“More chicken nuggets anyone?” Do you find yourself saying this to your children (or yourself) fairly often? Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of chicken nuggets, provided they are from McDonalds and eaten with ketchup. But most of us don’t prefer feeding them to our family too often.
That’s where menu planning comes in, giving us an opportunity to know ahead of time what our families will be eating at home. Nutrition is a big part of the meal planning process. Feeding our family with their health in mind is one of the biggest motivations for the shift from the drive-through to the sit-down restaurant that is our dining room.
Nutritious Meals for the Whole Family
Feeding your family a wholesome meal involves choosing foods from all the food groups (I too was disappointed to find out potato chips weren’t one of them). Protein, fruits and vegetables, dairy, grains and good fats are essential to a well-rounded meal. This can be done in a very simple way on your own or with a little help. MyPyramid.gov is a website maintained by the USDA that can customize a menu plan for adults, pregnant and breastfeeding women, and children based on the official food pyramid. Consult your doctor if you have any specific concerns, including allergies or health issues.
Vegetables and Children
It can be hard to please a small child when it comes to food. My daughter won’t touch peppers and my son used to groan every time he saw green beans on his plate. Notice I said “used to”. When we continued to give him beans as a side dish, usually combined with other vegetables, he grew to like them. One day he said to me, “I like green beans now. I’m not going to pick them out of my food anymore.” Studies show that it can take fourteen times of trying a new vegetable for a child to enjoy the taste. Since vegetables supply a huge amount of the vitamins and minerals we need, they are great foods to encourage a child to eat!
Pre-Packaged Meals, Frozen Meals and Nutrition
While it may seem easier to grab a box of fish sticks out of the freezer or Easy Mac out of the cupboard, the cost isn’t easy on your wallet or your health. It might be frustrating or difficult to hear, but choosing pre-packaged foods for your meals isn’t the goal of menu planning. That box of chicken nuggets likely contains as many or more preservatives, bad fats and empty carbohydrates as your favorite drive-thru menu. Yes, it’s simple and the kids like it. I definitely understand! But you can make meals partly or mostly from scratch that appeal to your children and that don’t take too much time away from your day. We’ll talk about that in later articles on freezer cooking and advanced food prep.
There’s so much to say about the nutritional aspect of menu planning! Simply put, it involves watching what goes into your food and your family’s mouths, keeping in mind the fact that healthy eating from the start gives you a head start. If you’re new at making healthy choices for your diet there are many resources that can help you along the way.
Reference: “Increasing children’s acceptance of vegetables; a randomized trial of parent-led exposure”. www.PubMed.gov, accessed April 30, 2010 Photo Credit: Simon Howden