Families’ busy work, school and play schedules can make it difficult to get a balanced meal on the table every night. But I promise there are ways to make this happen! While planning ahead is one key to ensure healthy meals, another is incorporating certain packaged foods in your meal prep to help simplify and speed up the cooking process and still provide your family with a healthy meal.
Stocking your pantry or freezer with some packaged foods can be a huge time saver for busy weeknights. However, all packaged foods are not created equal! It is important to check the nutrition labels when choosing any pre-packaged products. Avoid any that are loaded with added salt, sugar and saturated/trans fats.
A good rule of thumb when choosing pre-packaged foods is to find products that have less than 15% DV (% Daily Value) per serving for sodium and saturated/trans fats. It is also a good idea to be mindful of the fibre and nutrient content (vitamins, minerals, protein) when choosing packaged foods – the more of these the better, generally speaking!
When it comes to package foods, the President’s Choice Blue Menu (PCBM) line has many good options. Over the last several years these products have been developed to contain less salt, sugar and fat compared to other big grocery brand names, and now they are focusing on adding more of what we need in our food as well, like fibre and protein. Recently PC has launched over 55 new Blue Menu products, all developed to fit the healthy eating guidelines set by Health Canada in the Canada Food Guide.
Forget to take out the ground beef from the freezer the night before? No problem! Try the PC BM Angus Beef Meatballs combined with your favourite Blue Menu pasta sauce for a quick and easy spaghetti and meatballs meal that can be paired with a simple chopped salad. Or grab some frozen PCBM Black Beans and Kidney Beans as the base of a tasty vegetarian chili that will be ready to serve the family in no time.
This Spinach and Meatball Soup with Outer Space Pasta recipe is a hearty meal that takes approximately 15 minutes to prep your ingredients and only 20 minutes to cook. This veggie-packed soup may be technically for kids, but we won’t judge if you sneak a bowl for yourself! Passata gives the broth a subtle sweet tomato flavour without being too overwhelming for picky eaters – if you can’t find it, purée one cup of no-salt-added diced tomatoes in a blender or food processor, instead (look for PC Blue Menu no salt added canned diced tomatoes). It’s a great option for a weeknight supper, or to send in a thermos for a school lunch – just add whole wheat crackers or a wholegrain roll and fruit or yogurt for dessert.
Spinach and Meatball Soup with Outer Space Pasta
2 tsp (10 mL) olive oil
1 leek (white and light green parts only), chopped
1 carrot, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 zucchini, diced
1 pkg (900 mL) PC® Blue Menu Beef Broth
1 cup (250 mL) bottled strained tomatoes (passata)
1 cup (250 mL) PC® Blue Menu Outer Space Pasta
24 frozen PC® Blue Menu Angus Beef Meatballs
1 cup (250 mL) packed PC® Organics Baby Spinach, coarsely chopped
1/4 tsp (1 mL) each salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add leek, carrot, celery and zucchini; cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes.
2. Add broth and passata; bring to a boil. Add pasta; stir occasionally until liquid returns to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer; cook 5 minutes.
3. Stir in frozen meatballs; return to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until meatballs are heated through and pasta is tender but firm, 7 to 9 minutes.
4. Stir in spinach, salt and pepper; cook until spinach is wilted, about 1 minute.
Chef’s Tip: Substitute 1/4 cup frozen chopped spinach for the fresh spinach, if that’s what you have on-hand.
Per serving: 220 calories, fat 7 g (3 g of which is saturated), sodium 450 mg, carbohydrate 25 g, fibre 4 g, sugars 5 g, protein 15 . Source of fibre. Good source of iron. Good source of folate.
Recipe source: pc.ca
Upcoming Event: Join me at the New Glasgow Atlantic Superstore on Aug. 14, 6-7 p.m. for a free store tour to learn about the benefits of plant-based eating, including a tasty food sample! Registration is required, please call or email Courtney to book your spot.
Courtney Masey is a Registered Dietitian with Atlantic Superstore in New Glasgow.
Have a nutrition question? Want to book a free appointment or educational store tour for yourself or your community group or business? Contact me by phone at (902) 921-0700 or by email at email@example.com.