As you strive to make yours a healthy family while balancing the stresses of a hectic work schedule, especially if you have teenagers, consider instituting this proven--albeit counterintuitive--policy of carte blanche snacking and "dessert" following each dinner. This new-found freedom and expected daily treat is a sure way to hook your young ones on healthier eating patterns and leave them craving nutritious nosh, not junk. Best of all, this system "operates in the background" while you are at work and whether or not you have time to cook.
Start with a large fruit basket, prominently displayed on a counter or table and literally overflowing (and alway full) with choice fruits. Keep in there some small, slender sweet potatoes too, and teach your kid how to zap those in the microwave for a few minutes for a wonderful, warm treat (eaten whole, something like a banana).
Next, purchase four or five wide mouth jars. The Italian storage type--with a hinged, clasp-lock, rubber-rimmed lid--do nicely. In these, keep a never-ending supply of healthful goodies--dried fruit, roasted seaweed, seeds, homemade jerky, freeze-dried veggies, homemade applesauce fruit leathers, nuts.
In the refrigerator, designate a "free for all" space to keep homemade yogurt, boiled edamame, pickles, olives, boiled eggs, crunchy veggies (think bell peppers, celery, carrots). Homemade wild caught salmon jerky and pemmican make nice touches too. For some novelty, consider quail eggs--about the size of grapes, tasting like chicken eggs, and available already boiled and peeled in a can at your local Asian grocery store.
Once the kids understand that these new snack zones are free-for-all zones, make a grand declaration that "dessert" will from now on be served after every dinner, and start finishing your evening meal with a large fruit plate. Toss in a handful of raw seeds or nuts and, every now and again, a little aged cheese or some dark chocolate (above 80-percent cacao). You will sit in wonder as you watch "dessert" polished off night after night and take pride in the fact that it is all healthy food.
Establishing a healthy cornucopia that kids can freely enjoy whenever they crave a snack--whether it be something salty, satiating, sweet, or crunchy--and setting an expectation for a "treat" after every dinner (assuming they eat their dinner in full) will help you quickly and easily snap your kids, especially in the teen years, into more healthful dietary habits.