Speed the feed! Quick and easy tips for meals during quarantine

Most of us around the country are living the #IStayHome life because of the coronavirus (COVID-19). It might seem that being away from long commutes and busy sports schedules would allow for more meal-making at home, but that may not be the case.

Many people are working from home, homeschooling kids and even recovering from illness — which means there’s still a lot to do. Add in the stress of these unsettling times, and cooking family meals may be a struggle.

That’s where a few speedy meal fixes come in.

Now more than ever, you’ll want to take care of yourself and your loved ones by eating healthy foods. Whether you want to get creative or keep it simple, here are a few fast ways to put a day’s nutritious meals together.

Breakfast ideas

Start the day right with a well-balanced morning meal. Fiber, protein and vitamin C are just a few of the wonderful helpers you’ll need for energy to face the day ahead.

  • Spinach and guac toast. Spread ready-made guacamole on a thick slice of whole wheat bread or a bagel thin. Next, add layers of greens (any kind) and a sliced hard-boiled egg. Then top with fresh tomato slices.
  • Smart smoothies. For healthy, tasty smoothies, add spinach and blueberries, orange slices, peaches or pineapple to protein powder and milk (such as cow’s, almond or oat). Frozen fruits or veggies work great for smoothies and are easier to store.
  • A cup of fruit (and then some). Make a hearty, delicious fruit cup for yourself and the kids. Spoon yogurt into a cup. Then spoon crunchy cereal on top of that. Add fresh fruit such as apples or bananas (if you have them on hand), or dried fruits like raisins, figs or dates. Repeat.

Lunch ideas

Even though you’re at home, you may feel the lunch crunch (and not because of carrots!). That’s because you’re facing hungry kids, a work deadline and no idea what to make. Here are quick, filling recipes that will send midday hunger on its way.

  • Easy peasy chili. Brown ground beef in a large skillet (you could even cook a batch ahead of time), then add chili beans and salsa. Stir it all together, then cover and simmer for about five minutes. Set out a couple of choices for garnish, such as sour cream and cheese. Serve with instant rice for a crowd-pleaser.
  • Pack a pocket. Here’s a simple recipe from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Slice whole-wheat pita bread in half. For protein, fold in a slice of turkey, ham or tofu. Then add lettuce or sliced veggies of your choice and sprinkle in some cheese. Serve with apple slices or grapes.
  • Crunchy rainbow wrap. This colorful recipe, also from the USDA, is easy enough for your kids to make on their own. Take a tortilla and lay it flat. Spread cream cheese or hummus on the tortilla. Take veggies such as red pepper strips, carrot shreds, yellow corn, small spinach leaves and shredded purple cabbage and create a rainbow of healthy veggies on the tortilla. Fold in the sides of the tortilla and tightly roll it up.

Dinner ideas

Making vegetables part of your daily meals can help strengthen your immune system. Try buying fresh vegetables that you can chop and store, or buy the precut packages. Frozen vegetables are nutritious too. (And there’s no need to worry that they’ll spoil.)

  • Broccoli and snow pea stir-fry. Lightly sauté fresh or frozen broccoli and snow peas. Add a lean protein such as flank steak, chicken, shrimp or tofu. Boost the flavor with ginger, minced garlic and a splash or two of low-sodium soy sauce. Makes a delicious, nutritious meal in about 20 minutes.
  • Grilled meal. Cook meat, fish, skinless chicken or a meatless “burger” patty on the grill. Add steamed, microwaved or roasted broccoli, green beans, asparagus or peas as a side.
  • Salmon and asparagus roast. On one side of a large sheet tray, spray asparagus with olive oil and toss with black pepper. Add salmon fillets on the other side of the tray and roast at 450º for about 10-12 minutes (based on fish thickness). Bonus: You’ll only have one pan to clean.

Don’t forget dessert!

When you’re stuck at home during trying times, dessert can be a comfort. The main thing is not to go overboard on the sweets. These healthy dessert-snacks offer a satisfactory ending to your stay-at-home meals.

  • Banana pudding parfait. Put premade, shelf-stable banana-flavored pudding in small glass bowls or parfait glasses. Layer banana slices on top of the pudding, then top with premade chocolate pudding. Cover with plastic wrap and up it in the fridge until cold. Sprinkle each parfait with graham cracker crumbs.
  • Strawberry cheesecake smoothie. This recipe from Super Healthy Kids offers the best of both worlds: a speedy smoothie combined with cheesecake tastiness. You’ll mix yogurt, cottage cheese, frozen strawberries, milk and honey in a blender. Top with pieces of graham cracker for true cheesecake flair.
  • No-bake cookies. This basic recipe makes just one cookie, which keeps you and your family from having too many. Simply double or triple it so everyone gets their share. Mix two tablespoons of rolled oats, one tablespoon of peanut butter, 1/4 teaspoon maple syrup and a dash of vanilla extract. Form into a ball.

Pull from your pantry

When you have to shelter in place, a well-stocked pantry is a big help. Cans of tuna or chicken can make for a quick salad. Canned beans and broth, along with fresh onions and tomatoes, are the makings of a tasty bean soup. Not to mention, these items are easy on the budget.

Stock canned foods, dry mixes and other staples that don’t need to be in the fridge or be specially prepared. It’s a long-lasting solution when trips to the store aren’t part of the plan for a while. Here’s what you’ll want to have on hand:

  • Ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits, vegetables and a can opener
  • Protein or fruit bars
  • Dry cereal or granola
  • Peanut butter
  • Dried fruit
  • Canned juices

Share your meals with others

Of course, in this case we mean share your recipes for meals! Use this time to reach out to friends, family members and coworkers to get their ideas and recipes. You’ll be inspired by what others are doing and may discover recipes you’ll love long after you and your family are back out in the world again.

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Make healthy meals for yourself and your loved ones during the #COVID19 quarantine. Here are a few fast ways to put a day’s nutritious meals together. #coronavirus #CookingInACrisis

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