We’ve launched! The school year is off and running and so are most families. Running to school, to after school activities, to lessons, to parties, to enrichment opportunities! And in between running you are trying to feed your family healthful meals? I feel your pain. I’m right in the trenches with you. In our family, we also have a gluten-free Mom and a vegan teen. How is it possible to create meals you feel good about and keep your schedule? I have some tips to share, some design related, some not! Designing healthful meals into your busy fall schedule doesn’t have to be painful.

Organization is Key

The first step in preparing healthful meals your family will eat is having the ingredients you need on hand to keep it fresh and interesting. If you are anything like our family just shopping can be challenging and we are both responsible for grocery shopping. So, we have discovered the app Our Groceries. You can keep a list for each store you visit, share the list over devices, and check items off when you purchase them so if your partner or spouse decides to spontaneously stop at the store they can see what needs to be purchased in real time.

Design a great pantry into your space. If you can see your dry goods, staples and spices it’s easier to cook a great meal from scratch at home. Blue apron is a fabulous service if you are too busy to keep your pantry organized!

Have a place to post menus and a schedule for who’s doing what in the kitchen. Planning the menus and prep roles ahead of time makes sure dinner can be prepared on time and with the efficiency that is required to keep your family on track to do homework or participate in their activities.

Designing Healthful Meals-Organization is Key

Have Two or More Work Areas

It’s easier to get the whole family involved if there is ample space for multiple people to work. Consider including one or more of the following features in your kitchen.

A prep sink is a great feature. A second cook can use this to prepare veggies or the fruit dessert.

A breakfast/beverage bar can be a great convenience in the morning with easy to grab cereal, yogurt, or those gluten-free sconces you baked over the weekend. At dinner time Get the kids to chop, rinse and help set the table. The more involved they are with preparing the food the more they will be happy to eat it.

An island or peninsula can be a third work area. Putting a separate function on the island is a great way to separate work areas. Often this is a great location for a cooktop or sink. And if you don’t have the space for an island remember that your kitchen table can serve as a place to chop spices and onions or roll out dough. Use it as a prep area as well.

Designing Healthful Meals-Multiple work Stations

Buy Appliances that Make Cooking a Pleasure

Include a great refrigerator in the design of your kitchen or have multiple refrigeration opportunities. Keeping food fresh longer means less food waste and fewer of those grocery trips! Multiple refrigeration locations mean veggies can be right next to the prep sink and you won’t be walking back and forth and crossing paths in a way that creates stress while you are cooking.

Induction cook tops are gaining in popularity for a reason, they are as easily and quickly adjusted as a gas unit and they are cool to the touch immediately after use so you do not need to worry about the youngest members of the family!

Consider a steam oven. With some teens at after school activities or jobs and parents chauffeuring younger siblings to their events you may have some staggered dinners. A steam oven will reheat those leftovers, all on one plate, quickly and retain the moisture and texture of the fresh food. If you can’t all eat at the same time, keeping the food as appealing as possible will help everyone eat healthfully.

Designing Healthful Meals-Great Appliances

Have a Great Atmosphere in your Eating Area

Whether you are eating at a kitchen table, in a dining room or at your kitchen island creating a pleasant atmosphere helps you enjoy both your food and the conversation. The best tip I can offer here is to assign one family member to set the table, light candles, oversee filling glasses and in general creating the ambience. Even on a week night a quick dinner can be more pleasant eaten off of nice plates with pretty napkins. It makes for a little connection between everyone in the family. I also recommend not sitting in a row! Even at an island use the corner or opposite sides of the island to create seating that allows you to look your spouse or child while you converse. A time to review experiences of the day and brings added pleasure to the experience of eating a healthful meal.

Designing Healthful Meals-Prioritize Ambience