Whole wheat pita crusts and fresh ingredients can turn an otherwise average pizza into a variety that’s healthier and tastier, especially when it’s made at home. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

Everyone seems to be adding more and more items to their weekly schedules. Work, picking up kids, sports games and practices, PTA—the list goes on.

Who has time to think about what’s on the menu throughout the week, let alone find healthy options, get to the grocery store and then cook the food?

Food companies are now starting to recognize the demand for healthier, ready-made food products.

To help you plan the week, I’ve listed seven healthier dinner meals for the family, all ready to go from the store. Not only will these easy ideas save you time and likely money, they’ll also save your waistline and keep your cholesterol levels from growing.

The meal concepts range from minimal cooking to simply opening and heating up.

Remember, when looking for ready-made foods, keep an eye on the ingredients—you want more actual foods and fewer ingredients that sound like they’re from chemistry class. Label reading can certainly be tricky, too, but there are great resources to help you along the way.

Here’s a seven-day sampling of ready-made meals:

Day 1: Roasted chicken with salad and rice

There’s no cooking needed with this one—just toss the salad together and microwave the rice.

  • Rotisserie Chicken works best.
  • Use a bag salad kit. I like the Taylor Farms Sweet Kale Chopped Salad.
  • Microwavable quick rice will do. I like the Seeds of Change Quinoa and Brown Rice Blend.

Day 2: Stir-fry

Some light cooking is required, but your family will think you slaved away. Just sauté up the veggies, chicken and sauce.

  • Opt for Frozen Grilled Chicken Strips. Try Tyson Grilled and Ready bags.
  • Use your favorite bag of frozen mixed vegetable stir-fry. Try Birds Eye Sugar Snap Stir-fry.
  • Toss in a packet of stir-fry sauce. I like the Saffron Road Stir-fry Sauce.
  • Finish it up with microwave quick rice. Try the Minute Rice Brown Rice.

Day 3: Salmon with quinoa and kale pilaf

Just throw the fish in the oven and heat up the pilaf. It’s a 15-minute meal.

  • Frozen marinated salmon is ideal. Try Gorton’s Simply Baked Salmon—just throw the whole frozen package right in the oven.
  • Use a frozen bag of quinoa and veggie blend. Look for Path of Life Quinoa and Kale in the freezer aisle.

Day 4: Indian fare

This is a vegetarian cuisine full of flavor—you won’t even miss the meat. You can pair a stew-like Indian dish with brown rice or naan bread.

  • Look for any Tasty Bite packet of Indian Cuisine and place it over Minute Brown Rice or dip whole grain naan bread in. This heats up in just one minute in the microwave pouch.

Day 5: Marinated meatballs

Place this over rice or noodles with a bag of steamable veggies. It’s a family meal in minutes.

  • Look for Aidells Chicken Meatballs with various marinade flavors in the sausage/lunchmeat section of the store.
  • Place over Minute Brown Rice or, if you have time, cook up some whole grain noodles.
  • Pair this with a bag or two of microwave steamable veggies. Try Birds Eye or Green Giant Steam bags—but avoid the ones with creamy sauces.

Day 6: Pizza night

Some assembly is required for this pizza, but on family nights when you have a little more time, it can definitely make for some family fun.

  • Use whole grain pitas as the crust. Each person can top their own with their favorite toppings and bake 10-15 minutes at 350 degrees. Use a can of simple marinara sauce or canned pesto for the base, and top the pitas with items from your produce department—think onions, tomatoes, broccoli, peppers, olives, mushrooms, arugula, oregano, basil—and lean meats (skip the pepperoni or sausage in favor of healthier options) and use cheese sparingly.

Day 7: Burger night

This is a go-to comfort food with a healthy twist.

  • Look for low-fat burger patty options (frozen) or try Aidells Chicken Burger Patties, found near the lunch sausages. For an added veggie and health boost, try some veggie burgers from the frozen section. Dr. Praeger’s offers a variety of veggie burger options that are filled with real food ingredients. Enjoy it on a lettuce wrap, whole grain wrap or whole grain buns.
  • Pair it with baked sweet potato fries. I like the Alexia frozen version. You can also add the “cauliflower mashed potatoes” from the frozen veggie section. It’s a great way to sneak in veggies.

Source : Spectrum Health Beat

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