Today I am starting a mini-series on how to feed a healthy home. I get many questions about picky eaters, healthy food choices for kids, eating on the go and meal planning. I am going to address meal planning first as I think it is an important first step for anyone trying to be healthy.
What is meal planning?? Meal planning is a way to think out what will be prepared for a set amount of time. I personally meal plan for 1-2 weeks at a time but it can be whatever length of time works for your family. This is an important step to living a more healthy life. Planning ahead can keep you out of the fast-food drive thru and from resorting to convenience foods. When you know what you are making and have the ingredients on hand, you are much more likely to prepare a nourishing meal.
Here are the steps to follow for successful planning:
- Decide what length of time you want to plan for. I recommend starting with one week at a time. Have your calendar available so you can plan around different events on your schedule.
- Decide if you are planning 3 meals a day, just dinner, or any combination.
- Brainstorm meals you like to prepare, meals the family enjoys, meals you want to try.
- Review your schedule: If there is a night when many activities are going on, it would not be a great night to prepare a thanksgiving-style turkey dinner! Plan the more involved meals for days when you know there is adequate time. On busy nights, either plan a make ahead meal, have a leftovers night or sandwiches night.
- Write down what you will have each night, using meals you wrote down in step 3. Variety is great, so try not to serve similar meals consecutively. Take into consideration your schedule.
- Review the meals and determine what needs to be bought at the store and what you already have on hand.
- Post your menu in the house so the whole family can look forward to meals of the week!
Let your kids and other family members get involved. Ask for their ideas and assistance. When you involve the family in the process there is a much higher rate of acceptance at the dinner table. Planning, shopping and cooking with kids is my #1 tip for avoiding picky eating habits. When the kids have a hand in cooking, they want to try the food and they want to like it! I will have a future post dedicated to cooking with kids, so look for that soon.
Be creative. Try one new meal a week. It is easy to get into a rut and prepare the same meals over and over. If new foods are being introduced regularly, kids will learn to try new things. Also, consider non-traditional dinner foods. Breakfast for dinner, soup and sandwiches, or appetizers are examples of thinking outside the “dinner” box.
Enjoy making the time to sit down and eat together. Turn off electronics, focus on each other and your meal. Planning your meals is worth it, I hope you will try it!