Living Well

Family Wellness & Meal Planning Tips for Busy Parents

Julie Fortenberry, RD, LDN
Family Wellness & Meal Planning Tips for Busy Parents

Prioritizing Family Nutrition

Feeding an active family a nutritious menu is never easy, especially when time is short and picky eaters are on board. Just like there is no “one way” to parent, there is not “one way” to provide wellness to your family.

What is important is that you learn what works best for your group of loved ones, and make wellness a priority. Maybe it’s not searching the internet for healthy meals (that you don’t have time to cook at home), but it’s learning how to eat out at restaurants and make healthier choices. Maybe it’s not joining a gym like your best friend, but it’s finding exercises that you can do at home when the kids are in bed. Maybe it’s not making your picky eater clean his or her plate of spinach (like you have been taught to do), but teaching your child why we eat healthy foods.

Picky Eaters

Let’s look into this concept of picky eaters.  As children transition through life, they tend to go through picky stages of eating. This is normal!  There aren’t too many two-year-olds who eat a full plate of vegetables. What tends to happen is that we assume our children will never like vegetables, and we never reintroduce them. They then develop into teenagers who don’t like eating vegetables.

Being a picky eater is typically a personality trait. Some children are just more open-minded to trying new foods, where others are stubborn and resistant. Again, this is normal! Our role as parents is to learn what healthy food choices are, provide these foods to our children, encourage (not force) eating of these healthy foods, and to lead by example!

Here are a few easy tips to help you plan ahead and incorporate healthy foods with every meal.

  • Plan ahead- meals, grocery list, etc. Get the family involved in healthy decisions.
  • Build your meals around lean protein and then pick vegetables as these should be your main focus. Then add in a healthy carbohydrate option.
  • Choose lean meats such as skinless chicken, pork loin, eye of round, fish, 93% lean ground beef, ham and turkey.
  • Spend extra time in the produce section. Choose a variety of colors. Buy fruits and vegetables that are on sale as it is a great option to freeze fresh produce for later use. .
  • When choosing whole-grain cereals, aim for at least 3 grams of fiber per serving, and the less sugar, the better. Keep in mind that one level teaspoon of sugar equals 4 grams and let this guide your selections.
  • Practice the “one new thing” rule- Try a new vegetable, fruit, healthy product, etc. Something that you didn’t like as a kid or completely new to the family. Variety is key.
  • Talk to your children about why we eat nutritious food. For example, ask “did you know that when you eat these carrots they help improve your vision? Did you know that when you eat this egg it helps build your muscles?”

Fortenberry, JulieJulie Fortenberry, RD, LDN is a registered dietitian at Touro Infirmary. She obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of Southern Mississippi. Julie believes that lifestyle changes and wholesome nutrition are obtainable, and brings real-life understanding to wellness and nutritional counseling.