Balancing family meals can be tough, especially if you have a picky eater in the house. According to a 2011 study from the Academy of Pediatrics comparing the dietary intake of both parents and non-parents, mothers tend to eat fewer vegetables and consume more sugary drinks than non-mothers and often consume more calories but with poorer nutritional value. Why? Because more often than not, parents will focus on making sure their child has an adequate meal without preparing a meal for themselves as well. While snacking all day or may seem like it’s working out okay, it’s important to be mindful of your own nutritional needs to ensure your body is getting what it needs to stay healthy. Additionally, research shows that when parents model healthy eating habits, those habits tend to trickle down, making meal times easier for you and your family in the future. Here are some tips to help get you back on track if you are finding yourself taking a back seat to your own meal planning.

Prepare your week with healthy snacks

Time is often the biggest constraint when it comes to healthy eating. Instead of scavenging
 in your cabinet for a snack when you have 5 minutes of kid-free quiet time, try to pick up a wide range of healthy pre-packaged snacks when you’re doing your weekly grocery run. When you have a variety to choose from, you’re more likely to give your body a more well-rounded diet. Having your snacks pre-packaged allows you to keep some in a to-go bag if you’re at the park, in the console of your car, or any other place you’re likely to end up hungry. Here is a list of good pre-packaged snacks from a nutritionist at TheKitchn. https://www.thekitchn.com/single- serve-snacks-nutritionist-recommended-23011192

Find a balance

We know that when it comes to meal planning, the biggest factor to consider is time. In this article from childrens.com, a dietitian suggests four meal planning tips for parents who are on a time crunch! https://www.childrens.com/health-wellness/4-meal-planning-tips-for-busy- parents One mistake many parents make is trying to create new meals with complex ingredients. This article suggests sticking with one or two new recipes a month but for the rest of the month, try to create meals you are familiar with and enjoy. In an additional article from NPR, the author suggests finding meals that you can serve cold. Instead of prepping and making a meal that needs time to cook or bake, find a meal that can be prepped and sit in the fridge overnight to be eaten cold the next day. More tips on making the most of your cooking time here: https://www.npr.org/ sections/thesalt/2016/07/13/485556027/whats-for-dinner-10-strategies-to-help-busy-parents-get- food-on-the-table

Get your child involved!

There are plenty of ways you can involve your child in the kitchen to allow them to have agency over their meal which can free up some of your time to focus on your own meal! Here is a breakdown from the NIH of ideas for children ranging from 2 years old to 6 years old. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/ health/educational/wecan/downloads/cookwithchildren.pdf Involving your child in the process can create opportunities for meal times to be seen as “fun” and to create a possible learning experience. When your child is occupied by an activity such as tearing lettuce, you’ll have more time to prepare your meal that you can enjoy with your child once they are done. Here is an additional article on why having your child involved in the kitchen benefits both parent and child: https://blog.perfectsnacks.com/ why-its-important-to-get-kids-involved-in-the-kitchen/