This article was written by Kristina Quinn of Par-T-Perfect Victoria, in which she asked for my expertise and advice on the ‘health’ aspect of incorporating meal planning into our daily lives:
“We decided to team up with two fabulous local businesses – Lunchalicious & Lindsay Rose Heal to get their take on how to reduce the stress of dinner time by meal planning, and their tips on how to engage the rest of the family so that the responsibility of dinner time does not fall solely on mom. These fabulous women also gave us some insight on how to get the kids involved in meal planning as well as the benefits of planning ahead so dinner time is not nearly so stressful and a whole lot healthier!
According to Lindsay Rose Heal, meal planning is beneficial in the reduction of stress. “We are bombarded by every day stressors in our lives, which are contributing to poor health across the country. Anytime a negative thought creeps into our mind, it is a form of stress. Throughout the week there are many times we cringe about making meals. From the ‘What am I going to make’ to the ‘Arrrggghh I don’t have time to make a decent meal’…. this is all stress. Working with a meal plan takes these thoughts out of it. If done on a weekly basis, you know exactly what is going to be made on what night, you’ll already have the groceries for it, and know who will be making what. So that drive home from the office can be a little less stressful and spent singing your heart out to music instead of thinking and stressing about dinner.”
All of us agree that by planning ahead, we make healthier and more wholesome meal choices. Meal planning enables us to choose less pre-made or frozen foods, meaning we eat less salt, sugar and items high in fat. Healthier choices mean more energy to do all that fun stuff like riding bikes, hiking and running around the park with the kids! Planning ahead also helps save money – making a week’s grocery list means less trips to the grocery store (we all know the impulse extras we make & don’t really need) or we skip the unhealthy take out choices which, in the end, do cost us more! When choosing what foods to build your meal plans around, pack your cart with produce: Fruits & Veggies instead of ‘packaged foods’. A produce filled cart can dramatically lower your grocery bill and provide you with all the necessary nutrients, vitamins & minerals our bodies are craving. Packaged foods are ‘preserved’ and therefore likely to contain many chemicals and toxins that hurt our bodies.
Meal planning is about getting the entire family involved. Lunchalicious stresses the importance of including the kids in your planning. “When we meal plan, we ask your kids what sort of meals she would like to have that week. We also ask what veggies she would like to have throughout the week, does she have a preference on how they are prepared? We take the time to listen to her requests, and try to incorporate those into our meal plan.”
In their house, they don’t stop there, the kids get to go grocery shopping too! “Kids can get a sense of ownership and pride! Shopping for fruits and veggies is a fantastic life skill that can be taught to children even at a very young age. It’s easy to casually teach children what to look for when picking the perfect produce. Smell here, tap there, gently squeeze this and look at that!”
At the Par-T-Perfect Victoria house, we plan one night, (usually Saturday night) for “junk food” night – anything goes from nachos to homemade pizza to a spread of appies. We also have one night to polish the leftovers so nothing gets wasted and of course some of our meals end up in the freezer for another night when we’re super busy and don’t want to cook!
Taking the time to plan ahead “allows time to breathe & enjoy life.” says Lindsay Rose. “There is one thing that most people will say is the most valuable in their life: Time. Time to relax and replenish, more quality time spent with the kids, or my personal favourite “Me Time”. Planning meals can free up A LOT of time. Think of how many minutes are spent running to the grocery store to ‘pick up a few items’ or spent in the pantry trying to figure out what to make. All this wasted time could be spent doing more of the things that make your heart swell and your soul sing. So when choosing what meals to make, aim for ones that can be done in the crock pot, or double up the portions so you have a 2nd easily ‘re-heatable’ meal later in the week.”
Planning the meal together as a family not only gives you some good quality time but also takes the pressure off and lets the other family members know you value their input too! In the planning process, ask your spouse to take care of cooking one night, have the kids assist with washing, peeling, and some of the other easy preparations that can be done by little (or big) hands. Sometimes as women, we believe we should “do it all!” Remember, asking for help is not only okay but according to both Lunchalicious & Lindsay Rose Holistic Health, it’s beneficial! Both women insist that the kids will enjoy the entire process from shopping to meal planning to cooking – they will most likely be more willing to try something new if they’ve had a say in it; and despite what our spouses may say, they too enjoy the rewards & opportunity to be appreciated! How nice it will be for everyone to come to the table happy & excited about dinner!
Lunchalicious states, “Make food fun! One of my daughter’s favorite food is Pizza chicken, AKA Parmesan chicken. It’s simple…chicken, sauce and topped with cheese.” Carrol also reminds us that it can take a minimum of 10-15 times for children to try new foods before they may accept it, so don’t give up! Try serving foods in different ways…even we have our preferences on how we enjoy certain foods. Get kids involved in making meals. Kids are way more apt to try a new food if they have picked it out and helped cook it! How about challenging the family to try something new by picking up that never before opened cookbook on the shelf?!
We all know that routine and structure around anything, especially meal time, can make life simpler, easier and the top goal… less stressful! Try to have dinner around the same time each night. Often this is easier said than done, if this is the case in your household, try your best sit down and enjoy a family meal as often as possible, turn off cell phones, T.V. and enjoy a conversation with your family. As humans, we crave quality time with each other and this is the perfect opportunity to create this when sharing a meal together.
Finally, Lindsay Rose points out, “We are responsible for creating the life we want to live. In every thing we do and every choice we make we are either Nourishing and Strengthening our health or Depleting and Weakening it. So choose wisely. You and your family are worth it!” ”
Image courtesy of Grant Cochrane at FreeDigitalPhotos.net