Monday, January 23, 2012

How the Family Started to Eat Better-A New System


Wow, was last week was a whirlwind week in Healthy Girl's Kitchen. First was the Paula Deen scandal. Then I won the book Wildly Affordable Organic by Linda Watson in a blogger giveaway on the Healthy Slow Cooking blog. This was all topped off with a guest blog post on salad making on  The Engine 2 Blog (thanks to everyone who left some love over there!). And that doesn't even include my first ever culinary attempts at Vegan Mac-n-cheeze and Chik'n Seitan. Phew! I wonder what's in store this week?

Really cool stuff, I'm guessing.

And it starts with this: something to make your life way easier. I don't know if you remember, but my one resolution this New Year is to get organized. Why? Because life is just easier that way.

As everyone knows, feeding kids day in and day out is challenging. Add in two full time working parents, a desire for the food to be healthy AND the need to make meals that are kid friendly. All complicated by the fact that I want to make Vegan meals that are oil-free and very adult centric (curried soups and huge bowls of salad are not exactly high on my 4 and 7 year old's list of favorite foods to eat). You have got yourself an almost impossible situation.

Even I was getting severely fatigued. I resorted to embarrassingly horrid child feeding habits by the end of 2011 (they did not involved fast food or Kraft macaroni and cheese, but it wasn't that far off). Something needed to change.

And then ideas appeared like an angels from heaven.  It all started with this blog post entitled Healthy Eating Tactics in the New Year by the lovely Sarah Matheny over at Peas and Thank You. I highly recommend checking that post out before reading the story of how Sarah's idea impacted me.

Sarah's suggestion is to create lists of healthy food options and post them in the kitchen. Sarah suggested a kid's snack list (it helps if the kids can read, but it's not a must) and a grocery shopping list. Here are mine:

Healthy Snack List
When the kids come home from school. they walk over to the list and choose a snack. Far less dramatic than an adult having to rack their brain for ideas and then having the kids reject them!

The Master/Staples Grocery List
This simply makes it so much easier for the responsible adult to always have the healthy food choices in the house that are necessary for building meals on a day-to-day basis. Again, no more racking your brain trying to figure out what it is you need to get at the grocery store. Just keep an eye out about once a week that the kitchen is stocked with whatever is on your or your family's list. And it works just as well even if you don't have kids or a family.

I created those lists and posted them. I loved these ideas, but I had no idea if it would work magic on my kids' eating habits. So I didn't stop there. I took it two steps further, and here is where the magic happened.

I created a weekly dinner schedule. I did this for me, so that I would not have to go through the daily stress of deciding what to make the littles for dinner all while attempting to prepare some Vegan feast for my husband, myself and my 12 year old daughter, Sophia, who thankfully eats like an almost Plant-strong adult.

Kid's Weekly Dinner Schedule
The pressure is off. The kids helped create the list so all of the dinners are kid approved. No more last minute bad decision making. The kitchen is stocked with the healthiest versions of the ingredients that I need to prepare these meals and nothing is difficult to make.

But the kicker is this: serving the kid's dinner on cafeteria lunch trays. Maybe at this point you are saying, "Duh Wendy." But sometimes I am slow on the uptake! I purchased three of them many years ago at Target but never really put them to use. Somehow, they magically reappeared and the kids are loving them. They are the ones who fill up the compartments every night with fresh fruit and vegetables of their choosing. I think they feel empowered and it's much easier to get them to eat a variety of healthy food that way.

Lunch trays-they key to happiness. Everyone's happiness.

And after writing the guest blog post on nutrient dense salad making for The Engine 2 Diet blog, I decided another chart was in order. This one to help ensure that we have a variety of salad ingredients stocked in the fridge and pantry at any given time, but also to remind me on a daily basis of all of the variety of things that can and should go into our salads. Less thought, better salads! It's awesome.
Salad Making/Salad Item Stocking List

Here's what the outside of our beautiful refrigerator looks like right now, but I don't care. My life just got better.

What are your tricks to make grocery shopping and daily meal preparation easier? Please share your strategies!

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