“I don't expect perfection, but I do know that with the right knowledge, we can make better choices, and if we make better choices, we can feel better and if we feel better, we can live better.”
Do you find meal planning tough? If you do you are in the same boat as many other parents who want to eat healthy, but with a lack of planning and Busy Schedules, healthy eating simply becomes, just another unchecked chore on a long list of family desires.
I think the biggest misconception about menu planning is how much time it actually takes to do it. What if I told you that planning a healthy menu each week, would not only save you time, but also save your family money?!! I’m serious!! Learning the skill of menu planning can help de-stress your busy lifestyle, help your family eat healthier, AND save your family money. (Read to bottom I have a free worksheet for you!)
Let me share my personal journey with menu planning. I am a busy working mom of four children, and even though my profession of being a Nutritionist means I know how to do better, it doesn't mean I always follow, what I knew I should be doing. Our biggest challenge as a family is being super busy, and not feeling like we have enough time to do all the healthy habits I know we should be doing!
I have always aimed to be a Nutritionist for REAL families. I don't expect perfection, but I do know that with the right knowledge, we can make better choices, and if we make better choices, we can feel better and if we feel better, we can live better.
Sounds simple right? Well for most busy families it’s actually really tough! That is why teaching my clients how to menu plan is one of my most favourite things to do! I know what its like to not follow a plan, and frankly its pretty scary!! If I fail to plan, my family like most, will be stuck with fast and convenient options, which we all know is junk calories. These junk calories when over consumed, are harmful long-term to our health! We only need to take a quick peek at the national cancer rates, to gauge just how harmful this convenient and fast paced lifestyle has become!
So as promised here is how you can Eat Healthier, Save Time and Save Money with Menu Planning.
Need a Menu Planning Worksheet? Finish reading for yours!
1) Start With Dinner. Dinnertime for most families is where it really falls apart! Especially if you are busy with extracurricular activities. Eating a healthy evening meal is a great way to prevent evening snacking, and is also one of the most important meals to be mindful about the type of calories you are putting in your body. Lets face it, Pizza three nights a week is going to show up somewhere on your body!
Every Sunday at our house is menu planning and shopping day. I sit with my coffee in the morning and poll my family by asking, “what dinners do you guys want to eat this week?” This gives everyone a say into what meals we eat.
If they choose a Dinner idea that is less than healthy I look for the healthy alternative, for Example:
2. Create a List of Family Favourites. We have a list on the side of our fridge of all the meals we have made, that we love!! This way when we are brainstorming our meals for the week, we can take a peek at what we know are tired and proven for our family!
3. Let the children Have a Night of The week. We let our children choose a dinner option for one night of the week. This has helped reduce picky eating on nights where their favourite meal was not served. We show respect for each other’s dinner choice and always try to have at least a few bites, because frankly that's all there is for dinner at our house. (Although I will admit I am a snack before bed mom, as I find the little ones are easier to get to bed for the night with a healthy snack in their belly. However if they don't eat dinner, that's it until snack time before bed!)
4. Choose Plant heavy Meals and Snacks. Most parents complain that their children do not want to eat vegetables in particular. As a mom I totally get it!! Children’s taste buds are different than our adult ones, and sometimes some veggies are just plain yucky!! I will share in upcoming weeks some tips on how to get your children to eat more vegetables. In the meantime, ask them to help you make a list of ones they do like, and how they prefer to eat them. If they like their broccoli and peppers raw, just serve them on the side instead of the cooked ones. The current research shows the more plants we can consume the more protected our families are!
Plant foods include: fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains and herbs and 80% of our daily calories should come from the plant kingdom. Some health organizations recommend as much as 10-13 servings daily for an adult!! We know the more plants we consume the more protected we are for many diseases including cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes!! If you have really picky kids at home, I would suggest you take a look at the Children's Health Study for a great gap Bridger in your children’s diet!
5. Plan Your Week. After you have planned dinner’s fill in your menu planning worksheet in the following order:
1) Dinners– filling in dinners first lets you see what can be used as leftovers for lunch the next day!
2) Breakfast- I keep Monday to Friday the same each morning, usually oatmeal and do gluten free pancakes and omelettes on the weekend.
3) Lunch – Use as many leftovers from dinner as you can!! Most of my children’s lunches are dinner from the night before!
4) Snacks– Focus on the unprocessed snacks like fresh and dried fruit, nuts and seeds, and homemade energy balls! I will write an article for you on healthy snacks later this month!
6. Create a Grocery List of Just The Items You Need For The Week.Ok this is where the money savings comes in!! When we shop without a plan here in Ontario, we can easily spend $400+ per trip. And at one point we were!! With grocery bills exceeding $2000 a month I knew I had to start practising what I preach, and several years ago I made a decision to NOT grocery shop with out a list based on a plan.
Now our weekly bills average $150-$200 per week (some weeks are a bit more if we are grabbing additional household items) but our menu costs us about $150-$200 per week for 7 days of healthy meals and snacks for a family of 6. This saves our family about $1200 a month!!! There is an awful lot a family can do with $1200!! We even eat out about 2 times a month (I feel its important for children to know how to behave in public, even is they sometimes forget how… lol) BUT we choose restaurants and nights where kids eat free which mean our entire family of 6 can enjoy a meal out for about $60 plus tip!
7. Add A Daily Smooothie As a Nutritional Insurance Policy. Now this is probably the one item on this list I would love to see all my readers incorporate. Why? Because the right smoothie recipe with the right ingredients is an easy, daily Nutritional boost. We make tropical smoothies with high antioxidant fruits and parsley!! And Chocolate peanut butter ones with spinach!! There are so many yummy recipes and it's a great way to get a lot of nutrition into a single cup!! Stay tuned for more on smoothies in upcoming posts! If you are adding a protein to your family’s smoothies, please be sure to use a Vegan shake mix!! Especially, for kids. We love Complete at our house because its family friend and made with plant foods!! click here to learn more!
As Promised here is your FREE Menu Planning Worksheet!!
Click the Button to be re-directed.
Check out the Results below from Children on the Children's Health Study!
Alisa Herriman has been researching and teaching Nutrition since 2003. Leaving her job in the health care industry to share her passion for healthy living, Alisa travels all over Canada sharing her mission and teaching communities how to prevent and fight disease with Nutrition and a healthy lifestyle.