by Sarah Welch and Alicia Rockmore
When your days consist of running from home…to school drop off…to work…to school pick up…to after school activities…to home - it’s really hard to be sure everyone eats, let alone a hot and healthy meal. Get your kids over the age of 8 to help you on hectic days by preparing easy dishes like these:
- Use leftover meat (chicken, fish, beef, etc.) as quesadilla filler with cheese on your busiest days. Before you put it away after your main meal, cut it up so that it will be easier to use as quesadilla filler later (and you’ll have fewer prep steps on busy nights). Buy the smaller tortillas and place the quesadillas two or three on a cookie sheet and bake until the cheese is melted and the tortilla is crunchy, turning once. You can change up the filler, cut them in small pie triangles and let everyone taste test! For fun, hold a family fiesta and vote for the best tasting quesadilla.
- For another quick and easy dinner - pull out the refrigerated croissant rolls and fill a triangle with tuna fish and top with cheese; then place another triangle on top and fork all the edges together, then bake as directed. You have a “hot” meal in no time.
- When making a casserole, if you usually have leftovers, why not make up mini casseroles with that amount before you finish the casserole? Put the amount you usually have left over in separate, serving size dishes and cook as usual. When fully cooled, freeze and you will have a quick meal for those busy nights or when no one wants to eat the same thing.
Make the kids aware of the importance of good nutrition by discussing the rewards of a healthy diet. They will feel better, be able to play longer, harder and smarter!
- If they get to choose it, they’re much more likely to eat it without a fight. Have them put together their own balanced meal plan for the week using a meal chart (like Mommy Tracked's free printable menu planner ).
- Get them thinking by discussing how different animals eat differently. For example, if you have a pet bird, why do they eat the foods they eat? Same with a dog, turtle, cat, lizard, hamster, etc. Relate it back to how people eat and the benefits of eating a healthy diet.
- Take your child with you to the market and have them pick out the produce to buy. Make a big deal out of putting Johnny’s veggies away.
- When cooking the items your kid picked out at the grocery store, make a big deal out of it again. Your child will want to eat what they picked out!
- Try not to label food as bad or inappropriate – but rather as a better choice. You don’t want your child to associate food with “bad.”
- If your child is into video games, use them to teach him about nutrition. The US Dept of Agriculture website has an interactive computer game where kids can reach Planet Power by fueling their rocket with food and physical activity. “Fuel” tanks for each food group help kids keep track of how their choices fit into MyPyramid . The site also has a menu planner and tracker to help busy moms get nutritious food into their families.
We are the co-founders of Buttoned Up, inc., a company dedicated to helping stretched and stressed women get themselves organized and co-authors of “Everything (almost) In Its Place .” We welcome your thoughts! Please send ideas and questions to us at: firstname.lastname@example.org  or visit us at www.getbuttonedup.com. 
Need more help with family meal planning? Check out Mommy Tracked's Tool Box collection of free printable family organizer pages , where you'll find our free printable weekly menu planner, The Eat Sheet .