There’s a common saying: if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. This is often true when it comes to healthy eating. Planning your meals in advance greatly increases the odds you’ll eat a more nutritious diet.
Families today are busier than ever. Between work, school, after-school sports, music lessons, study time and more, there just aren’t enough hours in the day. With little time to cook, parents are sometimes forced to hit up a drive-thru or get takeout. But given the choice, most parents would prefer to provide their kids with a home-cooked meal.
Even when there’s enough time to prepare a meal, parents often face another obstacle: picky eaters. It’s not uncommon to struggle with getting your kids to eat foods other than pizza or chicken nuggets.
Meal planning helps solve both of these challenges. When you have a plan in place, you’re more likely to stick with it rather than make a last-minute decision to order pizza. And getting your kids involved in the process can help get them excited to try new foods.
Here are six tips to get started:
- Let kids help plan the menu – Get kids involved in the planning process by looking at recipes and selecting a few to make together. The more involved they are in the process, the more likely they are to eat the food.
- Establish a weekly routine – Give kids something to look forward to by establishing a “treat day” such as Taco Tuesday or Pizza Friday. It’s okay to eat these types of foods once in a while and including them on the meal plan teaches kids how to eat in moderation.
- Bring kids to the grocery store – Kids can learn general rules, such as shop the outer aisles for the freshest, healthiest foods. It’s another way to help them understand what’s involved with creating a meal.
- Try something new every week – Feed kids’ natural curiosity by letting them try something new every week, whether it’s a new vegetable, fruit or recipe.
- Involve kids in the cooking process – Most kids love to help in the kitchen so get them involved with meal prepping. For example, ask your kids to help with washing vegetables or let them measure and add ingredients to a recipe.
- Lead by example – Kids will make healthier decisions if parents eat healthy themselves. Children need to see healthy eating versus being told to eat healthy.
Need some ideas to spice up your meal planning? Here are some ideas you can easily prepare for breakfast, lunch and dinner:
Fruit & Veggie Smoothie
- 8-12 ounces of unsweetened almond, coconut or oat milk
- Frozen banana
- Handful of frozen berries (optional for added flavor and antioxidants)
- Handful of spinach or kale
- 1 tablespoon cacao nibs (for chocolate flavor – different from cocoa powder)
- 1/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
- 1/3 cup unsweetened almond, coconut or oat milk
- 1 tablespoon chia and/or flax seeds
- Add ingredients to a jar and refrigerate overnight
- When ready to serve, top with sliced almonds, fruit, nut butter, honey or maple syrup
Bento Box Lunch: Option 1
- Steamed broccoli
- Carrots and/or celery with nut butter
- Handful of fresh berries or pineapple
- Deli meat roll-up with real cheese and leafy greens
Bento Box Lunch: Option 2
- Boiled egg
- Handful of nuts – almonds, cashews and walnuts
- Carrots and hummus
- Roasted Brussels sprouts
- Chicken Tenders & Roasted Vegetables
- Sheet Pan Dinner
Edward-Elmhurst Health can help you learn more about providing healthy meals for your family. We offer classes and wellness events focused on a variety of topics, including maintaining a nutritious diet. We also have a team of dieticians and nutritionists who can help you create meal plans that meet the needs of you and your family.
Get more tips from the Healthy Driven Families Series: Affordable Family Meal Planning for Busy Lives, Tuesday, Jan. 21, 6 p.m. at the Edward Plainfield Emergency Room, 24600 W. 127th Street, Lower Level Conference Room.
Learn more about preparing healthy meals for your family. Schedule an appointment with a dietician or nutritionist online or call 630-527-6363.