Feeding our families is a huge part of our life as moms. I had a friend once say that she felt like she should just put her bed in the kitchen. Indeed, there are many days when it feels like I’m in the kitchen all day. Doesn’t it feel like you just clean up one meal only to hear “I’m hungry!” or “I need a snack!” (insert whiny voice)? My husband is one of those who can’t make Mac & Cheese (I’m serious) so I don’t get a lot of help with the planning or prep either. If I ask him what we should have for supper his answer is ‘order in pizza?’ Not helpful!
As a fellow mom, I know you not only want to feed your kids because they’re hungry but you want to feed them well because it’s important for their growth and development. But what does this actually look like and how do you do it? With working and homeschooling I can get overwhelmed thinking about how to fit in making healthy and nutritious meals. And sometimes it feels like why bother because when I do actually make something nutritious from scratch all I get is complaining. But then my conscience wins out and I do actually want to make an effort so that my kids get the nutrition they need.
So how do we feed our families well?
One thing I’ve learned over my decade of parenting is that when it comes to food, we can’t control our kids. When my oldest was little she was super picky. We could hardly get her to eat anything. I’m ashamed to say (and we’ve asked her forgiveness for this) that we’d get mad, give disciplines, make her stay at the table until she finished and other harsh methods to force her to eat. Nothing helped. So we prayed and sensed that we were supposed to back off more. When we stopped trying to force her to eat, she started eating and meal times became enjoyable. I had 2 more picky eaters and each time I learned to stress about it less and less. Eventually they do learn to eat more than goldfish and bananas! You as the parent, control what goes on the table, but they actually control what goes in their mouths. There might be a minimal amount that you decide they need to eat before leaving the table, but if they choose not to eat they actually won’t starve before the next snack or meal. [For other ideas to help with picky eaters, see attached article. Article 21a – Common toddler and preschooler feeding issues]
What kind of food then should we put on our tables?
Our bodies are like our vehicles here on earth. They need good quality fuel so they function optimally. The food our kids eat is even more important because it hugely affects their growth and development. Think about how much a child grows each year and how much their brain has to learn in the first few years of their life. It takes an incredible amount of energy and essential building blocks only found in food to do this.
As moms it’s our job to make sure that our kids are getting all those important building blocks and to teach them how to make good choices on their own so they grow up knowing how to take care of themselves.
How do we know what our kids need? When my kids started solid foods I was shocked to learn that a serving size for a toddler is only a tablespoon. This really isn’t very much, but their tummies are small so they don’t need to eat much in one serving. Snack time then is really important for our toddlers and preschoolers. Each snack should actually be thought of as a mini-meal with a combination of 3 food groups (ex. Yogurt with fruit and whole grain crackers). Kids need all the 4 food groups in balance in order to support their growing bodies. Canada’s Food Guide is a great resource to know how much your kids should be eating from each food group: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/food-guide-aliment/index-eng.php
Another great website to take your kids to is: www.fit.webmd.com It has games and activities that help teach kids about the food groups and how and why to make good food choices.
If you have a baby and are just starting down the road of solid food, you might find these articles, written by a fellow Selah mom Amanda Doroshuk useful (Article 21b – Introducing Baby Food Article 21c – Starting Solids).
And as with all things parenting, we have to model healthy eating. This is the best way to help our kids make good choices. If they see you doing it, they are more likely to do it too. Is it time to evaluate your eating habits and make some positive changes? The most basic keys are to make sure that you are keeping your simple sugars to a minimum, including lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, drinking lots of water and keeping active as a daily lifestyle. Then have fun! Food is meant for us to enjoy and bring us together with people.
Now, wouldn’t it be great if good food just magically appeared on your table?! The truth is that helping your family eat healthy takes some time and energy. Here are some ideas to help make it possible:
Do prep ahead of time. I know of several moms who take an hour or so at the start of the week to wash and cut all their vegetables. If you buy bulk meat, separate it into meal-size portions before freezing or even cook some of the meat to have ready to throw into casseroles or soups.
I’ve also heard of moms getting together to make a bunch of meals as a group. This could be a fun thing to organize with your Selah group or cell or sisters. It’s better together than alone!
When you make a meal, make it double. Then freeze the second half to have on hand for a busy day.
Make a meal plan. This helps make sure you have the ingredients you need in the house and takes the stress out of what to make for supper. Pinterest has lots of great ideas for simple to complex meal plans.
Have fun with food. Try something new along with a favourite. Who knows, you just might like it! Or it might be awful and you can make a memory by having a good laugh together. Have theme nights like Asian or formal. Kids love candlelight dinners or sitting on the floor for a picnic.
Get your kids involved in meal planning and prep. I let my kids pick a meal a week which gets them excited about suppertime. As they get older, let them help with the prep. This will give them a sense of contribution to the family and accomplishment in doing a grown-up task.
Remember the 80/20 rule! It’s what you do 80% of the time that matters. Don’t stress or give up when you buy a packaged meal once in a while. The truth is, sometimes it’s better to do this than put yourself into overwhelm and ruin an evening.
Talk to God. If food and eating is a stress in your home, God has wisdom for you if you only ask.