With summer vacation coming to an end, we are getting back to our school routines. It seems like a great time for me to share with you my interactive meal planning chart that I have been using with my son Clark, age 11 and Lennon age 6 .
I will start off by telling you was Clark is an extremely picky eater prior to implementing meal planning with him. Those of you with picky eaters, you will know the stress, aggravation and arguments that can ensue when trying to get your child to eat! It usual ends in tears… everyone involved.
In 2015, I began my own health and wellness journey using portion control and color coded systems. So it was a no brainier to incorporate a similar strategy into menu planning with Clark and now Lennon.
Our hope was that this interactive food system would help us to get Clark to eat more and make better choices.
By using a meal planning system, I can easily see that I have covered all of his nutritional needs for the day. Our system is simple, effective and saves my sanity while encouraging Clark and Lennon to make healthy, good choices. Our mornings AND evenings are less stressed and both boys are eating more of their meals because they “ordered” everything! Allowing them to choose from the choices at each meal is so simple, its GENIUS! Each evening after dinner we erase that day’s choices and prep for the next day. Clark packs his lunch box mm(Lennon packs his tin container for homeschool) and make their choices by checking off which items (about 3-4 per meal/ he also packs a snack pouch) he would like the following day.
Giving children a choice (even though we have “staged” the choices) make them feel good about themselves, as well as their choices and most of the time we see a positive change in past behaviors.
Here is our guide on our process!
Preparing Meal Choice Board/Poster:
We have tweaked our meal planning board since we first implemented this strategy! Now we us this graphic( to the left) and place it into a clear plastic folder. This hangs on thee refrigerator with a dry erase marker. There are 6 food group categories which have several choices of foods that are fully stocked in the refrigerator or pantry.
* Clark is allergic to nuts, but his little brother Lennon is not and we use this for both of them at this point. *
*If I do not have an item in stock, I just cross it out and they know that that item is not available that day or week.
Clark and Lennon choose foods for all meals and snacks by circling or "highlighting" what they would like to order. I then get it all prepared and it gets placed into lunchboxes and snack pouch the night before. We then refrigerate all items!
I am a BIG meal/food planner and this has helped me successfully lose 180 pounds.
On Sunday’s we have a routine of making sure that all of our meals, snacks and drinks are pre-planned and prepped for the week ahead. Making sure these tasks are complete really helps us to start our week on the right foot.
Our meal preparation system:
Wash and place in sealed baggies so that they are ready to go! Why waste time during the week cutting and bagging items! We noticed that everyone eats healthier when fruit and veggies are ready to eat!
Hard-boiled eggs – make sure you have a dozen eggs ready to go!
Chicken – make homemade nuggets and have ready for the lunch box (they keep well).
Place crackers in a small ziploc baggie (or eco-friendly pouch) (3-5 crackers is a good amount)
Place almond butter, peanut butter, cream cheese in small containers (they sell disposable ones at target) for easy access and child independency. If your child is taking any spreads to school place a wooden Popsicle stick in his/her lunch box to use as a spreader! If cheese is an option, cut up into cubes or slices and place in baggie.
Make sure you have wraps, breads, yogurts, granola etc ready on hand. Purchasing breads and such on Sunday’s will help you to eliminate trips to the grocery store during the week.
Since implementing this interactive menu we have seen such tremendous growth in Clark's and Lennon's ability to choose foods carefully, try new foods and also finish all of their chosen foods.
Many people will say that this type of plan is too much work, that all children should eat what the parents are eating or what is offered.
My feeling is completely different, I do not want my children to spend their early years dwelling on food. I want both boys to be successful during their long days at school and have enough stamina to be the active and happy. Making a few accommodations that allow my children to flourish mentally and physically is what I need to do as a parent.
Preparing lunch boxes is not so difficult when things are organized and prepared in advance. Setting and following a routine goes a long way and reduces so much stress in our lives and helps to keep our family on this positive healthy path.