Celebrate healthy food: plan and cook your meals as a family!

Geneviève Nadeau May, 2013
Celebrate healthy food: plan and cook your meals as a family!

During nutrition month (March), why not make the best out this time to be models for the kids? Plan your meals and cook them as a family. Even if only 37% of the people plan their meals ahead1, there are many advantages in planning your grocery list and your purchases. Among other things, it saves you time and money. Regardless of what people think, planning the meals doesn’t mean to establish a detailed menu and an exhaustive grocery list. Also, to cook with your children doesn’t mean to give them complex tasks no matter the age! Here are some guidelines to help you.
Plan: a few minutes well invested!
It is possible to plan your purchases and your weekly menu in less than 10 minutes. Gather a pen, a piece of paper, and the grocery store flyers of the store near you. You can also use your smartphone to take notes. Ready!
1.    First, look into your fridge, your pantry and the freezer. What is missing? To help, think about the aisle and the sections around the grocery store: vegetables, fruits, cheese, bread, fish, milk, yogurt, frozen fruits and vegetables. Then the middle aisles: breakfast cereals, condiments, spices, herbs, crackers, fruits sauces, etc. Note the ingredients that are missing.
2.    Flip through the flyers. What missing food items are on sale? Then ask your children to choose fresh food that they would like to eat this week: Grilled chicken breast, apple as a snack, carrots in the veggies, yogurt and wild berries for breakfast, etc. Write down all your ideas.
This will help you to make wise choices once at the grocery store. Nothing useless should enter the cart! You will also know what to buy and will save a huge amount of time in the aisles.
Cook: future chefs
Kids love to cook! The youngest they are the fastest they learn to accomplish complex cooking tasks. Even very young, you can sit them in a high chair to let them watch you prepare the meals. When they reach one year, you can let them taste the meals that you are preparing using a teaspoon or the tip of your finger. After all, one of the most important aspects of cooking is to taste the food before serving it!
Later, offer them simple recipes. Here are some ideas to launch their culinary education:
–    Pie shell: ask them to mix flour with water and shortening, and show them how to roll the dough.
–    Homemade cake: Ask them to pour the batter in the cake pan or to ice the cake (ideally, mom or dad’s birthday cake as they will be so proud to prepare it!)
–    Homemade soup or spaghetti sauce: Kids love to put the ingredients in, to mix and to sprinkle spices and herbs, etc. It’s like preparing a magic potion in a large pot!
–    Sautéed vegetables: The older one will be able to cut the vegetables. Try to include new variety of vegetables to become more familiar with food that you don’t know as much (bokchoy, curly kale, purple carrots…).
Life saving ingredients
Like any parents, you may run out of time to cook and it is worth it to have certain “life saving” ingredients in you fridge or in the pantry. They will allow you to prepare quick recipes even if you did not plan them!
–    Canned fish (sardine, herring, tuna, salmon) or legumes (chick peas, lentils)
–    Tomato sauce or paste, reduced in sodium
–    Couscous, rice, whole wheat pasta
–    Canned fruits in their own juice and vegetables without added salt
–    A variety of spices and herbs
–    Various cheese, already grated
–    Carrots, turnips, green and yellow beans, broccoli and sweet potatoes (they keep very well in the fridge)
–    Bag of pre-washed salad
–    Veggie pâtés or chick peas spread
–    Eggs
–    Plain yogurt or sour cream
–    Pesto, olives, dried tomatoes, lemon (as seasoning)
–    Frozen fruits and vegetables
–    Frozen fish, chicken breast and other meat
–    Frozen tofu
–    Stuffed pasta (tortellinis, cannellonis)
–    Various breads: ciabatta, bagel, pita, English muffin, tortillas…

(1)    Survey completed by Dietitians of Canada in 2012

Categories : Food

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