This story was contributed by Autumn Michaelis, author of Whole Food for Your Family
Slow days of summer? Not in my house! I am the mom to five boys, ages 10-18 (my “walking stomachs”), I work full time as Whole30’s Coaching Program Manager, and I run my blog Whole Food For 7 part time. Yes, summer is (wonderfully) less scheduled – yet it also feels scattered as I try to keep my boys entertained, prepare for or recover from various trips, enjoy holidays and friends…and of course, keep everyone fed.
As a busy mom, I need recipes that are tasty and easy, which is why I started Whole Food for 7 – a free place I create and share no-fuss, gluten- and dairy-free family recipes that are easy, delicious, and nutritious.
Here are my top 5 Ways to Cook Healthy on hectic summer days:
- Have a plan: find a sustainable meal planning rhythm. Often, the biggest energy expenditure in feeding a family is figuring out what to feed them. Take it from me: 5:00 pm after a long day of work or parenting is not the best time to decide what’s for dinner! I take half an hour out of every weekend to write an easy meal plan before I grocery shop and it really pays off. During the week, when things are busier and my mind is elsewhere, I already know our meal options and have the ingredients to make them. You can learn more about what that looks like here.
- Build a “vocabulary” of 30-minute meals you love. On a busy (or lazy) summer day, knowing I have a list of quick meals makes it much easier to talk myself into cooking. I have 20 favorite Whole30 30-minute Meals on my blog, and a whole chapter of 30-minute meals in my upcoming cookbook Whole Food for Your Family, including the sneak-peek recipe below!
- Double it and freeze. Instead of laborious four-hour meal prep sessions, I am a big fan of the make something extra philosophy: each time you’re in the kitchen to cook, make an additional amount. Future You will thank you! If you have a recipe you already love and it freezes well, double it! Eat one batch tonight and have the other for lunches throughout the week, or freeze the second batch for easy heat-and-eat options on a hectic night. I made sure that most of the recipes in my cookbook are freezer friendly, complete with freezer instructions.
- Stock your freezer with backup foods. Speaking of the freezer: keep your freezer stocked for a fast meal! Some Whole30 compatible options I love are: Whole30 Approved sausages from brands such as Applegate or Bilinski’, steam-in-a-bag veggies including spiralized veggie “noodles”, potatoes, riced cauliflower, burger patties, and precooked chicken (either oven grilled yourself or a chopped rotisserie chicken).
This allows me to combine a protein with a few veggies, then toss them with a sauce (such as marinara, BBQ, or Whole30 Ranch) for an easy dinner solution.
- Make “leftover night” a household regular. Once a week, usually on Saturday night, our family has a “leftover night.” I pull all the leftovers physically out of the fridge, open them up, and set them on the counter. The family goes through buffet style, loads up their plates, and heats them in the microwave or air fryer. Everything that’s not eaten that night goes in the freezer. According to a 2020 Forbes article, the average American family throws out 31.9% of the food they buy (that’s 1/3 of your food budget in the trash!), but having a regular leftover night like this helps prevent that waste.
For more simple budget- and family-friendly recipes, be sure to check out my upcoming Whole30 Endorsed cookbook: Whole Food for Your Family, coming out August 2022! Enjoy a sneak peek of one of my 30-minute meals from the book below.
Pineapple Chicken or Turkey Meatballs
Makes 20 meatballs
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 15-25 minutes, depending on method
Meatballs are a great family-friendly and party-friendly food. I love that this recipe has a variety of different cooking methods and can be done in 30 minutes. My boys said these tasted just like ones they loved from the store but without gluten or added sugar.
FOR THE MEATBALLS:
1 pound ground chicken or turkey
½ cup canned crushed pineapple, drained and juices reserved
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons coconut or avocado oil, if using stovetop method
FOR THE SAUCE:
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
1 cup pineapple juice, reserved from canned crushed pineapple
¼ cup coconut aminos
1. If using the oven method, preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and a cooling rack, if you have one.
2. MAKE THE MEATBALLS: In a medium bowl, combine the ground meat, pineapple, salt, paprika, onion powder, and garlic powder. Mix until well incorporated.
3. Shape the meat mixture into 1½-tablespoon balls.
4. If cooking the meatballs in the oven, place the shaped meatballs on the cooling rack or parchment paper. Bake for 25 minutes, or until browned and no longer pink in the center.
If cooking the meatballs on the stovetop, in a large saucepan, melt the coconut or avocado oil over medium heat. Place as many meatballs as will comfortably fit into the pan, making sure each has some space around it. Cook until the meatballs are browned on all sides and are no longer pink in the center, about 15 minutes.
If cooking in an air fryer, lay the meatballs in a single layer in the basket. Cook for 15 minutes at 350°F, or until they are cooked through with no pink in the center.
5. WHILE THE MEATBALLS ARE COOKING, MAKE THE SAUCE: In a medium pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the pineapple juice and coconut aminos. Increase the heat, bring the mixture to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Cook for 20 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced to 1/2 cup.
6. When the meatballs are done, toss them with the sauce and serve.
Freeze in a sealed container for up to 3 months.
From Whole Food for Your Family by Autumn Michaelis. Copyright © 2022 by Autumn Michaelis. Reprinted by permission of Harvest, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.