Preparing low-calorie meals that are both nutritious and easy to make can be a challenge for busy moms. With a little preparation and some creativity, however, you can come up with plenty of ideas for low-calorie meals that will nourish your family without forcing you to spend hours in the kitchen.
Breakfast may be the most important meal of the day for both parents and kids, but that doesn't mean it has to be high in fat and calories. For a healthy, filling breakfast your kids will enjoy, try the "three-cup" breakfast, consisting of a cup of whole-grain cereal, a cup of blueberries and a cup of skim milk; not only does this 300-calorie breakfast contain a balance of protein, carbohydrates and fiber, blueberries are one of the so-called "superfoods" that are rich in antioxidants that can boost the immune system. When cooking eggs for breakfast, cut calories by poaching or soft-boiling eggs instead of pan-frying, or use a nonstick pan and no oil. Other low-cal breakfast solutions include a granola-berry parfait consisting of low-fat yogurt, a cup of frozen berries and a crumbled granola bar, and a black-bean breakfast burrito containing egg whites, black beans, salsa and low-fat cheddar, drizzled with a touch of fat-free creamy ranch dressing.
For a fresh spin on the old PB&J that kids will love, spread peanut butter on a whole-wheat wrap, add sliced bananas and their favorite dried fruit, such as apricots or dates, and season with a sprinkle of cinnamon. The classic bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich can also be made healthier by using whole-grain bread and substituting turkey bacon and fat-free creamy dressing for regular bacon and mayo. For another low-calorie lunch, take a cup of chili — either canned or homemade — add some frozen broccoli and top with grated low-fat cheese and crushed baked corn chips.
Most kids love spaghetti and meatballs; cut down on the calories by substituting ground turkey for beef when you make the meatballs. For better meatballs, make sure the ground turkey isn't just turkey breast, as this will result in meatballs that are dry and grainy. A packet of dry salad dressing and dip mix is a quick and easy way to season your meatballs. If the weather permits, grill skinless chicken breasts on the barbecue and serve on a bed of brown rice pilaf made form microwavable brown rice, frozen vegetables and sliced almonds.
Preparing healthy, low-calorie meals becomes pointless if you and or your kids wind up snacking on unhealthy foods between meals, so always strive to have an array of healthy snack choices ready to serve. For example, offer kids carrot and celery sticks with a favorite salad dressing as a dip, or sliced fruit such as bananas and apples they can dip into flavored yogurt. For a savory, low-calorie snack, top some fat-free microwave popcorn with grated Parmesan cheese and a little oregano to create pizza popcorn.