Good Sense Eating | 5 ways to bust the “too-busy-to-cook” rut



How important are snacks in my child’s diet?

Active children need to adequately fuel their bodies and a good way to supplement their meals is by supplying them with nutritious snacks. Try offering your child “good stuff” like fruit and veggies with dip, yogurt, smoothies, cheese, oatmeal cookies, as well as popcorn and nuts (if age-appropriate.)

Face it-if you’re a parent, you’re busy. Some days are so jam-packed with everything you need to accomplish that your well-intentioned healthy diet takes a hit. Big time. Those hoped-for nutritious meals are often replaced by meals you’d be embarrassed to show your in-laws. Or you’re eating out … again.

Dallas-based registered dietitian and culinary expert Robin Plotkin understands. “The challenge is great for most working parents to put a meal on the table, much less a healthy meal, even with the best of intentions.” The number one reason she hears is “no time,” which she says translates to “lack of planning.”

Other excuses include:

  • Too tired
  • Overscheduled children
  • Lack of cooking skills
  • Don’t enjoy cooking

Although health and nutrition may be important to you, convenience often wins. Surveys show even though fewer people are eating out during this recession, they’re not necessarily cooking at home more. Instead, they’re bringing in prepared food and warming it in their microwave ovens. What’s the problem with this? Total strangers are preparing much of our food, and we lose the control of the ingredients used and its nutritional value.

Home cooking is a catalyst that brings family together.

A Cornell University study last fall found that being employed can result in unhealthy eating habits. Lead researcher Carol Devine found that long hours and shift work were associated with mothers and fathers depending on mealtime coping strategies. Fathers tended to skip family meals, eat while working or feed their families take-out meals. Mothers were more likely to skip breakfast and buy restaurant or prepared entrees instead of cooking. Overeating after a missed meal and eating in the car were two additional strategies.

Watching your weight? Late last year, a study found that well-educated women too busy to focus on food, as well as guilt-ridden dieters and impulsive eaters, are the most likely to show signs of obesity. Enough said.

Plotkin, who is a mother of one, has some simple tips for busy parents to put a nourishing, yet inexpensive meal on the table for their families:

  1. Take 15 minutes on a Sunday and plan at least three or four meals for the family. Make the shopping list and hit the store.
  2. Stock up on proteins that can be frozen for use throughout the week. Pick simple veggies and starches to round out the meal.
  3. Prepare fresh produce as soon as you bring it home. Wash, chop and store properly for easy access.
  4. Prepare in bulk. For example, if you are cooking chicken breasts on the grill tonight, throw on two, four or eight more. Freeze and store for later on in the week as the main ingredient for chicken salads, chicken pizza and chicken and pasta. While the grill is on, grill extra veggies. Freeze and store. They’re great for toppings on pizza, added to pastas, tossed into salads and veggie fajitas.
  5. Dig out the slow cooker. It can be your best friend all year round.

Juggling work and family life can challenge even the most nutritionally aware parents to provide healthful meals to their families and themselves. By investing a little time and effort, your family will eat better now and enjoy health benefits in the future.


Shredded Chicken and Avocado Pizza



  • 1 12-inch Boboli ready-made pizza crust
  • ½ cup pizza sauce
  • ¼ tsp. chipotle Tabasco
  • 1 cup cooked shredded chicken
  • ¾ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 fully ripened avocado from Mexico, halved, pitted, peeled and sliced

Prep time: 5 minutes




Heat oven to 425°F. Place pizza crust on a baking sheet; bake crust 7 minutes.

In small bowl, combine pizza sauce and Tabasco.

Spread pizza with sauce; top with chicken, avocado and cheese.

Bake until crust is crisp on the bottom, 4 to 6 minutes longer. Serves 4.


Nutrition facts:247 calories, 13 grams protein, 26.5 grams fat, 10 grams carbohydrate

Courtesy of Avocados from Mexico, available at

Christine M. Palumbo, MBA, RD, is a mother of three from Naperville. She is an adjunct faculty member of Benedictine University. She swears by meal planning and keeping her pantry stocked with staples for those busier-than-normal days. She can be reached at (630) 369-8495 or


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