekly dinners, Sarah said.

Cook once, Eat Twice

Preparing double batches of food at times when you’re less rushed, such as at the weekend, and freezing them can be a great way to be thrifty and save time. Sarah advised that soups, shepherd’s pie, chilli, stew, casserole and pasta were all great options that can cooked in batches and frozen. You can just defrost them during the week and use when you are pushed for time or too tired to cook.


Sarah recommended that when devising a meal plan for the week ahead, start by thinking through everyone’s schedule and plan meals that take little or no preparation time for those days when you know you are going to be extra busy. Taking time during the weekend to plan meals for the week ahead and doing one grocery shop, saves time, money and stress during the week, she added.


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