Everyone knows that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but how many of us skip breakfast because we don’t have time to eat it, or we just aren’t hungry in the morning? I make sure my kids eat a good breakfast every morning, but I noticed a while ago that I was skipping breakfast most of the time. Sometimes I would be so busy taking care of everyone else, that I wouldn’t remember to feed myself. Has this ever happened to you? I have found that if I make a protein shake the night before, I will grab that and have the shake along with a protein bar for breakfast. This is something convenient to eat while i’m getting the kids ready, or even driving to work in the morning. This is easy, yummy, and it honestly keeps me full until lunch time, which is great! Having the right balance of protein, carbs, and fats will help you meet your goals. If you love your cheerios, try putting them into a bowl of greek yogurt instead of milk. If you are not hungry for breakfast first thing in the morning, it’s not a bad thing, but you should make yourself eat a little snack to jumpstart your metabolism. This allows you to enjoy a bigger breakfast meal later in the morning when you actually feel hungry.
When it comes to planning my family’s breakfasts, I always try to include a good portion of protein. This is hard because my kids are cereal junkies! They do enjoy eggs, but there is not always time in the morning to make eggs. I will have some hard boiled eggs in the fridge that become an easy and healthy side to any meal. I will also make little cooked eggs in muffin cups and freeze them in advance. My kids also love my homemade chocolate protein bars for breakfast. Today my kids helped me make “breakfast cookies” with protein powder in them. This is another breakfast or snack option. The key is flexibility, it’s okay to have cereal, if you are eating a source of protein along with it. Planning ahead helps too, I will make a bunch of whole wheat pancakes and waffles on the weekend, and freeze them for the rest of the week. Its easy to just pop them into the toaster in the morning.
Anyone with kids knows that snacktime is a big deal! I try to plan ahead, with young children when they want snack, they want it NOW! So it can be tempting to just quickly grab the first thing in sight to feed them to satisfy their hunger. This can be a bad thing if you are always grabbing for crackers, chips, and cereal. It is better to give them foods that do not come from a package when possible. I will make a big bag of trail mix that the kids love to snack on. They enjoy nuts, dried fruit, and of course a couple dark chocolate chips mixed in as well. This is something you can keep in your purse for trips to the store or park also. I like to have it handy when I’m hungry, it prevents me from making a poor nutritional choice, such as running through the fast food drive through when I want a snack. Another helpful tip is that having a fridge full of cut up and cleaned fruits and veggies. These will disappear fast when it comes to family snacking! When my kids are hungry, I tell them they can choose to have carrots, or cherry tomatoes. They get a choice, and they get excited about going into the refrigerator and getting the snack all by themselves. Kids love options, they can have grapes, or an apple for snack…. or they can have cheese or yogurt. These options give them a sense of control, but they are all healthy, and easy for you to prepare.
For lunch, most of the time we have left overs from the night before. We do not waste food in my house. If there is not any left overs, then the kids typically will have a veggie, a fruit, a protein, a starchy carb, and a dairy food. The veggie we get from the garden, or what ever was on sale at the grocery store. Lately the kids have been eating a ton of tomatoes. For the fruit, we will usually go with apple slices, or orange slices. The protein will usually be chicken, or salami. The starchy carb is usually crackers or some form of pasta. Then they will alternate each day between string cheese, and a yoghurt. I try to avoid processed foods as much as possible, but with kids it can be a challenge. What I typically do is give them organic pasta and crackers, etc. In my opinion, if they are going to eat packaged and processed foods, I feel better about it if they are organic.
When it comes to my lunch, it can be tempting to just nibble on a little bit of everything while I am preparing the kids’ meals. This can be a problem because by doing this, I am not keeping track of everything I consume. I dont know if I am eating too much food, which can be problematic and lead to body fat storage between meals. It is also possible that I may not eat enough food, which can lead to more frequent snacking and binging throughout the day. I try to have a good healthy serving of protein, such as a greek yogurt, or a piece of chicken breast. I also try to have a complex carb with a low glycemic index score, such as a green veggie. This combination will keep me full for a large part of the afternoon. I rarely need an afternoon snack, Having a salad, or veggies and hummus can be great lunch options, but unless you give yourself the adequate amount of protein, you will be hungry sooner!
Planning meals for your family can be a huge challenge, it can get expensive, and it can be time consuming. I have found if I do not come up with a game plan in advance, then I end up spending a lot more money, we tend to eat out more, and our choices tend to be less than optimal as far as nutrition goes. I hope these tips help you to come up with a plan for your family. There is no “one size fits all” way to cook and meal plan. You have to do whats right for your family and your lifestyle.
Sarah Williams MS, ATC, SFN
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