My kids are going through a particular tiring dinner phase right now. I can make their favorite pasta dishes, partnered with their favorite veggies or fruit, and they still leave the table after a few bites. I'm playing the long game of creating healthy eating and meal-time habits, which looks a lot like me cringing inside but keeping a cool exterior when they refuse their carrots and then later ask for a snack.
Luckily dinnertime isn't the only opportunity to practice healthy eating habits with my two young kids. Breakfasts and after-school snacks are often even better chances for us to connect through food and make choices that make us all feel our best. Here are the five things I'm doing every week to ensure my family eats well.
1. Meal plan and meal prep.
There's really no magic to making sure that my family eats well throughout the week, but meal planning and meal prep are two things I do every week. It keeps us from hitting the drive-thru or ordering takeout because the food is waiting in the fridge.
More on Meal Planning
2. Have healthy snacks at the ready.
Mostly this looks like making a batch of hummus and cutting up some vegetables every week during meal prep, but it also includes keeping a bowl of fruit in the fridge and on the counter that the kids can easily reach.
I recently started limiting our store-bought snacks to pretzels and graham or animal crackers. Of course, we have snacks like hummus, fresh fruit, or popcorn, but limiting snacks to two admittedly kind of boring snacks cuts down on snacking. My kids asking for snacks less frequently between meals, which means they're also eating more at meal times. Bonus: Boring snacks are a huge budget saver!
Some Snack Ideas
3. Get vegetables in at breakfast.
This is good advice for both kids and adults, as breakfast continues to be a missed opportunity for vegetables every day. Besides loading up breakfast smoothies with spinach, consider that frozen and blanched cauliflower, roasted sweet potatoes, and zucchini are all awesome in smoothies. Frozen zucchini is our family favorite — it adds sweetness and body.
Veggie cream cheese is one of the overtly sneaky ways I get vegetables in at breakfast too. We smear it on toast and bagels and even fold it into scrambled eggs.
More Veggie-Packed Breakfasts
4. Limit dessert to the weekend only.
I recently read this brilliant story from another mother of two who struggled with the dessert trap. I love sweets! And I'd like to believe that unfettered access to the stuff means my kids won't feel like they need to be sneaky about it, but that just wasn't the case. Between Halloween and New Year's Eve, dessert went from an occasional treat to an everyday expectation. So I had to hit the brakes. We instituted a weekends-only dessert policy and, honestly, bed time has been much easier for all of us.
Get a recipe: How To Make Chocolate-Dipped Frozen Banana Bites
5. Make lemonade.
If you struggle like I do to get your kids to drink water throughout the day, I have a new secret weapon: homemade lemonade. We sweeten ours with maple syrup, but you could easily use honey or your favorite sweetener and fresh-squeezed citrus juice — lemons, limes, oranges, and grapefruits are all fair game. The kids can have a glass of this "treat" once a day or a splash in their water anytime. I love that they are getting hydrated and getting some extra vitamins in one glass.
Get a recipe: How To Make Lemonade from Scratch
Your turn: How do you get your family to eat a little healthier?