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We all have busy lives, which leave little time for cooking health meals when we get home at the end of the day.  First, a little reality check: “The average restaurant meal comes in at 1,500 calories, so it’s hard to lose weight eating out,” says Dawn Jackson Blatner, R.D.N., author of Superfood Swap Diet.  Meals taken or eaten out also may be lower in nutrition and high in gluten, salt, dairy and sugar.  Making your own meals doesn’t have to be an ordeal.  With some planning, you can have a nutritious meal on the table in minutes.  Here are some hints to avoid the takeout trap or rummaging in the cabinets for a meal of cheese and crackers:

Prep Hearty Meals – take the weekend to make hearty meals like chili or chicken vegetable soup that you can heat and eat multiple times

Prep Veggies to Cover Multiple Meals – when you prep veggies, such as sautéed zucchini, plan to make 3 times as much as one serving so that you can serve a fast side dish

Salad Fixings Grab Bowl – have a bowl which has a mix of items that you can put in a salad, such as cranberries, almonds, peppers, cauliflower, celery and feta cheese and keep airtight in the refrigerator.  All you need to do is wash and break-up the lettuce and add a handful of the salad fixings.

Pre-Prepped Pasta – cook pasta or noodles ahead of time and add items for a quick main course (pasta can be served warm or cool or be gluten-free).  Hard-boiled egg (cooked ahead of time), shredded chicken and scallions can be added to pre-prepped rice noodles along with peanut sauce for a quick summer dish.

Pick Up Healthy Foods – get roast chicken and prewashed greens on your way home instead of less healthy take-out options.