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  1. The Fort family from Euless, Texas, is an active crew. So dinner prep often falls by the wayside, making their host of restaurant menus look mighty tempting. "We eat takeout almost every night," mom, Candice, admits. But they're determined to change. So the Forts asked ALL YOU for help—and we set them up with Diet Coach Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, who taught them that whipping up a healthy home-cooked meal doesn't have to eat up your entire evening.   
  2. You'll always have a head start on dinner if you keep healthful frozen and pre-prepped foods on hand. The Forts now keep fresh produce at eye level in the fridge.   
  3. • Whole-grain tortillas and buns: Freeze these so you always have them around. Use tortillas for burritos, wraps and pizzas; buns are your best choice when making burgers and sandwiches. • Canned fat-free refried beans: For burrito lovers, this is a great fast filling. Leftovers will keep for five days in the fridge in a resealable container. • Frozen or quick-boil plain brown rice: Takes minutes to cook but is just as healthful as regular brown rice.
  4. Use your weekend to batch-cook a large amount of any dish you eat often. For example, bake eight chicken breasts (or other lean protein), then parse them out into the following four days' worth of dishes. Meal 1: Mexican Burrito Bowl Divide 3 cups warmed, cooked brown rice among 4 bowls. Top with 12 oz. of chopped cooked chicken (2 6-oz. breasts), 8 cups shredded lettuce or spinach and 8 Tbsp. salsa.
  5. The Forts' favorite takeout is fried chicken, so Dawn offered a tasty alternative.   Tangy Baked Chicken and Salad Prep: 5 min. Cook: 45 min. Serves: 4
  6. After following Dawn's advice, the Forts found themselves better prepared to make meals at home.   The food: "My family used to think that nothing beat the taste of fast food, but the aroma of our slow cooker in action has changed that," Candice says.    The emotional benefits: "Cooking at home took less time than grabbing takeout, once I factored in the drive," Candice says. "Plus, making our own meals helped me feel less frantic and gave me more time to talk with my kids."  
  7. Like many American families, the Zabinskis have long been in the habit of eating meat at nearly every meal. But after they watched the 2011 documentary Forks Over Knives, which linked the consumption of animal products to an array of ailments, they vowed to change. Cutting back on meat also has money-saving appeal. Enter our diet coach, Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD. In the course of one month, she taught the Zabinskis how to adopt a flexitarian way of eating, making plant-based meals the family would enjoy.  
  8. To keep kids' dinnertime strikes to a minimum, Blatner advised the Zabinskis to give everyone a voice by letting each family member choose a particular meal—and the day to have it. They collaborated on a weekly meal chart and posted it on the fridge. That meant there was no question about what was for dinner. Everyone was in the loop. (It also was a handy way to organize grocery shopping.) "At first, I thought it would be crazy-hard trying to follow a meal plan, but it actually made me feel more relaxed knowing what was for dinner each night," mom Dianna says.
  9. There's no need to reinvent the meal wheel. One easy way to make vegetarian fare more palatable is to replace some or all of the animal protein in a family recipe with a vegetarian alternative. Blatner recommended that the Zabinskis try one swap per week.*
  10. Eliminating meat was too drastic for the Zabinskis to stomach for long, so Blatner advised they start with two simple moves: Prepare one new vegetarian recipe every week and swap in veggies for meat in one other favorite family meal, for a total of two meatless meals weekly. That might not seem like it would have much impact, but consider that if every week (or even every other week) you tried one new vegetarian recipe, in a year you would have 25 to 50 new recipes, tried and family-tested.