Eating healthy on the weekends requires a different set of skills than following a healthy diet during the week. Don’t employ the same approach to nutrition when you’re working vs playing because your needs will be different and the challenges are varied as well. As a physician and a mom concerned about optimizing my family’s health, I try to start planning our weekend meals on Friday. Here are some ideas:
1. Be flexible. The weekend is about having fun, so while planning will help you to stay generally on track, have options available should your original meal plan need to change. For example, we live in Chicago and should get some warm weather this weekend. But, things can be unpredictable. I’m going to have food on hand that could work for dinner indoors or a picnic, to optimize our ability to get some fresh air and sunshine, should the weather permit it.
2. Stock up on veggies. Load up your kitchen with a variety of vegetables. This way you can offer your family a myriad of healthy choices for snacks and meals. My kids feel they’re in control when I ask them to each pick one vegetable for our dinner. “Do you want carrots, green beans, spinach, cauliflower, red peppers, cucumbers or broccoli? You can each pick one.” If I didn’t have so many options, it wouldn’t be as fun and empowering for them to help plan their meals. Also, when they get stuck between two choices, I can be The Queen Of Niceness and allow both!
3. Make fruit your go to snack and dessert. Just as with vegetables, I try to have many fruit alternatives available. “For your snack, do you want an apple, a banana, some berries, a pear, an orange or a kiwi?” If I keep junk food in the house, we’ll eat it, right? Hey, we’re only human. I don’t tempt my family with a choice between cookies and pineapple. Why start the whining from my four year old? When all of the options are healthy, they quickly find something they like from the nutritious selection.
4. Make vegetables half of your plate for lunch and dinner. For the adults, I usually have a salad and one or two other veggies. For the kids, I try to cover 1/2 – 3/4 of their plate with a colorful array of fresh chopped produce. In a bind (think Chicago winters) when my kitchen isn’t stocked, I open up cans of corn, green beans and peas with carrots. Putting a spoonful of each on their plates make the options colorful and interesting. Whatever they don’t eat goes back in the fridge for the next meal. If we’re having a picnic in the park or on the beach, the kids like opening up container after container of colorful produce.
5. Host meals, play dates and sleepovers. Its easy to get pulled in many directions as your kids get older and have a plethora of activities. By hosting their friends for meals, you can influence what they eat and stay involved in their lives. From lunchtime play dates for pre-schoolers, to Saturday night dinner, movie and (unbuttered, minimally salted popcorn) nights for older kids, you can keep your kids around and influence their nutrition, even if the ideal family meal around the dining room table doesn’t always happen.
Have a fabulous weekend and thanks for listening. I wish you the best of health!
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