How to use a Family Meal Planner to Encourage Healthy Relationships with Food
Meal planning tips for healthy food options for your kids, while creating positive connections with food
The words “children” and “food” are often synonymous with the phrase “picky eaters.” So, how do you create your family meal planner to where it isn’t a complete nightmare and still include healthy meals for your kids? It all starts with establishing routines that will essentially do the hard work for you. Yes, even you working mama!
First we’ll tackle the first question of eating a balanced diet, which of course includes more than just chicken fingers and macaroni. Let’s talk fruits and veggies! Here are 3 tips to encourage healthy meals for kids by incorporating fresh produce:
- Start them young. Expose them to fruit and vegetables early (discuss with your pediatrician of course), and this will normalize their appearance and hopefully produce less of an outrage and more of a “hooray.”
- Watch the sugar. America has sweetened most packaged items, so getting fresh produce in front of your children may come as a shock if they have already delighted in the likes of high fructose corn syrup and other sugary substances. Avoiding processed sugar where you can will not only aid their appetites, but help prevent stress as well. If you’re looking for a way to add flavor to veggies specifically, try adding fresh herbs versus sweetening them with fruit or sugar alternatives. This will often enhance the vegetable flavor, making it more appetizing, even for kids. A great on-the-go option for this is Fresh Bellies, which specializes in savory, unmasked vegetables.
- Hide them. Our personal favorite, as even adults struggle with vegetables too. Whether it is blending up spinach in a smoothie, baking bread with zucchini, or chopping up mushrooms so small you can’t even taste them, we are in. Let’s just say cauliflower and parsnip become pretty much invisible if you want them to be.
Now that we have chatted on how to push more than pb&j (though there is a time for the beloved sandwich), let’s chat habits to ensure healthy meals. Whether you’re trying to figure out meal planning for working moms or just trying to tackle healthy meal planning for kids, we’ve got you. Here are 3 tips for using and abiding by a family meal planner.
- Schedule. Maybe you could skate by without a solid plan pre-kids, but once they have entered the picture, all bets are off. Choose a specific day to plan your meals for the following week. If you want to get your family in on it, perhaps have each member pick a recipe or one of their favorite meals you have made before. If this is too much for a weekly occurrence, give it a go at least once a month.Involving your kids will get them excited about meal time and what is on their plate. Once you've decided on the menu, use your Hearth Display to make your grocery list as well as post the chosen meals on the coordinating day. This makes the dinner decisions visible. What? No more “mom, what is for dinner”?! We are in.
- Prep. Once you make it to the market or your grocery delivery arrives, try to prepare the items as much as possible. Most likely you’ll complete this task on the weekend, which often lends itself more time to do this step. Sure, you can cook the chicken you need for the week to make those enchiladas easier to make come Tuesday; however, don’t forget about snacks. Wash the fruit, chop the carrots, and so on, so healthy choices for snacks are readily available. We were inspired by this toddler snack fridge and think it is genius! Allowing your child to make decisions like what to eat is key for their development.
- Substitute. Basically don’t do it. While it may be tempting to avoid a temper tantrum over brussels sprouts, don’t bend over backwards for your child’s likes and dislikes. If they have an allergy, by all means, cater to that; however, by feeding them a smaller portion of what you're having and sticking to that menu, this will help you (and them) in the long run. Be sure to continually try new things as well, so they are exposed to lots of different foods. Do this especially if you don’t personally enjoy something, so your dislikes don’t influence theirs.
Now that you have some active steps to take while meal planning for your kids, we want to remind you not to put too much emphasis on good food versus bad food. This can negatively affect them and their relationship with meals / their bodies for life. Instead of saying no to candy, try asking questions like if they want to “feed their brain” for school (blueberries, broccoli, nuts, fish, etc.) or “fuel their body” for soccer practice (bananas, avocados, yogurt, toast, etc). This also sneaks in a little science lesson and teaches them that food is good for them and essential! We don’t want any of the “bread will make you fat” stigma. You don’t want to restrict foods (yes, even sugar) and you don’t want to use it as a reward or to shut them up either. We know there are times where this is inevitable, but if you can make it your goal overall to not do this frequently, they should be on track for a healthy relationship with food and their body.
Don’t forget to have meals together as a family when you can! This simple act has been shown to have a myriad of benefits for kids and their development.
This marks our third installment of our How To series. Be sure to read our first on how to create a summer schedule for kids and our second on how to have fun activities for kids at home! Drop us a line if you have any “how to” posts we can help with. We are always looking for ways to streamline your life and make it easier. That being said, our Hearth Display pre-order is about to come to a close. Be sure to sign up for your device today. We look forward to being in your home early 2022!