Because we are primarily a raw and whole food household, kids mealtimes are easy. We rarely argue over meals that the kids don't want to eat; I don't surprise them with new recipes- I stick to the tried, true and simple approach.
I prepare the kids' plates visually- I look for food group representation- protein, carbohydrate & fats, and then I look at the color for nutrient representation. Here is a typical meal for my (almost) 7 year old (those are sweet peas in the pods on the side)
I want to see about 50% of her plate carbs, the remaining 50% protein and fat. I look for a wide palette of color. This meal took about 10 minutes to prepare, basically the time it took to boil the noodles. Everything else was prepped.
Seth's meals are just a pureed variation, minus the protein right now which he gets from breastmilk. Because I make homemade baby food I prepare his meals with the same thinking. Rather than feeding him a serving of one food (like a jar of baby food) I serve him small portions of many foods for nutritional balance at every meal. Here is a perfect example- squash, mixed beans, sweet peas, carrots, banana & kiwi.
The other thing that I consider when preparing meals is food combining. "Food combining is the term for a nutritional approach that focuses less upon the quantity and kind of food consumed, and more upon the timing of their consumption."
The theory is that different kinds of food have different digestion times, and poor food combining can lead to gastrointestinal difficulties. For example, if an animal protein takes 2-3 hours to digest while an apple takes 30 minutes, eating the 2 together will delay the digestion of the apple, resulting in fermentation of the sugar in the stomach, causing indigestion, gas and bloating. I keep laminated food combining charts on my fridge for constant reference, and I swear by it. Here are some food combining charts you can reference, I just did a quick google:
Text Chart with Digestion Times
Text Chart with Digestion Times
The last thing I will mention regarding mealtime at my house is that we strive for it to be very low pressure and stress free. There are so many challenges when it comes to a healthy diet, I roll with what works. For example, our family rarely eats together in a structured meal- it's just what works for us. It might take Jenny an hour of grazing to finish the meal above, but she will eat every bite. Rather than try to time all of our eating in sync, with some being rushed and others being delayed, we just do our own thing- low pressure, good eating meal time. Jenny usually watches a movie and grazes; her dad eats quickly and is onto his next task. I am Mama Bear in the middle with the warm porridge. Mornings are challenging because we are on such a schedule for school and I HATE barking "eat, eat, eat" at Jenny. It annoys us all :) Yes we compromise mealtime as family time every day, but I like to think we make it up in other ways, and when we do have a family meal it is a special occasion.
So this is what works for us. Perhaps it is a bit unconventional but my whole family subscribes to a very healthy food plan- meals are relaxed, nutritious and consistent in my house, so I have achieved my goals!
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