Whether you’re reading this during a mid-year initiation into homeschooling or on summer vacation, it is always important to nourish our children with delicious whole foods and healthy meals while they are in our care. Children who learn to love nutritious foods now will experience the benefits of improved health and well-being as they grow.
Here a few tried-and-true tips for healthy meals from a health-conscious homeschool mom.
Reduce your spending and food waste by planning your meals before shopping. Start with a list of your family’s favorite recipes and build from there.
I like to break down each week’s dinners into categories: stir fry, salad, soup, fish/seafood, slow cooker, sheet pan or one pot meal, and a cuisine from a different culture. Of course, the categories will depend on your personal preferences.
Think ahead by thawing frozen meat the night before or starting tonight’s dinner in the slow cooker while you make breakfast. Making a double batch and freezing half alleviates the need to prepare a future meal from scratch.
Don’t forget to involve the children in meal planning! Ask for their ideas and guide them in crafting well-balanced meals.
HAVE A BACK UP
Sometimes life happens and you become distracted; you look at the clock and realize it’s 5 p.m. and you have nothing ready for dinner. This is the time to ditch your elaborate dinner plans and pull out a well-loved favorite.
I always keep the ingredients for our back-ups on hand. Choose recipes that have few ingredients, clean up easily, and do not require a precise recipe.
KEEP REGULAR MEALTIMES
It may be tempting to sleep in, stay in your pajamas and skip breakfast, but keeping a regular routine gives children consistency and a sense of order. When their bodies know what to expect, you’ll be rewarded with more productive schoolwork and pleasant behavior.
I know the challenge of a toddler crying for food (always while preparing the next meal). Your family will have their own unique way of handling meal times. In our home we encourage our children to eat their meals and remind them that there will not be food again until the next designated meal time. The transition can be daunting, but if you’re committed to cutting snacks, limit the option to just one item (i.e. a glass of milk or one apple) until the next meal.
CUT THE SUGAR
If there was one tip I could give to make extra time at home with your children smooth sailing, it would be to eliminate sugar from their daily diet. With each shopping trip, find alternatives that work for your family. Skip the heavily processed store-bought cereals and opt for a healthier homemade version. Remember that sugar is hiding in “health” foods as well. Consider making your own granola bars or oat bars or yogurt.
Flavor yogurt with fresh fruit and local honey. Put the gummy snacks back on the shelf and load the cart with fresh produce. You’ll be amazed by what your children are willing to eat when healthy choices are their only option.
TRY AND TRY AGAIN
Never assume that a child will not like a food, whether that be salad, sauerkraut or spices. Encourage them to try different textures and flavors often. Just because they do not enjoy a food at first does not mean it cannot be presented again. Be sure to set a good example by eating a wide variety of foods too!
ENLIST YOUR CHILDREN
One of the biggest mistakes a stay-at-home parent can make is doing all the work. You will quickly become overwhelmed with the seemingly constant food preparation and clean up. Cooking is a life-skill, so teach your children! Allow them to wash the produce, peel the carrots or cube the cheese. Kids can help with setting the table, clearing and washing dishes. Even a toddler can set out napkins; working on one-to-one correspondence and contributing to the family workload.
ENLIST YOUR SPOUSE TOO!
Embrace this gorgeous spring weather and fire up the grill. When it comes to delicious, healthy meals, nothing beats a delicious salad topped with freshly grilled chicken or steak!