Saturday, December 28, 2013

Feeding Your Families Healthy Meals When You Have Little Time to Spare

Our guest blogger is Mallory Crain from A Beautiful Surrender. Read on for some great tips on how even the busiest of families can still eat healthy!

Feeding Your Families Healthy Meals When You Have Little Time to Spare 

No matter what stage of parenting you are in, chances are getting healthy food into your kids amidst busy schedules is tough. Whether you are busy surviving with a newborn or driving kids to and from school and sports you just don’t have time to get elaborate meals onto the table. How many of us, in a moment of panic as your three year old is shouting that he is hungry, run to the nearest fast food joint or packaged product? I think most of us would raise our hands.

Guess what?

Not only is it possible for you to give your kids (and you!) healthy foods even when your schedule is crazy, but you can totally ROCK it without giving up too much of your precious time.

Don’t get me wrong. You will have to use up a bit of time, but with a bit of planning you will feel so much more ready to conquer your days.

Let’s start from the beginning. PLANNING MAKES PERFECT. You can choose how much time to put into planning, but start thinking of healthy foods that your child will eat. I know this may be hard for some children, so you may have to get creative, but just start making a list. This includes packaged items (i.e. protein bars or string cheese). It will also be helpful to have snack sized plastic bags and/or various sizes of storage containers.

Next you will need to go grocery shopping for your items and then prepare any food that you have purchased. Prepping it early makes it so much easier to grab the healthy stuff versus the packaged cookies in the cabinet. Trust me. Take your vegetables and slice them and put them into snack size portions into your plastic bags. Portion out your fruit. I found a plastic storage bin in my house and then just lined all of the baggies in there. Then, when I need to grab a snack for the kids, I just open up the fridge and grab a bag. If I had to take the time to cut them as I am running out the door I would have given in to the cookies. See where I am going there? Yes, it may take you 10 minutes to prep everything, but quickly you’ll see how much time it saves later on!

Speaking of plastic bins, I have a second one in my fridge that saves me SO MUCH TIME. It is my sandwich making basket. In it I have our meat, cheese, peanut butter, jelly, mustard, and mayonnaise. Yours may or may not look the same depending on what kind of sandwiches your family likes to eat. When it is time to make lunches, I just pull the one basket out, grab the bread, and throw together sandwiches. I used to despise making sandwiches because it felt like it took forever to pull everything out and put it away. Not anymore. You can also make a snack basket (you could also combine this with the basket full of veggies I spoke of earlier). Cut up slices of cheese or add in string cheese or any other snack item that your kids love that can easily be found when needing a quick healthy snack.

Many packaged foods are not all that healthy. Convenient, yes, but not always the best choice. So, in order to ensure my kids are eating healthy I do make some of their foods. The cost savings are a big bonus too! This is our favorite protein bar to make. It is so simple. I was so intimidated to try it at first, but I have found that even my daughter loves to help make them. So, on a day where we aren't quite as busy, her and I grab the ingredients and make them together. It gives us some quality time, teaches her a little more about cooking, and helps me accomplish getting a healthy snack made. I know cooking with kids can feel daunting, but as soon as your child is old enough, try it. Eventually you both will be working alongside each other and making delicious meals.

What about dinner? The meal that always seems to be so tough to get on the table. Why is it that children seem to choose that time to have complete meltdowns? They must have a secret code. I bet you know what I am already going to say. Planning and prep! Meal planning. It is a lifesaver on those busy nights. Just look at the calendar and see what you had already planned out. No thinking involved. Making the meal plan may not be your favorite activity (or maybe it is), but find a time where the kids are quiet….feel free to laugh at me…and just start writing out your favorite meals. Let your family members weigh in on their favorites and add them in as well. I also love making freezer meals. It is time consuming, but oh how I love it on those busy days. Also, let me profess my undying love for my crockpot. It still amazes me that I can throw some ingredients into a pot and then not think about it until dinner time and VOILA! Dinner for the family that is delicious and I can pretend like I spent hours cooking it. Don’t worry, your secret is safe with me.

Okay, so repeat after me…

PLANNING and PREPARATION are worth my time in order to save time and stress later!

Now go rock those healthy meals!