I fed my kids a plate of nachos for dinner last night. No really, I did. We had a busy afternoon and we needed to be at a school function by 7 p.m. We were short on time and that is what my kids said they would eat. So nachos it was. You may be (happily) thinking, even a dietitian has “those nights” (and yes, I do). But, here’s the thing about these nachos. All but one ingredient on the plate earned at least one Guiding Star!
Ideally our meals are a time when the family can come together and share; a time to slow down and eat a beautifully prepared and balanced meal. Shift to real life and for most of us that means, ideally, we simply want to get meals to our tables that are nutritious and easy to prepare-the slowing down usually has to wait until the weekend.
A trick I use, especially during the busy work week, for creating wholesome, balanced meals is to think of them as a combination of nutrients rather than always as a traditional meal. This concept and a shopping list that stocks your pantry with go-to ingredients will help you easily create simple dishes on your busiest nights. It may also improve the nutritional quality of your weekly diet (and is wallet friendly too!).
Let’s first look at protein options. Be sure to have on-hand frozen edamame, cans of black beans, kidney beans, chick peas or other legumes (buy the low sodium versions or rinse thoroughly before using). Plain 0% Greek yogurt (3 stars) is great to have on hand to eat “as is” or use for dips, sauces or in place of sour cream. If you’re cooking a protein like chicken, I recommend preparing more then you need for one dinner so you have extra to use another night.
If maintaining fresh vegetables in your home is challenging, keep frozen on hand. They are equally nutritious and convenient to prepare. Starch options abound! If you’re in a rush, great options are microwavable or boil-in-a-bag brown rice and better pasta choices such as whole wheat pasta and Barilla Plus.
So those nachos, here’s how I make them. Begin with a base of Snyder’s White Corn Chips (1 star) and top with Cabot 50% Reduced Fat Cheese (no stars but a natural reduced fat cheese I highly recommend), Goya Low Sodium Black Beans (2 stars) and Cascadian Farm Sweet Corn (3 stars). I also add small, thinly sliced pieces of leftover grilled, skinless chicken (3 stars) and a bit of Better than Fred’s Mild Salsa (1 star). Pre-heat oven to 400 and spread evenly on a shallow oven safe dish. I usually bake for 3-5 minutes or until the cheese melts.
While the nachos cook, open a bag of baby carrots and sugar snap peas (both 3 stars) to nibble on and dip in Wholly Guacamole (2 stars). Stand by for the compliment and the realization that I had a meal complete with nearly every food group and happy kids who got what they wanted. Talk about all nutrition and “no guilt”.
The name nacho may automatically imply an unhealthy food choice but as you can see by some simple planning ahead and by using ingredients that get stars you can feed your family nutritiously and economically!
About our Consulting Dietitian
Allison Stowell MS, RD, CDN is a Registered Dietitian and a working mom of two. Allison enables individuals to make positive, sustainable changes in their eating habits by stressing conscious eating, improving relationships with food and offering a non-diet approach for reaching and maintaining ideal body weight.
She also runs a successful private practice with offices in Danbury, CT, Bedford Hills, NY and Mahopac, NY. Since 2007, Allison has also worked with the grocer, Hannaford Brothers Corporation, as a Nutrition Coordinator. She provides complementary nutrition classes and tours, community workshops and one-on-one shopping experiences at their Carmel, NY location.
She joins the Guiding Stars team to help people in a number of sectors (grocery, hospitals, schools and universities) to understand how to use the Guiding Stars nutrition navigation program to make healthier food choices.
Allison lives in Connecticut with her husband, two small children and her dog, Chase.