The kids are clamouring around my ankles like a flock of rambunctious seagulls. "Biscuits! Biscuits! Biscuits!" they cry.
They have got me!
They know that I haven't got a healthy snack ready and waiting. They know this is their golden opportunity!
Preparing food can be time consuming. Trying out new recipes is even more time consuming.
Today we're going to think about how to work preparing healthy foods into your routine and making small, sustainable changes one at a time.
Where you get your food is an integral part of food preparation. There are different options:
I know that my way is not necessarily going to work for you but this is how I prepare meals at home.
I live very close to the market and I buy lots of vegetables that are on offer and in season.
I love buying bargains.
If they have a big bag of fruit or vegetables that is a little bit over ripe, I buy it for cheap. Then I work out what I’m going to do with them.
Generally that involves just cooking it up because no one wants to eat it as it is if it's a bit "manky".
My favourites are any kind of fruit but easiest to buy are apples, peaches, apricots and vegetables (that I often just put in the oven and roast.)
I just cook one meal for everyone. My idea of cooking is simple easy food. I don't put lots of ingredients into my food.
I do try to add variety whilst still making something that I know people will eat.
Hint: If you're doing something new, be prepared for your kids to not try it!
Here's an example of my "simple yet healthy throw it all together cooking"...
I went to market and I bought a big bag of peppers but I wasn’t sure what I’d do with them. I knew I had to cook them because otherwise they were going to spoil.
Then we went to the beach and came back quite later than we had expected. I needed to make a quick dinner and I saw the cooked peppers.
I cooked up some pasta (my kids love pasta) which took about ten minutes, added some fresh tomatoes and a few beetroot leaves. I also added a few chickpeas and a tiny bit of chorizo because I know that my children love it.
It was a roaring success!
My nine year old is a picky eater and he ate the entire plate. He is much better at eating an entire meal now as opposed to picking out the bits that he likes.
His brother who is seven ate the majority but left a few bits.
Celeste who is four basically picked out the pasta and left the majority or vegetables. But she had baked peaches with no added sugar and yogurt for dessert.
Her twin Sebastian did not like this meal at all.
He does like chickpeas and he does like chorizo but he was anxious about having this meal which was a bit new.
(If you need help with an anxious and picky eater, remember to sign up for the Happy Healthy Eating for Fussy Kids Workshop. It's a free 4 part video class.)
He had some of the pasta by itself in a separate bowl. And he did pick out the chorizo in the first bowl and I think he may have picked out a few of pieces of chickpeas but basically he just ate pasta.
When it came to desert he didn’t want peaches just yogurt.
When the opportunity arises perhaps twice a month. I keep it in the fridge and use that for other recipes. It's very good for risotto and soup and if I’m making a sauce I might add it in a little bit as a little burst of flavor.
I will also cook fruits that go soft quickly in the heat or that my children have eaten, taken a few mouthfuls off and not finish it. I will cook that up and make it into a puree or just cook it whole and serve it in lumps and we could have that for breakfast, snack or a dessert.
Hint: If your kids aren't used to cooked fruit, add sugar to start off with so that they get used to it and love it. Once it's "accepted" you no longer need to add the sugar.
I make sure that I cook lots more vegetables that I expect I will need. Quite often the vegetables get eaten.
If there are vegetables left over, I will put them in the fridge and get them out for lunch. Or I might add them to a sauce that I was making or whisk them up and turned him into a soup.
Another good way to add a little bit of variety in your meals is to use a curry jar. I’m talking about a jar of shop bought sauce.
Personally, I don't use the pasta ones because I just use tomatoes that I buy in the market but I do use the curry ones. I check the ingredients on the label and make sure that I’m happy with it. I can add lots of vegetables and perhaps meat.
It's a really easy and quick way to create meals for the whole family!
Slow cookers cook food at a low on and gentle heat so you can leave it on all day. It’s very useful if you have a bit of time in the morning or the night before and you can turn it on. As you walk in the door later on, you have a hot meal waiting for you.
It’s very good for stews, curries, chicken and soup. Preparing meals is very easy once you found the recipes that you like. Slow cookers are typically twenty to thirty dollars or pounds upward and obviously the bigger they are the more expensive.
I often cook something in the slow cooker and make too much of it and then freeze it. Typically I might put something in the morning and then have it ready for when we all come home.
If I’m really organized, the night before I will get everything ready and it takes me five minutes just to chuck in and turn it on. Obviously if you're going to use meat you need to keep meat in the fridge overnight.
One of my favourite slow cooker recipe is braised chicken, a whole chicken with celeries, onions and carrots. That gives me a beautiful stock if you put liquid in it.
I also do a lentil curry which not all of my children like. The older ones are beginning to like it. I use two types of lentils with red lentils and they give it a nice sweet flavour.
I have never used an insta pot but they sound fabulous.
They are very quick as opposed to a slow cooker. You could chop things and cook them in fifteen or twenty minutes.
They are heavier and bigger than a slow cooker and they tend to be a little bit more expensive from around seventy dollars or pounds upward.
You need to find the recipes that work for you because this device is a bit of a money investment.
Another thing people do is something called dump or batch of cooking. This is essentially cooking several meals at one time and freezing them. You can spend an hour cooking five meals and freeze them and defrost when you need them.
Overall it matches the amount of work that you have to do but if you look at it over a week it will be less time.
What some people will do is prep a lot of food on Sunday. Chop up lots of things and have it ready for using during the week.
I personally don't meal plan but I can see how it would be a useful way to ensure that you know what you are going to cook.
Studies have shown that if you have meal plan you are much more likely to eat healthily because you're actively thinking about it. If you have no meal plan, you're much more likely to reach for a pizza or some packaged food.
Meal planning can really help particularly if you need to fit food preparation into a busy routine. You need to commit a bit of time to it and sit down to think about it. I would say fifteen to thirty minutes a week. The thing about meal planning is you basically need to get into the habit of doing it
What I do is on Sundays I go to market to do all my shopping and I would sit down and plan for the week. I have tried online once but I had to look through all the recipes. That could be leading you down a rabbit hole if you're looking through loads and loads of recipes that's going to take you hours and hours.
You want to be saving time not wasting it!
If you'd like access to the meal planner and recipe cards, you just need to sign up to my newsletter.
I have also done a little recipe card for you. When you have found recipes that work well, it's important that you hold onto them so that you know where to find it again.
Get into the habit of buying lots of fruits and vegetables then think about all the options that are available to you.
Think about your routine and how you can work something into it and make one small change. For example, if you always pack a packet of crisps in your children’s lunch pack because it’s easier, make sure that in the morning you have enough time to chop up an apple to put in their lunch.
I would suggest is find one easy recipe at a time. The recipe is not only just about you having to learn how to make it but your children have to get used to that new food as well.
Think about one small change that you can make in the way that you prepare food.
Make it a realistic thing that you can do and when you have worked it into your routine, make another one!
Before you know it, you'll have transformed the way that you prepare and offer food to your kids.
My children are clamouring around me yelling for biscuits.
"We have yoghurt and peaches for snack", I say reaching into the fridge for some greek yoghurt and cooked peaches.
The end of the story!
What one small change will you make this week to your food preparation routine to help you offer more healthy choices to your kids?
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