Key Ingredient is thrilled to introduce our first back-to-school mommy blogger subjects, Nicole & Natalia from Sneaky Mommies blog. In this featured Q&A, Nicole & Natalia share some of their favorite family-friendly recipes along with a meal strategy on how to plan and prepare meals that their children will enjoy.
There are a few essential concepts we employ for our back to school meal time strategy.
First off, we have a comprehensive master list of meals, which is basically a list of meals that we make and know that our kids enjoy. This makes it easier when meal planning, as you can quickly refer to your list and check off which ever ones work for that week.
Next, we are big meal planners. We create a menu for the week on Friday or Saturday, followed by grocery shopping on Sunday. This helps take the stress out of what’s for dinner, as everything has already been planned and we know that we have the ingredients on hand. It also helps us look ahead to see what is happening that week in terms of extra curricular's so that we can plan accordingly. Busy days call for pasta and crock pot dishes, and extra busy days are leftovers with the addition of a new veggie and grain.
Even though we must confess we do not do this regularly, we sometimes schedule a prep day. Sometimes on Sunday evenings we take an hour or two and prep some of the produce that we purchased for the week. We divide up meats based on portions and our meal plan and prep them and freeze them. We chop up any fruits and veggies we will be using and store them in the fridge. And lastly we also prep snacks for the week, so granola bars, healthy muffins, protein balls and so forth. This really helps cut down on the stress levels and prep time during the week.
Another thing that we have been doing as of late that has been very helpful is making extras of meals over the summer months and freezing them. That way, when things are super hectic, it’s just a matter of defrosting and making a salad or grilling up some veggies and dinner is served.
Natalia: One of my absolute favorite back to school meals is our Chicken Tacos loaded with hidden veggies. The meal takes no time at all to put together, 30 minutes in total and includes ground chicken with hidden peppers and zucchini, and the best part is that the kids pick their own toppings. We always put out salsa or pico de gallo, cheddar cheese, plain Greek yogurt and avocado and the kids love it.
Nicole: One of our favorite family meals is our Chicken Pot Pie, especially when the weather starts to cool in fall. What I love is I can use any leftover chicken or turkey that I have and quickly whip up this pie which is filled with veggies. Topping it with puff pastry is the cherry on top. This is one of my daughter’s favorite meals which feeds her protein and lots of veggies while tasting delicious, so it’s a win-win.
Picky eating is the reason why Sneaky Mommies started in the first place, so we definitely have some great hacks to help with this!
As our name suggests, we create meals that sneak healthy ingredients into family favorites. So take our Bolognese Sauce as an example, we have sneaked 7 vegetables into it and it doesn’t taste any different than a standard sauce (even better we would say!). It’s all about cutting the vegetables up as small as possible and ensuring that the familiar taste stays the same.
In addition to this, we are always sprinkling hemp, chia or flax seeds on everything to provide their meals with an added boost of nutrition. They’ve become so accustomed to it that they don’t question it anymore.
Of course, sneaking vegetables isn’t the only way (or the best way), to get your kids to stop being picky eaters. We have found, that serving a plate of cut up fruits and veggies with dinner always help. This way, if the main meal isn’t something that they love, their other option is to reach for the fruits or veggies. In addition, we always have one thing available that we know they do like. Think pita bread, hummus, or a fruit and vegetable they don’t mind, that way there is always a safe option for them.
Next, we try and make it fun! We make this really delicious basil, spinach and avocado pesto, but instead of calling it pesto, we call it “Hulk Pasta”. During dinner time the kids take “Hulk Bites” and we have the opportunity to get a little silly at the dinner table.
Another way we make it fun is by using a stick to eat. It sounds crazy, but eating with a small wooden skewer or a toothpick, makes it a whole new experience for them. In addition to this, we try to make what they are eating look fun. So for example, we might use a special cutter to cut veggies and fruits into fun shapes like hearts or stars. This seems to completely distract the kids from what they’re eating because they’re more excited about looking and talking about the shapes as they eat them. Sometimes we also arrange the fruits and veggies into some sort of image on the plate, like making a smiley face. So it becomes a game of “oh, now I am eating the nose!”
Lastly, another thing we do as our kids are fiercely independent is give them some control. We let them pick their own toppings and basically create a buffet of options for them to choose from. If all of the options are healthy, then you’ve got yourself a winning combination. What also helps is just asking them what would make these veggies more fun – a dip, ketchup, putting it in a pita (all things our kids have come up with), and when they have the power, they are more likely to eat it.
Sneaky Mommies bloggers, Nicole and Natalia team up to spread recipe inspiration by testing and perfecting family-friendly recipes. From kid-friendly chicken tacos with pineapple-cucumber salsa to flank steak in a balsamic mushroom sauce – these recipes are made to be nutritious and appetizing for the whole family!
If you or someone you know would be interested in being featured in a Key Ingredient foodie Q&A, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org