If you’re a parent, you know the struggle that exists around mealtime - multiple snacks, every hour it seems, if your children are anything like mine.
Despite your greatest efforts, does convenience allure you, convincing you to purchase the bright-colored, health-touting packaged food items at the grocery store?
It doesn’t have to be that way!
As a parent, I’m all too familiar with the day-to-day stress, hangry kids, and too much to do in too little time. Stressing about how to nourish not only my body, but these growing children, should not be a burden, but rather an empowering choice of health. There is freedom in creating routines and committing to discipline. Your health and the daily meal times are no exception.
Since feeding our family does not need to be difficult, you may wonder where to begin.
Let’s start with a few basics that are good for you and your littles:
1. Be a healthy model
Make mealtimes fun by setting a good, healthy example - eat your veggies and try new foods. Nosh on sauerkraut with your breakfast sausage; wrap a big, leafy green around a piece of chicken; sauté green apples in coconut oil or ghee and sprinkle with cinnamon for dessert (it tastes like apple pie, folks!).
The more your kids see you enjoying healthy meals, the more they will want to join you. If your kids lean toward the picky side, hiding veggies in meatballs or egg muffins is a great tool to have under your belt. Also, make sure they know you’re not their personal chef; cook meals for the family not for each individual person.
2. Include protein with every snack or meal
Since protein is satiating, be sure to add protein to every meal or snack. Include hard-boiled eggs or egg muffins, sugar free deli meat or protein-laden leftovers, whole-milk yogurt or chia seed pudding, sugar free jerky or smoothies with collagen.
3. Involve your kids
You might think taking your kids to the grocery store or having them help in the kitchen is a nightmare waiting to crash and burn on your family dreams. On the other hand, if you preface the outing as a treasure hunt allowing them to pick out healthy items, such as 2 - 3 vegetables or fruit they will eat during the week, you may have success.
Including your children in the kitchen with meal planning, cooking a meal – if old enough – or simply letting younger kids stir in some spices while you’re preparing dinner, encourages them to try new flavors and makes them curious about all the combinations they could create . Better yet, planting a garden with seeds your kids pick out and watching your garden grow, takes the learning experience to yet another level.
Regardless of whichever approach you take, exposing your kids to whole, nutrient dense foods and including them in decisions will get them excited about buying, preparing, and eating real food.
4. Utilize dips for healthy fats
If you have a picky eater, including some dips might be the game changer. With a dollop of almond butter, any green apple or banana gets an extra kick. Use avocado or guacamole, along with kalamata olives to spice up carrots, cucumbers, celery sticks, and other veggie slices. Drizzle warmed coconut butter and cinnamon on a mashed sweet potato.
5. How much to eat
It takes a sufficient amount of energy to swim, have dance parties, and jump on the bed. In general, children have no limits when it comes to eating whole, real food. They also eat more often for a good reason – their minds and bodies are growing. While high-quality (ideally grass-fed, organic) proteins, healthy fats and nutrient dense carbohydrates are good for all of us, for kids, extra carbohydrates in the form of starchy vegetables and fruit, are important.
Keep it simple with these snacks:
Gummies (we love these blueberry lemon gummies)
- Fruit and veggies (not an exhaustive list):
Coconut butter stuffed Dates
Banana and almond butter sandwiches
Whole Milk, grass-fed yogurt (with a dollop of raw, organic honey)
Avocado with salt
Egg muffins or crustless quiche
Chocolate Pudding (made with avocado and coconut milk)
When convenience reigns, these packaged items are, well, convenient:
Sausage (we like applegate or aidells)
Deli meat (we like applegate)
Trader Joe's Apple Fruit Bars
Larabars or Kit’s Organic fruit and nut bar (Clif Bar)
Epic bars and bites
Individually packaged nuts
So far this has worked for me. My kids are adventurous eaters, love helping in the kitchen and honestly don't know how spoiled they are when it comes to the delicious food I feed them. Now if only I could get them to do more chores!
What other tips do you have? Want some of these recipes?