Balancing Cooking, Meal Planning and Life

As we continue to live more and more immersed in this virtual world I think it’s important to make an effort in connecting with people, namely our family, in real life. But when it comes to connecting, having meaningful conversations and trying to meal plan / cook AND make some healthy choices…it can be tough. Here are some suggestions for how you can plan your meals ahead and connect more with your family.

Routines – this can go two ways! A routine can eventually be boring (if every Monday is spaghetti night) and can lead to food boredom. You could combat this by changing the type of spaghetti recipe / do a different pasta dish instead. Routine can also help insure that you have at least one meal per day that you’re all able to enjoy together. This can help keep the importance of family meal time in the forefront rather than a back burner though.

Eat more meals at home – This helps to tie the idea that meals are mostly meant to be eaten at home and that eating out is a once and a while occasion. This generally leads to a happier budget and healthier choices….which goes with the next bullet point.

More hands in the kitchen – I understand I do not have kids and so I don’t truly have experience in this area but I know from experience in teaching family cooking class that the more involved kids can be in the kitchen, the more engaged they are with the food options.

More hands involved in planning – once the kids are old enough to help choose meals, be open to the idea of letting them pick a meal. This could ramp up their excitement for the meal creating a positive memory with developing meal ideas and implementing them.

Plan on new foods – Either once a week or a few times a month, give your kids a new food to try. It doesn’t have to be anything to crazy and it doesn’t have to be a fruit or vegetable. It could be a new form of a food (grapes vs. raisins or pickles vs cucumbers). Encouraging kids to routinely try new things helps them keep their palette open to new foods.

Simple meals are OKAY – sometimes we get the idea that eating healthy has to be these extraordinary meals and bursts of flavor and they also have to be picture perfect right!? Wrong! It’s okay to plan simple meals, you might even consider just 3-4 food groups at a meal to come up with different combos.
Example: protein + veggie + grain = fish + green beans + rice
Example: Dairy + grain + veggie = Pasta with cheese + roasted broccoli
Example: Veggie + fruit + dairy + grain = carrots + strawberry slices + cottage cheese +pita bread

Stocking a pantry – It’s helpful to have staples in your cupboards that you know you can always make a meal out of. I also have a frozen meat, rice, canned tomatoes and spices which allows me some freedom in picking up the ingredients and throwing something together. When in doubt, I’m making eggs for dinner 😉

Flexibility – this is a biggy! You might have a very well laid out plan but things happen and life throws us curve balls. Learning to be flexible and to not allow the all-or-nothing thoughts to creep in is important. Taking a moment to pause and reflect on how you can be flexible but still make a choice to satisfy the wants and needs is helpful.

Adventure – This goes with planning on new foods! Get adventurous with different types of cuisines and meals you’ve never tried before. Or allow kids to pick a new food and see how you can incorporate it into a meal or snack.

Working on a eating healthier for yourself and your family can be difficult when also trying to maintain everything else in life. What in the above do you think you could try to make it easier?

Cheers!