Planning meal times with kids
Planning and meal times! Most parents reading this will know a huge part of the day is spent meal planning – everything from thinking of meals, doing the shopping, making sure you have not just food but meals at the ready and then physically cooking the food…least not forgetting dishes! We know that the more we can plan our meal times the better things run, but this is not always straight forward with children. And is it even possible to have a routine in the first place?
Even though children’s daily schedule will change a lot, especially in the younger years with the dropping of sleep times, there is significant research to show the importance of having a routine in place. This is different to a strict schedule with set meal times, rather a general flow to the day. A daily routine does really help children to eat better, and keep calm and relaxed. So the question is where to start? The following points should give you some practical ideas of how to go about this.
- Breakfast – start the day with a good breakfast, ideally not long after waking. You will find the rest of the day will flow from there. Try to avoid television in the mornings especially before breakfast is served, as it will be much harder to draw children away from this.
- Use sleep times – try to not worry too much as the time on the clock, rather use sleep times to guide when it is a meal time. For example, a toddler who has a sleep in the middle of the day might have lunch at 11.00; this is perfectly fine.
- Early bed time – a lot of the children I work with have quite late bed times and this is often something we work to change. A late bed time means that they are stretching past their natural down time which comes in line with night (it is their circadian rhythm at work!). Sometimes this can mean extra snacks to last them through and/or means they are eating really tired which will affect how much they have and their willingness to try something new. I do know this is harder when trying to do a full family dinner together and it may be that at certain stages due to sleep schedules that you are eating at different family times – it will not be forever so this is ok.
- Reduce snack time – I am not a huge fan of lots of snacks for children as it can really affect their main meals. Constant ‘grazing’ on food I would try to avoid if you can as it will be really hard for children to know how much they have had to eat or just when their ‘proper’ meal is.
- Involve the children – really encourage involvement of meal preparation right from the start – babies included. This will help them get ready to eat and know is the part and parcel of meal times as well.
My final secret weapon when it comes to meal planning and routines is having dinner prepared as much as possible. Even if the whole day’s food is not planned, having dinner sorted and emergency options always helps me be more calm and relaxed when things don’t go to plan…which so often is the case with little people! The following recipes are a favourite in our house and I have two complete weeks of dinners including full shopping lists in my cook book Healthy Easy Dinners for Busy Mums.
Mini Bacon and Egg Pies
Kids love individual portions…ok to be fair….big people do as well! These mini bacon and egg pies will be a huge hit with all family members. The filo pastry makes them nice and light, bacon and eggs are always a winning combination and I even managed to sneak a tiny bit of vegetables in there too!
These will make a great meal option for both lunch and dinner – and work especially well for lunch boxes as they taste just as good cold! I am sure you will win some brownie points when you pull these out of the oven!
1 packet of Filo Pastry
1/4 \cup butter, melted
3 rashers of bacon
1/3 cup of corn kernels
1/4 cup of milk
1/2 cup grated cheese (for top)
6 cherry tomatoes
Note: In regards to use pastry (as you can tell) I use pre-made pastry, you can read more on this in my blog ‘Homemade Vs Pre-Made Pastry‘.
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees. Lightly grease a 12-hole muffin tray.
2. In a medium sized fry pan, cook the bacon until crispy. Remove and set aside.
3. Prepare the filo: brush 1 sheet of filo with butter, top with another sheet. Cut into 10cm squares to fit your muffin pan (I get 8 squares out of mine). Place 1 square diagonally over another to give 8 points. Repeat with the remaining pastry sheets and butter until all muffin holes are fill.
4. Place a small amount of bacon and corn kernels in each muffin hole. In a separate bowl, break in the eggs, add the milk and whisk together. Pour egg mixture in (these will only rise a fraction so you can fill quite high).
5. Top with grated cheese, cut tomatoes in half and press into each one. Bake uncovered, for about 20 minutes or until egg is cooked and cheese is melted.
6. Allow to cool slight and then carefully lift pies out (the filo is delicate). Enjoy!
Whole Chicken Curry Crockpot
My inspiration for this recipe came from one of my favourites in Healthy Easy Dinners for Busy Mums as well as Jamie Oliver’s famous chicken in milk recipe.
Soft succulent chicken still with nice crispy skin and seasonal vegetables…there was not much left over in our house!
1 whole chicken
Extra virgin olive oil (for browning the chicken)
4-6 baby potatoes
1/2 head of cauliflower
1 can of coconut cream
3 tsp of turmeric
6-8 Bay leaves
1. Heat a fry pan on medium heat and add oil. Brown the chicken on both sides and then place into the slow cooker.
2. Chop the cauliflower and potato and place around the chicken.
3. Whisk the coconut cream and turmeric together and pour all over the vegetables.
4. Place in the bay leaves and season if desired. Cook on high for four hours or low for six hours.
Dr Julie Bhosale is an internationally- renowned family wellbeing and nutrition expert, author and speaker. A mum of two pre-schoolers herself she has released a cook book Healthy Easy Dinners for Busy Mums and her new book The Nourished Baby on starting solids has just hit book shelves. Passionate about helping familes Julie tours both in New Zealand and overseas. You can follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and join her online community.