Do you guys struggle with feeding your kids healthy as much as I do?? With each new addition to our family, the stress level at mealtime increases and my desire to make a big elaborate meal (that 87% of my children won’t eat) DEcreases. So instead, I stock my house full of healthy-ish packaged staples so that we always have something easy to fall back on.
I want to feed my kids healthy, whole foods but I also want to stay sane!! And cooking everything from scratch is just not always an option.
Below are a few of my favorite family-friendly healthy kitchen products and a few other tips to get whole foods on the table quickly. I hope they help your mealtime rush!
- Know what ingredients to watch out for. It’s amazing what kind of preservatives and garbage you’ll find in packaged foods: from pancake and cake mixes to processed meats and cheeses. It’d be impossible for me to list all the bad stuff out there but I generally go by the rule of trying to only purchase items with 5 ingredients or fewer. We do our best to avoid hydrogenated fats and oils of any kind (did you know this is in Cool Whip??), High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), monosodium glutamate (MSG…shockingly still in lots of stuff!), nitrites and nitrates (in bacon and lunch meats) and added sugar.
- Pick 3-4 favorite from-scratch recipes for each meal and store them in a book. Always keep your kitchen stocked with ingredients for these favorites. Some of our breakfast favorites include this waffle recipe, this GF muffin recipe and this granola recipe. Cereal has been hard for us to kick (and we still sometimes splurge) but it’s really just processed wheat and sugar for breakfast and I know I feel like crap when I eat it! Yes, it takes a little extra time to make meals from scratch. Yes, sometimes I just wanna dump milk in a mix or pop in some frozen burritos…but with a little planning ahead, it’s easy to whip these out and store them for future meals (homemade pancakes, waffles, burritos and muffins all freeze wonderfully!). And I rest easy at night knowing exactly what I’m putting in my little ones’ bodies.
3. Stock your kitchen with whole-food staples like the ones in the picture above! This post is not sponsored in any way, these are just some of my favorites:
*pure maple syrup from Costco: yes it’s expensive, but I’ve taught my kids to only use a small amount and it’s better than the HFCS-laden big brand syrups
*unsweetened Greek yogurt: I realize that kids love yogurt but the stereotypical kid yogurts are chock full of dyes and sugars…some have more than 20 grams!! We prefer to buy unsweetened and then add some berries or honey.
*natural peanut butter: most pb’s have hydrogenated oils added, simply so you don’t have to stir them. No thanks! It took us some experimenting to find a brand we love but this “Adams” brand from WinCo comes in creamy and crunchy and is delicious!
*whole wheat bread with no sugar: I buy ours at the Alpine Valley factory near our house but they sell this bread at our local Costco as well. Once I tried to buy bread at our local big grocery store, and I couldn’t find a SINGLE loaf without added sugar in it plus a billion other ingredients. Alpine Valley uses honey and only about 5 ingredients. And it’s super good!
*Natural applesauce: my kids eat this stuff like candy! We like this Motts variety with no added sugar.
4. Cut out most prepackaged snacks. I feel a little bad for our babysitters when they peek in our pantry looking for a treat cause we ain’t got nothing: no chips, no cookies, no crackers, nada. We weren’t always this way but over the years, I’ve figured out 2 things:
1. my kids don’t eat real food if snacks are available. Having fishy crackers or granola bars available is a surefire way to make sure my kids won’t eat lunch.
2. When packaged snacks aren’t available, my kids will snack on fruits and veggies. Seriously! I always keep a bowl of fruit out on the counter and when they’re hungry between meals, that’s where I send them. My kids also love carrots and cucumbers and sometimes baby bell peppers with hummus.
**If you gradually make it a goal to stop buying these, you’ll be surprised how quickly you don’t miss them! And I’m always happy when my kids are hungry at mealtime. If you have snacks that you yourself can’t live without, hide them! Maybe you’ll break some bad habits too!
5. Take a little extra time at the store one day and find 4 or 5 prepackaged meals (or easy to prepare ideas) that fit the tips above. I love to have a couple frozen options that I know are relatively healthy and will rescue me on nights when there’s no time for real dinner. Some of my favorites are:
*frozen bean & cheese burritos from Costco with no preservatives (sorry, I can’t remember the brand!)
*using frozen pita bread to make quick pizzas with bottled sauce and mozzarella cheese
*leftover frozen waffles (just stick them in the toaster!)
*rotisserie chicken with yummy french bread and good cheeses
*blending up a quick soup with roasted veggies (butternut squash & cauliflower are favorites)
*whipping up some tacos with leftover meat and veggies.
It takes a little preparation and ingenuity but eating whole, unprocessed foods tastes so much better; it’s totally worth it!
Lest this post makes you all think we’re perfect over here…right now we’ve got Lucky Charms, nutrigrain bars and fruit snacks hanging around (what happens when dad does the shopping) but we try to make that kind of junk an occasional treat. I use my best judgement when buying packaged foods for my family and just do the best that I can. I think that we moms often get freaked about all the stuff we’re not doing right, that we forget about how far we’ve come! The trick is just to improve, a little at a time.
Good luck, mamas!