March is National Nutrition Month, so be sure to watch our blog for lots of great information about healthy cooking, meal preparation and recipes provided by the nutrition experts at Hendricks Regional Health.
In many single and two-parent households, dads are in charge of cooking and meal preparation. At times, this can feel like a daunting task.
My son-in-law was a single dad for awhile and I asked his opinion on how he helped raise his son to enjoy fruits and vegetables and a wide variety of foods. He would pick up his son from daycare and then have a long drive home leaving little room for meal preparation. But he always made mealtime a priority for him and his son. He cooked every night and his son would help in the kitchen. Another great tip from my son-in-law was that he and his ex discussed how important meal time was and they agreed that at each house their son would have home cooked meals with a healthy focus. This avoided conflicts that might have arisen between how meals are handled at one household versus another. He also tried to make double recipes so that he had leftovers that he could use during the week.
Food, nutrition and eating skills are some of the most important skills parents can teach their children. As a health educator, I want every child to grow up with a healthy and positive view of food and food culture that ultimately culminates in a healthy child. Food is a constant in our world. We eat for nourishment, pleasure and energy. Parenting involves many skills but one of the most important and often overlooked is the role dads’ play in mentoring and teaching their children to be healthy eaters with good social skills.
Planning Tips for Dads (and Moms too!)
Plan your meals for the week. Start with knowing what your children like to eat but don’t let that stop you from introducing new and different foods. Kids do have particular likes and dislikes but with frequent introduction of new foods, children will get accustom to trying new foods and flavors. One idea is to assign a particular cuisine or theme to a day with an emphasis on fruits and vegetables.
- Mondays could be crock pot night. You can prepare this meal on Sunday and have dinner ready when you gather back home on Monday night. Toss in meats, veggies, spices and water for a home cooked meal that is ready when you hit the door.
- Tuesdays might be Mexican or Oriental night. Plan a one dish meal that you can prepare on Saturday or Sunday and bake off Tuesday after work. Include a salad and a vegetable and fruit to round out the meal. You can get more for your time when you make a double batch and freeze a pan to bake off at a later time.
- Wednesdays could be breakfast night with eggs or a baked egg casserole. Add veggies in the eggs and serve fruit on the side. Let the kids chop and dice under your watchful eye. Kids love being in the kitchen and enjoy helping. Research shows the more kids are allowed in the kitchen they are more inclined to try new foods and eat a wider variety of foods.
- Thursdays could be soup night or picnic night. Let your children help prepare veggies for the soup or make sandwiches for the “picnic”. You can even have a theme for the picnic or soup night to make it more interesting. Weather permitting, you can eat supper on the deck or balcony or take your picnic supper to the park while the kids get a chance to play outside.
- Fridays might be Italian night with spaghetti, lasagna or even the occasional pizza pie. While pizza is often a staple in American’s diets we tend to eat too this dish too often. Pizza can be high in fat and calories and sometimes limiting ourselves to one or two slices is difficult. Pizza can be a fun food and kids enjoy helping to prepare a pizza pie just pile on the veggies to make this dish healthier – but make this dish only occasionally.
- Saturdays can be fun by taking the little ones grocery shopping and encouraging them to pick out a new fruit or vegetable to try during the week. Then you can try a new recipe on Saturday. If it is a success you can add the dish to one of your weekday suppers.
- Sundays might be more relaxing with healthy snacks for little ones to graze on with one main family meal during the day. Keep a bowl of fresh fruit and cut up veggies in the fridge so the kids have fun and colorful foods available to them all day long. Sundays are also a good time to chop and store fruits and veggies for the entire week. This makes weekday meal preparation easier when your time is crunched at the end of the day.
Stay tuned for more great tips later this week!