Encouraging Healthy Eating on a Working Parent’s Schedule
Healthy eating for children sometimes seems to be a bumpy road pitted with obstacles and hurdles.
As parents, we want to give our children the foundations for achieving all their current and future goals. And of course, we know that achieving goals requires a healthy body, which in turn, requires healthy food.
With many children, this can be a challenge, especially for working parents with busy schedules.
So how can you serve healthful meals … and how can you get your child to eat them?
A little planning can go a long way toward preparing nutritious (and stress-free) meals. If you can spend 15 minutes over the weekend planning your menu for the week and make sure you have the grocery items on hand, you will thank yourself come 6 o’clock Monday! Not only do you avoid the stress of “what am I going to make?” but you are also less likely to stop for fast food or make other poor choices.
The internet has a superabundance of recipe ideas and meal plans, so many of which are quick, easy and healthful. Create a system for storing and saving your family’s favorite recipes. (We like the free app and website Pepperplate, but there are many other ways to do this, including the low-tech binder or recipe box.) Magazines, like Cooking Light and Eating Well are other good sources of inspiration.
With each new recipe you try, ask your family to rate how well they like it. Toss the ones that are unpopular, and move the ones that are a hit into rotation. The variety will help encourage less picky eating, too!
Another tactic to consider is making meals in advance that you can just heat and eat. This way, you have the dual benefit of a home-cooked meal and the convenience of packaged, prepared food.
Soups, casseroles, enchiladas, stuffed peppers and pasta dishes are some examples of meals you can make nutritious and freeze. Consider making a double batch on evenings you are cooking and freeze half … one effort with two meals.
If you have a crock pot, you can combine and refrigerate the ingredients for a meal after the children go to bed – or have them help (see below). Just plug it in the next morning, and you’ll have dinner ready when your family walks in the door!
Cooking with children is a great way to help them build healthy eating habits. Most kids enjoy helping in the kitchen and are interested in trying the foods they have a hand in making.
Young children may enjoy and are able to do many of these preparation tasks:
- Wipe tabletops
- Wash fruits and vegetables
- Tear lettuce or greens
- Break cauliflower or broccoli into pieces
- Gather ingredients
- Mix or pour ingredients
- Shake liquids in a covered container to mix them
- Apply soft spreads
- Put things in the compost bin
- Peel oranges or hard-boiled eggs
- Mash bananas or cooked beans with a fork
Older children can:
- Crack eggs
- Cut basil or parsley with child-safe scissors
- Set the table
- Peel carrots
- Measure ingredients