There's no need to wrestle with guilt about feeding your family high-calorie takeout or fast-food meals when you can make healthy, low-calorie meals from scratch, even if it seems you just don't have the time. Calorie-restricted meals are easy and surprisingly fast to put together. It just takes a little advance planning and selective shopping.
A calorie-restricted breakfast can be as fast and delicious as an egg, any way you want to cook it, with toast. A hard-boiled egg has just 80 calories, and you can cook six at once to store in the refrigerator for whenever you need them. Lower the fat content in your milk by switching gradually from whole milk to 2 percent, then 1 percent, and finally skim, one carton at a time. If your kids balk at skim, usually 1 percent will be acceptable and is still a big improvement. Replace fatty strips of bacon with slices of lean Canadian bacon, which has 1/3 of the calories and 1/4 of the fat. Invest in a good nonstick skillet so you can cook Canadian bacon and scrambled eggs with a light coat of cooking spray.
Think outside the lunchbox to come up with delicious low-calorie lunches that are easy to pack. Put prewashed greens in a resealable plastic bag and include a single-serve container of fat-free creamy dressing for a salad the kids can eat right out of the bag. A flour tortilla has fewer calories than two slices of bread, so stuff a wrap with crunchy low-calorie vegetables such as shredded carrots, sliced radishes and whole snow peas, and use fat-free creamy dressing to hold it together. Make peanut-butter-and-fruit sandwiches with whole fresh berries instead of processed jelly. Use light or fat-free creamy ranch dressing to make chicken salad, egg salad and tuna salad sandwiches light and healthy.
Low-calorie individual pizzas are easy when you use whole-wheat Greek pita flatbread instead of pizza crust. Spread a spoonful of purchased pizza sauce over the surface of the pizza, and let the kids add their favorite vegetable toppings and cheese before you bake it. For dessert, make a fruit kabob: alternate juicy whole grapes with pieces of sliced melon and banana on a wooden skewer for a low-calorie treat that's easy to eat.
Plan ahead when you shop so that you can drive right past the drive-through, confident in your ability to pull together a simple reduced-calorie meal from the ingredients at home in your pantry. Grated cheese, salad kits complete with creamy dressing and croutons, and cut, packaged vegetables make low-calorie meals easier than ever. Stock up on lean meats such as canned albacore tuna and boneless, skinless chicken breasts.