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Tips for Quicker Healthy Meals

Follow our food director's advice to spend less time in the kitchen but still make easy, nutritious weeknight dinners at home.

By Regina Ragone

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Easy as Pie
Peter Mac
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Okay, all together now: Eating fresh or minimally processed food is healthiest. Of course, a lot easier said than done when time is tight. Prepping meals in advance is a fairly foolproof strategy but not always possible. Luckily, savvy companies have come up with appealing ways to cut corners in the kitchen, without sacrificing nutrition. Some food for thought:

Easy As Pie

True, this isn't quite as simple as calling your local pizzeria and waiting for the doorbell to ring. But with a stash of Rustic Crust's Great Grain Pizza Crust ($3) and Old World Pizza Sauce (3 packs/$4), you can get dinner on the table in less than half an hour (often faster than delivery!). Each slice is only 140 calories, with 2g fat and 5g fiber. Top the pie with your favorite low-fat cheese blend (1/4 cup will add only 100 calories) and then pile on plenty of veggies to make a satisfying slice.

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Extra Special

In cooking, a little something can add up to a big difference. Brush some Colavita Balsamic Glaze ($7.50) on chicken breasts or pork chops during the last minute of cooking to create a sweet, caramelized coating that kids will love. Or try accenting steamed vegetables with a light drizzle of Lucini's Robust Garlic-Infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil ($16).

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Chill Out

When the cupboards are bare and no one wants to run out to the store, toss one of the newest better-for-you frozen dinners into the microwave. Time and again our staff turns to Kashi's Frozen Entrees ($4). Our current top three are Lemongrass Coconut Chicken, Mayan Harvest Bake and Chicken Florentine. Each meal boasts Kashi's famous 7 whole-grain pilaf plus fresh vegetables, for a great-tasting, high-fiber, low-fat meal.

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Better Burgers

If you've been on the backyard barbecue circuit all summer and feel beef-burgered out, sample some appealing meatless options. Dr. Praeger's burgers contain no fillers or egg products—just fresh vegetables. I love the California, Bombay, Tex Mex and Italian Veggie Burgers (4/$5), stacked high with lettuce and tomatoes on a whole-wheat Arnold reduced-sodium Sandwich Thin. Add a Dr. Praeger Sweet Potato or Spinach Pancake (6/$4) and you've hit your veggie requirement for the day.

Originally published in the August 2011 issue of Family Circle magazine.

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