In this week's guest post, Kanmani shares her strategies for meal planning in 2020. If you would like to do the same, try taking our free Making a Meal Plan lesson! You can find this free lesson under the Meal Planning category on wichealth.org.
Discipline is a very important aspect of life with a toddler. Even if one is not usually disciplined, raising a toddler involves adjusting to their sleep/wake, eat/play rhythms. In this context, planning meals ahead of time becomes very important. As one knows, when a toddler wants something, they want it now! One moment, they are into breaking the new toy. Another minute they get hungry and cranky and want their favorite food ‘right now’! If one is to keep up with the moment to moment changes and demands of the ‘boss baby’, it is vital to have some plans up the sleeve. And yes, it is ‘plans’, in plural, because one needs Plan A, B and C for the ever-changing whims and desperate demands of the toddler ruler (aka tyrant)!
One day he wants pizza and when the pizza is available, he suddenly wants a cake and nothing else. With all these demands and a parental interest in keeping nutritional needs met, it is useful to plan different dishes for the day ahead of time.
One more thing I have noticed is the influence of TV shows on my toddler’s food interests. When he watches an episode of Peppa pig where the family eats pizza, he starts whining desperately for pizza. A part of my meal planning also involves monitoring what he watches on TV for the day!
If TV shows are going to manipulate him so easily, I would rather use it to my advantage as a parent. I select the shows on eating fruits and vegetables before a meal, so he is excited about eating them because Peppa and George ate them that day!
Of course, I do not encourage this TV manipulation very much. Just in very mild doses!
To come to the actual meal planning, I consider the nutritional needs first: carbohydrates, proteins, fats, minerals and vitamins, not to forget, water and juices to maintain adequate hydration for a kid who is always on-the-go.
Some items require planning the night before, such as soaking chickpeas overnight (excellent source of protein), tapioca seeds (for a healthy starchy breakfast dish) or multi-bean mixes (called ‘navdahan’ or the multi-beans mix one can get from Walmart). I also soak raw almonds overnight. The peel comes off in the morning and it makes for a hydrated super nutritious side snack. Any of these can be put on a toothpick to make a bean-popsicle. My little one also loves black beans. Soaking beans overnight makes cooking them super easy in the mornings. I especially love my instant pot for this purpose.
Most fruits and vegetables only need thorough washing and not much soaking. I can always make fruit popsicles if I have them available. I make sure to shop for at least 3 different fruits and vegetables when I shop.
Planning for a healthy meal is an ongoing process. It starts with an awareness of nutritional needs and ends with a wholesome meal, only to restart the planning for the next meal!
For carbohydrates, I keep a good supply of rice, various kinds of pasta, noodles and grains handy. Based on my little one’s interest (and my own mood!), I cook one of these items. Being of South Indian heritage, at least one rice meal a day is a must for me. I generously use the rice cookers I bought for this purpose. They make cooking rice easy. The instant pot also helps with cooking pasta briefly for 1 minute and then sauté on a pan.
No meal is complete for our family without yogurt! Yogurt provides protein, calcium and other nutrients, and it also contains beneficial bacterial cultures. If my kid won’t eat plain yogurt one day, then I have mango lassi or other yummy yogurt-based treats. I encourage plain yogurt more to stay off of the sugars as much as possible.
Nuts, fruits and vegetables are always on the menu too.
Having a variety in stock allows me to both be planned as well as spontaneous with my meal planning, ensuring that I can include all the different food groups at almost every meal.
The last but never the least, I try to introduce coconut water, juices and plain water in the diet.
One of my struggles this year has been not adequately planning for the accessory ingredients for my recipes. For instance, I made home-made yogurt for buttermilk but forgot to buy curry leaves! Or I missed buying green chilies for my pasta meal.
My new year’s plan is to fill up the recipe book that has been waiting for the pen in the kitchen drawer and fill out my tried and tested recipes in it.
I plan to glance at the recipes for the day and make sure to get all the ingredients ready, be it purchasing cilantro from the store or grinding up some ginger-garlic paste or roasting and crushing up peanuts for garnishing my dishes for the day.
I have often found myself starting a dish, just to realize that I don’t have everything I need, to get the best taste for that dish.
With my new recipe book, I hope to eliminate these planning errors as well as have a written legacy to pass onto my little guy when grows up to cook for himself.
Well, that is a very long-term plan. For now, I am going to go fill up my recipe book and make sure to plan my family’s meals to make wholesome, tasty and nutritious food. Eating good food adds joy to life!
Happy meal planning and a happy new year!
This blog was written by one of our guest WIC mom bloggers, Kanmani.
Hello! I am a mom to an active 2 year old. When I'm not chasing after him, I enjoy the outdoors, painting, writing, reading and movies. I am also a music buff and enjoy many genres of music. My latest passion is cooking. Find my cooking tips, recipes and motherhood experiences on my personal blog, KanmaniWrites.com.
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