Mums are busy people, being a mum myself I completely understand that. In between work and school schedules, homework, school activities and household chores – planning healthy, balanced meals for yourself and then getting your kids to eat healthily can be daunting. It doesn’t need to be. This post is will assist you with embarking on healthier meal planning for you and your family.
1. Start Gradually, Just Start
‘Where do I start?’ you ask.
Firstly, you need to prioritize your family’s health (including your own!) and commit to the change.
But, don’t try to get everyone eating Kale chips! Start slow and be realistic. Focus on making one small sustainable change each week, which encourages everyone to be more accepting of the changes. Simple swaps such as changing from white bread to whole grain. Or from drinking soda and boxed juices to more water and fresh juice. These will make more of a difference than you may think.
2. Make Time for Breakfast
Breakfast really is an important part of the day, providing the energy to carry you through the morning.
When I started reading the labels on boxed cereals and looking at the sugar content, I almost had a heart attack. Even ‘healthy’ options have more sugar in them than you should be consuming in a day, and they are all processed.
The thought of getting up earlier probably sounds like torture, but you need 15 minutes to put together a nutritious breakfast. – (suggestions for this in the next post :o)
Have a selection of breakfast options to rotate through that still includes some of your family’s favourite breakfast foods like having ‘Pancake Sunday’!
3. Healthy Lunchboxes Can Be Exciting
Packing lunch boxes day in, day out can be rather tedious. It’s tempting to throw in some store-bought mini burgers. Unfortunately, most ready-made snacks are laden with hidden sugars, fats and are high in salt.
Prep them the night before. Get the kids involved in making their own lunch boxes; my 7-year-old loves to choose his snacks and make his own sandwiches. Older kids are able to do their own lunch boxes and help their siblings.
If you are going to be in the car or at school for lunch with your kids, pack one for yourself. That way you can eat with them and avoid buying less healthy food options. As a bonus, you set a good example for your kids. Pack one for dad to take to the office too!
4. Eat One Meal as A Family
We have a rule in our home to eat dinner together as a family. Most families can manage this with a little forward planning.
I’ve found it helpful to involve my children in deciding what to cook for dinner. That way they feel included in the meal planning process and learn more about food. They’re more likely to eat a meal that they have helped put together without too many complaints!
Put all the screens away. Research shows that we eat between 30% and 60% more when distracted by technology. This practice allows you to focus on mindful eating whilst offering an opportunity to connect as a family discuss the events of the day.
5. Avoid Being a Short-Order Cook
Don’t make a kid’s meal and an adult meal. It’s exhausting and time-consuming. Look for the middle ground. Children may resist certain foods at first; they are averse to trying new and unfamiliar foods but trust me, when they are hungry, they will eat. If there is one meal on the table and the entire family is eating it, fussier eaters will eventually come around on their own. Try to bite your tongue until then!
As a golden rule – put out the new food at least 10 times before scratching it off the menu completely.
6. Include More Fruits and Veggies, but Don’t Be Preachy
You already know vegetables are packed with vitamins, minerals, and fibre and that you need to eat more of them. So, I’m not going to preach, and neither should you.
Educate yourself and your family on what a healthy plate should look like.
I use a 50:25:25 ratio –
25% lean protein
25% unrefined carbohydrates.
Cook healthy meals that include loads of veggies and interesting salads and then let them decide how to eat what you’ve put out. Focusing too much on specific foods makes children rebellious towards eating them.
Check out Choose My Plate for more info.
7. You’re Buying the Food!
If you don’t buy it, it can’t be eaten.
Be aware when grocery shopping of what goes into your trolley. Think ‘out of sight out of mind’. Removing unhealthier options makes way for healthier ones to take their place. While my kids do their homework, I cut up fresh fruit and leave it out on the table, 9/10 times they will eat it and I’ll have some too.
Read the labels on what you buy – if any form of sugar, cane sugar, maltose, dextrose etc. is one of the first 4 ingredients, don’t buy it. Ingredients are listed in order of weight.
If it comes in a box or a bottle, try to avoid it.
Shop in the outer isles of the grocery store, this is where all the fresh produce is!
Finally, remember that there really is no such thing as a perfect diet; what you should aim for is a balance. An 80:20 ratio is a great rule of thumb. If 80% of your meals are full of fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains and 20% of what you eat is more refined foods; then you’re doing pretty well.
Everyone likes their slice of chocolate cake. You don’t have to cut it out, eat them in moderation. What you eat as a whole is what matters rather than hyper-focusing on one specific thing. If you are choosing nutritionally dense options rather than high sugar, high salt, trans fats, and refined foods, you are already eating healthier.
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