If you’re planning meals for the whole family then it goes without saying that you need to get the whole family on board – otherwise you’re fighting more than one battle!
So here are eight ways you can involve the kids in your meal planning – so they get excited about their food, and you get your meal-plan calm!
#1 Always include something familiar with their meals
Even if you’re trying something new that you found on pinterest (or www.thefoodbrood.co.uk), you should include a vegetable, dish, sauce or combination that you know always goes down well – to make sure that they actually eat something!
#2 Chop up fruits and veggies for snacks
When you do your meal prep ahead of time (for example when you’re chopping for a whole week of meals), then cut up some favourite fruits and vegetables too. If they’re right there on the counter, ready washed and chopped nicely, then the children are more likely to grab them to snack on than hunting for something in the cupboards.
#3 Kids-cook night
One way to ensure they’re getting involved in the kitchen is to let them cook dinner! Even the very youngest trainee chefs can top a pizza and you can progress to chopping and hot jobs – with supervision, of course – as they get older.
#4 Pin up a list of lunch foods that they like and rotate
Lunch boxes: soggy sandwiches and boring combinations. But it needn’t be that way if you employ a little meal-planning magic. Sit down with the kids and ask them to list all the things they like to eat for lunch – sandwiches, salads, mini pizzas, breads, apples, crisps – the whole lot. Organise it into categories (carbs, treats, fruits, veggies, treats) and pin it up somewhere visible in the kitchen. Then, whether you’re having ‘picnic lunch’ at home or packing a box for school, you can choose one from each category thus giving them a balanced lunch that they love AND rotate the next day so it never gets boring!
#5 Get them involved in choosing the meals and shopping
When you sit down to choose meals for the week ahead, ask them what they want to eat too! They’re bound to look forward to dinner if it’s something they’ve chosen for themselves. Then, take them to the supermarket with you (it can be fun – I promise!) and give them a job to do – like holding the list, reading the list (if they’re older), finding the bread and putting the food on the till.
#6 Have a regular family night so they know what to expect
Rotating meals and trying new things is all very well for mum and dad but it can be a little overwhelming when you’re small. To avoid nervousness around dinner time, make sure you include a regular night so that they have one familiar thing to fall back on. You could always have fish on a Friday or you could eat in front of a movie for a treat on a Saturday.
#7 Healthy versions of kids favourites
The fastest way to get the kids to eat a healthy diet is to reinvent their tried-and-tested favourites! Instead of shop-bought fish fingers, try making your own with fresh cod pieces in breadcrumbs. Or why not be really sneaky and put some hidden veggies in their pasta sauce?
#8 Encourage them to ask questions
Food needn’t be a job just for adults; everyone knows that good eating habits start in childhood. If you want the kids to grow up to eat a wide variety of foods then it needs to start in the home. Talk them through your preparation, let them smell spices and herbs, grow your own tomatoes/strawberries in small pots on the patio and, if suitable, take them to a farm and show them where their meat comes from!