I’m not really a New Year’s resolution kind of person. I do always try to reflect on what went well in the past year and what I’d like to change in the coming one. I don’t set strict goals or limits, as I know those would just stress me out.
One thing I know I’m going to continue to be mindful of in the new year, particularly as a toddler mom, is healthy eating. I’m sure that’s an important topic for many of us.
Today, I’d like to share a few ideas on how to get your whole family involved in healthy eating, if that is something that is important to you. I want to preface all of this by saying that I don’t want this to be seen as a diet of any sort. I have no goal weight in mind for me or for anyone in my family. I’m simply trying to keep us on a relatively balanced diet without totally losing my mind.
Involve everyone in healthy eating
To start, involve everyone, even your children! Do you want your toddler to eat more fruits and vegetables and participate in healthy eating? Let them pick what they want to try! When we grocery shop each week, I always ask my son what produce he thinks he’d like. He’s a fruit kid, so it’s usually a long list of berries and tropical fruit. We try to work in a vegetable or two but those don’t always make his list. If we are shopping together, I might give a few vegetable choices in the store. I often shop during lunch breaks, so I do just select veggie snacks myself too.
My next trick for healthy eating is to continue the choice at home. It’s rare I create any Pinterest projects in my son’s lunch, but I’ll ask if he’d like his cucumber in slices or sticks. That amount of control is enough to get him excited about eating them sometimes. Another great time to give choice is with the dips. It slightly disgusts me to see him dip cucumber in ketchup, but my son loves it. A friend’s daughter likes marinara for her carrot sticks. Go with whatever works. We rotate between ketchup, soy butter, guacamole, and Italian dressing. My son can’t have hummus or ranch because of food allergies, but those are great alternatives if you don’t have any dietary restrictions.
If you’re a toddler mom like me, the largest force working against healthy eating is time. No one has enough time in this world. The quick and easy dinners don’t seem to be the healthy ones. Here I will share that a little bit of planning goes a long way. The exact meal planning system that works for each family is different. We use a calendar with magnetic meal labels so I can rearrange things throughout the week as needed. I’ve seen checklists, binders, apps. Find what you like. I have about 40 meals written out, and we always mix a new one or two in every once in a while.
Once you have a meal planning system, set a prep time. For us, Sunday night is prep time. Sometimes, we start while my son is napping and try to involve him before dinner. Other times, we wait until he is asleep and then my husband and I tackle the prep together. I try to completely make one meal (usually soup or a baked pasta) and then chop and prep sauces for others. We also cut all of our fruits and veggies for the week. This is SO helpful for us, and it keeps us from grabbing a quick but unhealthy snack.
Like anything, some weeks are easier than others in terms of prep and healthy eating. Sometimes, life gets in the way and we don’t prep as much as we should. Those are the weeks I find myself more stressed at night and grabbing unhealthy snacks in the morning. We keep all of our cut produce in large containers in the fridge and portion it out throughout the week in glass containers or reusable bags if it isn’t a “wet” fruit or veggie. My son’s lunch always goes in his metal lunchbox. As with most things I’m sharing, what works for me might not work for you. I’ve seen tons of people who portion everything out for the week.
My husband and I do the bulk of the prep on our own, but we do try to involve my son from time to time. He has a learning tower at the end of our kitchen island and his own kid-friendly knives. If we are working while he is awake, we always ask if he’d like to help. Sometimes, he says yes and happily (and productively) joins in. Other times, the woes of being three get the best of us and he wanders about underfoot in the kitchen in a far less productive manner. In my experience, cooking with your child is far from perfect, but it can be a lot of fun with the right mix of patience and flexibility (qualities I admittedly often need to work on.)
In addition to time, cost is the other really restricting factor of healthy eating for some. It’s so frustrating to me that the food that’s best for us is the most expensive. I get why, but I still wish there was a better system. That’s probably a post for another day. I’m the daughter of a deal lover, and that trait was surely passed on to me. Each week, I check a number of local fliers for their produce sales. We often eat what’s on sale. The options given to my son might be determined by what I see on sale that week. Honestly, I also think it helps keep some variety in our diet!
This last tip for healthy eating is a combination of money-saving and healthy eating: get creative with your leftover produce. Do you have spinach or mixed greens that are starting to look wilted? Freeze them for smoothies, sauces, and muffins. You can puree greens into just about anything. I keep a stasher bag in the freezer for all of the fruit we don’t get to in time, as well. I don’t want to eat mushy raspberries plain, but if they aren’t bad or moldy, I freeze them for a smoothie. If you have veggie scraps or veggies just past their optimal eating point, freeze them for broth. I make homemade broth in our crockpot. I’ve seen recipes for the InstantPot or stove top as well. I was intimidated by this practice at first, but now I love it. It is easy, cost-effective, and you know exactly what’s in what you consume.
What do you think? Do any of these thoughts resonate with you in terms of healthy eating as a toddler mom? Do you have any tips of your own? Let me know!