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Providing quick, healthy meals is the ultimate challenge for busy parents. The children are constantly on the go, and whether you work outside the home or inside, you are likely to have many demands on your time. Yet even if family meals are no longer the unhurried affairs you may remember, that doesn't diminish their importance.

Gathering together at the table allows your family to connect with each other. Family meals also help children learn good table manners. Just as importantly, they set the stage for a lifetime of healthy eating.

How can you preserve family mealtime and still meet your busy schedule? Here are a few simple strategies and tips that will let you put together quick, healthy meals.

Rise and dine: The importance of breakfast

If there is a most important meal, it must be breakfast. Research shows that children who eat breakfast on a regular basis take in more nutrients overall, including fibre, are less overweight and fare better on academic tests than children who miss the morning meal.

When you think about it, breakfast's effects on academic performance are really easy to see. After about 10 hours or so without food, eating in the morning fuels the brain and body for the day ahead. Plus, it's a meal, so when you miss it, you lose an opportunity to consume important nutrients such as protein, calcium, fibre and vitamins.

Quick, healthy meals for breakfast

Of course, what you eat for breakfast matters. Complex carbohydrates are the cornerstone of the most beneficial breakfasts because they produce a long-lasting supply of glucose for the brain and body. Breakfast should also contain protein, fibre and some fat to help children and adults feel fuller longer.

Look for fortified multi-grain breakfast cereals such as those with wheat bran or oats, prepared with milk instead of water.

When topped with fresh, dried or frozen fruit, breakfast cereals without added sugar make quick healthy meals that are ready quickly.

Time is always tight in the morning, but by keeping breakfast simple you're sure to include it even on busy days.

For quick, healthy meals at dinner, plan to succeed

You can't make nutritious foods without well-stocked cupboards, fridge and freezer.

Knowing what you have on hand and where it is streamlines meal preparation.

Frozen seafood, shop-bought roasted chicken and pre-cut and frozen fruits and vegetables are also good for you and easy to use. Batons of carrots and other vegetables with healthy dips are popular with children, even many fussy eaters.

Consider tossing sautéed or frozen vegetables into store-bought pasta sauce for a healthy pasta dish. In a rush, defrost veggie burgers, marinated meats and frozen fish fillets for quick, healthy meals.

If you have fussy eaters around the meal table, don’t be put off if they reject a new dish, keep trying and reintroduce it another day.

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