7 Helpful Tips for Planning Healthy Family Meals
Feeding your family healthy meals at home offers many benefits. Not only can you avoid the unnecessary calories and fat typically found in restaurant meals and fast food, but it can also potentially help you save money.
At Kiddie Academy, meal time means more than nourishment for your child. In our Academies, meals are served family style, eaten with teachers and friends. Children learn to serve food, to taste and enjoy a wide variety of foods and to use good table manners. Meals eaten together, at the Academy and at home, offer excellent opportunities to teach important life lessons. Families who eat together at home tend to eat healthier, because it gives you more control over portion size as well as the quality of foods your family consumes. Taking the time to learn how to plan your family meals will save you time—and help you all eat better—in the long run.
Here are some helpful tips to make your family meal planning super easy and hassle free:
1. Involve your kids in the process. Younger children will become interested in healthy eating if they participate early in the kitchen. Gathering ingredients, washing fruit and vegetables, or counting and measuring will give them pride of ownership, while often teaching basic science or math skills. If they’re older, include them in not only shopping for the ingredients, but also preparing specific dishes. Children are often more willing to try foods they’ve helped select.
2. Give each family member the opportunity to choose the menu on a particular day of the week. Asking your kids children what foods they’d prefer will help prevent battles at the table.
3. Cook several meals over the weekend and refrigerate or freeze them to be for reheating later in the week. Planning ahead for two or three meals will ease the weeknight chaos and set you up for a whole week of success. You’ll be less inclined to throw out leftovers or waste food if you plan properly.
4. Incorporate a healthy portion of fruit or veggies at every meal. This will add important nutrients and fiber to your family’s diet and will also keep them full, with the right stuff. Today, there are also tasty innovations like cauliflower rice or spiraled squash that make it easy to sneak in more vegetables by including them with your child’s favorite foods. A lot of kids can’t tell the difference!
5. Lean on precious timesavers like Instant Pots® and slow cookers. There are countless recipes for simple meals from hearty soups to pulled pork sliders that make you look like a chef, available through sites like Taste of Home and delish.com. You can typically prepare all the ingredients in the morning, press the ‘on’ button and be done. Your freshly cooked meal will greet you in the evening like a warm hug!
6. Build in ‘Buddha bowls’ to your weeknight menus. These delicious and popular bowls offer an extremely satisfying and customizable meal. Bake some lean protein like chicken breasts, steak or pork chops in advance, and chop them all up and store them in separate containers. Then, prepare quinoa or rice, and similar grab-and-go portions of your favorite beans, legumes and chopped vegetables. At mealtime, let your family members choose what they like to create their own bowls—and you’ll be the hero!
7. For simple prep and easy cleanup, think about sheet meals. These one-tray wonders, like sheet-pan mac and cheese, are tasty and can be popped in the oven in one fell swoop, allowing you to focus on what really matters…instead of the dishes.
Finally, be sure to keep plenty of healthy staples on hand. This will ultimately help put your family on the best path to success.