February 2018 Focus Area: Food/Fuel
Sometimes I feel like I spend 90% of my waking hours planning or preparing food for myself and my family. I believe that food is important for so many reasons – I want myself and my family to have the proper fuel each day so that we feel our best, and longer term I want us to be healthy and stave off unhealthy eating habits and preventable chronic illnesses. That being said, ensuring that each of our nutritional needs and personal tastes are met sometimes (ok, often) feels like a monumental task.
Currently, there is only one member of the family that would eat everything I put in front of him, and that is our family dog Wally. I am not a huge fan of pork or beef (with the exception of the occasional beef pot roast), whereas my husband can’t stand seafood and is wary of tofu. I am currently breastfeeding my youngest, and have discovered that dairy seems to be causing him skin issues, so I am cutting out all of the delicious dairy. And that is just the adults! On top of that, we have a preschooler with a confusing and ever-changing list of food likes and dislikes (she currently likes peppers and peas, but dislikes carrots and corn; she likes cupcakes, dislikes pie – who dislikes pie?!?!), and a baby who has just started eating solid food. With both kids I’m trying to ensure that they are receiving enough iron, as well as other important nutrients and fibre. The baby is still working on his hand eye coordination, and so he needs squishy foods that he can pick up and easily smush in his mouth or, more likely, toss off his tray in order to learn about gravity.
Yes, we are a real joy to invite to dinner parties. 😉
I’ve tried meal planning in the past. In fact, the first time I attempted meal planning was when I returned to work after my first maternity leave. My approach before kids was…get home from work, scan the cupboards and fridge, and either prepare a meal or order take-out if I was famished or didn’t have anything edible on hand. After having kids, and going through a few evenings of tossing granola bars to a child experiencing crashing blood sugar levels and epic meltdowns, I quickly became motivated to change my ways… 🙂
However, I was always having to come up with new ideas each week, and trying new recipes meant I didn’t always have the ingredients on hand or the proper technique mastered. And, because I was planning week to week, I still frequently felt challenged to come up with meal ideas that would be good for us to try. Finally, I was planning our dinners, but lunches and snacks were still a bit haphazard. (Breakfast I find easy – we always seem to have the staples on hand to create a quick grab and go breakfast, or a leisurely weekend breakfast).
My new plan? A 5-week rotating meal plan! I’m hoping 5 weeks gives enough variability to keep our palates happy, without forcing me to come up with a million and one recipes that will be both nutritious and delicious (according to the majority of family members, at least). Here is some of the criteria for the meal plan:
- As it is currently freaking cold outside (I define freaking cold as when it is so cold, it hurts), the meal plan leans on soups, stews and other comfort foods.
- Also, given each of our different tastes, I’ve tried to pick meals that are customizable. For example, wraps with different fillings, or soups with different add-ons.
- My goal is to prepare a few new meals each week, and to eat leftovers for the other meals. This means that we may prepare a dish with enough leftovers to put some in the freezer and to have some the following night. Sometimes leftovers are recreated into new meals (e.g., turkey chili the first night, chili nachos the second night; or, roast meat the first night, roast meat sandwiches for lunch the next day).
- Finally I wanted to find meals that would be easy to prepare, or that could be prepared in advance, so that when the baby decides that he is hungry or tired RIGHT NOW, we don’t all have to starve.
If this 5 week rotating meal plan works for me, I would then create a spring/summer version for the warmer months. Below are some examples of our meals during this 5 week period.
|1||French toast with fruit
Scrambled eggs and tomatoes
Almond butter on toast
|Chicken, hummus and veggie wraps
|Roast meat and veggies
Pasta and meatballs
|Veggies, crackers and hummus
Guacamole, veggies and crackers
|2||Pancakes and fruit
Carrot cake oatmeal
|Salmon cakes and veggies
Mini pizzas, veggies and dip
|Pasta with bolognese sauce
Turkey meatloaf and roast veggies
Chicken and vegetable soup
|Hard Boiled egg and fruit
Apple and granola bar with almond butter
|3||Steelcut oats with apples
Spinach and egg muffins
Rainbow veggie salad
Salmon and steamed greens
Mulligatawny soup and pita bread
|Peppers, cheese and crackers
Create and implement a 5 week meal plan that meets our family’s various nutritional needs and personal preferences.
MEASURE OF SUCCESS:
Sticking to the meal plan for the entire period of this challenge without facing revolt from my family, or revolt from my inner rebel who enjoys cooking the random meals she sees on her Facebook feed or in magazines :-). The meal plan has some flexibility built in for the occasional meal out or pizza delivery (hey, we have a baby in the house!), but the majority of meals are covered by ‘The Plan’. Also, I’m planning to cook big batches of some of the soups and stews so that I can have some in the freezer to pull out for the days when I’m strapped for time.
- I love following Angela Liddon of http://ohsheglows.com/ on Instagram. She has a great sense of humour, and she has managed to convince me to try so many different vegan recipes! I have both of her cookbooks, and her OhSheGlows recipe app.
- Speaking of Instagram people I love to keep up with, Kate of https://cookieandkate.com/ posts the most beautiful pictures of her recipes, and she has some creative and fun ideas. Also, she has an adorable dog who also is featured regularly in her posts, to my delight.
- Finally, I have signed up for regular emails from https://www.alittlenutrition.com/, and am frequently impressed and inspired by the recipes shared by Susan and her registered dietitian team.