It’s no secret that moms have the hardest job on earth. While I don’t claim that title myself, working as a nanny for years has given me a glimpse into the chaos that may go on behind closed doors, especially around meal time. Finding the time and energy to create healthy meals for your family (let alone yourself!) can be a job all on its own, so here are some healthy cooking hacks to make it easy, fun, and quick to get food on the table and into lunchboxes.
Dinner & Lunch Packed Hack: Cook tomorrow’s lunch tonight with your children and make it really fun. It’s best to start with foods your children really enjoy, like ‘build your own pizza,’ or ‘taco bar’ night. Then you can tell the kids, “You’re really lucky! You get to have pizza for dinner tonight AND lunch tomorrow.” They’ll be doubly enthralled for lunch the next day; one, because they cooked it themselves and two, because it’s pizza! But secretly, it will be healthy pizza on a whole wheat or gluten-free crust with fresh marinara and veggies (and possibly tofu cheese). Just make it fun for them and the meal will have a positive connotation attached. You can pack their lunch, or even better, have them pack it with you while you’re cleaning up dinner. Make sure those tupperwares are handy! For our quick and healthy pizza crust recipe click here www.thekalewhale.com/recipes/2015/8/16/easy-as-pizza-pie-polenta-crust-vegan?rq=polenta%20pizza
Meal Prep Sundays: Dedicate 2-3 hours of cooking on Sundays for the week ahead, making it a fun and positive part of your routine. Make staple food items so you can switch up meals throughout the week but use the same ingredients. What I mean by this is cook a grain or two (rice, pasta), roast a bunch of veggies, cut fruit up in bite-size ready pieces, and bake your favorite go-to proteins. Our favorite plant-based proteins are baked beans, lentil-walnut meat, baked tofu, hummus and nuts. I usually enjoy a delicious sauce to pair with meals and there are plenty of organic sauces in the grocery market to choose from these days. Now you have the necessities for a grab-and-toss-together kind of meal. Think: taco night, pizza night, Asian stir-fry, etc… Since you’ve done the prep ahead of time, it’s all there and ready - just add the seasoning to your themed night. Have the kids cook with you, they’ll like the way it tastes better when they’re involved.
Get Your Tupperware Game Locked Down! (and water bottle too!) Investing in quality tupperware is well worth the purchase. Food stays fresher, things are more organized and it’s just so darn convenient during meal prep days. Use tupperware to your advantage by storing grab-n-go snacks in fridge and freezer. For example: Cut up fruits like giant watermelon or pineapple, putting half in the fridge and the remaining half in the freezer (frozen fruits make awesome smoothies). Tupperware keeps us consistent; use the same tupperware each day when packing lunches so kids will know what to expect. It also makes it easier on you to think of lunch combos. You’ll have your fruit container, veggies container with some type of dip space, an entree sized container (like a sandwich container). Leave room in their lunch box or backpack for hydration: ideally 32 oz. of water (water bottles like Hydroflasks are great to keep it cold and icy) and maybe a coconut water or low sugar juice. Kids (and adults for that matter) need more hydration than we account for. Sometimes we forget that they’re playing hard at recess and gym class. Weather is always a factor too. Their brains will function better the more hydrated they are. Investing in a good lunch box and water-bottle will go a long way.
Healthy Sweet Treats: Let’s face it, whether we are kids or adults we all want to finish our lunch or dinner with a sweet treat. When I was a kid, I had to have dessert; it was my favorite part of lunch. But Chips Ahoy ain't cutting it these days! Now that we know the negative effects of ingredients like high fructose corn syrup, pre-packaged sweets are just not an option. Since organic, homemade, real ingredient treats made at your local healthfood shop would cost a fortune to feed a family on the daily, we’ve come up with some simple ideas for you. Make your own trail mix (dark chocolate, nuts, dried fruits) almond pulp cookies, baked cinnamon granola with chocolate, silken tofu pudding, chocolate “milkshakes” (non-dairy), dark chocolate bark, black bean brownies, cashew cream cheesecake, the list is endless. Recipes for these types of snacks can be found by doing a quick Google or Pinterest search. If time allows, on your meal prep day, bake a giant tray of brownies or cookies. Tell the family this has to last through the week as dessert. If your week is too dang busy to bake, we love the dark chocolate bark sold at Costco. It's made with fair trade vegan chocolate and almonds. It’s only $10 and always a healthier option than Oreos. Here is an easy recipe to our 3 Ingredient Vegan Chocolate Pie. Delicious and healthy, and no baking required! www.thekalewhale.com/recipes/2015/8/17/3-ingredient-chocolate-pie-dairy-free?rq=dessert
Breakfast smoothies - sneak in da greens! Smoothies help you pack in nutrients first thing in the morning, allowing us to easily ingest a variety of nutrients, many of which we might not get during the day with our regular food intake. It is important to give your kids that nutritional blast right off the bat to set them up for a successful day. It is easy to mask the taste of kale or spinach in smoothies, plus you can add some great superfoods to give them that extra boost. Here is one of our favorite go-to kid friendly smoothie recipes: Creamy Dreamy Pineapple: 1⁄4 frozen avocado, 1⁄2 frozen banana, 1 1⁄2 cup pineapple, 3-4 kale leaves, 1 tsp spirulina, 1⁄2 cup water, 1 handful of ice. Blend.
Bonus tip ** Dad cooks too If you can get dad involved, even better! This way the whole family builds an understanding of how to create meals. It also helps the family build a relationship with food, understanding food truly is thy medicine.
Erin Whalen and Schanen Smith are co-founders of The Kale Whale, an educational platform created to share the benefits of an anti-inflammatory, plant-based diet. With a firm belief in "food is thy medicine," The Kale Whale inspires others to create healthy lifestyle habits in an easy, manageable and holistic way. Erin holds a MA in Dance Education & Wellness Management from University of Hawaii at Manoa. She specializes on the interrelation between athleticism and a plant based diet. With a background in Public Relations and Marketing, Schanen spearheads the content creation for the Kale Whale to disseminate this valuable information to the masses. Learn more at www.thekalewhale.com