So it’s week one of the school holidays, and for some, you’re wondering how you can possibly keep up with your child’s voracious or scattered holiday appetite.
I’m not sure how common this is, but I’ll often find my three year old hunting out food by climbing into the pantry and my two eldest following me around like shadows. Not ideal.
As a nutritionist, I want to teach my children the value of eating nourishing food, but also allowing their bodies to decide what they need, and this includes some sweet and processed foods.
So following are some tried and tested methods of keeping your children nourished and content over the school holidays without spending every waking minute in the kitchen, or remortgaging your home, or stressing about nutritional imbalance!
Make sure you have the ingredients for success- whatever that is to you.
Fruit, veggies, chewable and carb rich snacks, baking ingredients, ect (because carbs and starchy foods are necessary, not evil).
I’m a great fan of online grocery shopping, or shopping at night sans kids. Shopping without the kids means I can actually consider my purchases rather than throw them in the trolley in haste.
Prep or organise
Ok, so your fridge and pantry are well padded out with your family foods. Next job, either prepping or eating.
I’m not a prepping fan, so I generally go day by day, but a fun holiday activity could be baking with your kids, making a double (or triple) batch, and freezing some for week two.
Two birds with one stone and all that.
Baking is an incredible bonding activity if you leave plenty of time (and can breath through the mess). And it’s practical... tick.
The other thing I find helpful, despite being a non-preper, is cut up veg (carrot, cucumber, celery) put them in a container with a damp kitchen towel covering them, and voila, crunchy snacks in the fridge for the next three days. This is a great option if you're still working over the holidays too.
Frozen fruit (berries, mango, orange, grapes) is also a great at-home, on-hand, snack, you can cut and freeze or just buy it all prepared. more ideal for spring and summer break, but some children find frozen fruits calming all through the year.
Structure your meal times
I don't mean lunch has to be at 12 on the dot, but I mean when it's mealtime, we eat, and in between those times, we don't eat.
If you do a breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner structure, your children will be well fed, and less hangry.
If you don't want to be on the ball for the in between ’tea’ meals, just have a fruit bowl and a snack box, and they can pick one of each. A snack box is handy so that you can choose what ’pantry’ snacks the kids can choose from, then at morning or afternoon tea they are able to choose one.
Supplying variety at snack time, whats the easiest way?
From trial and error, I've found my kids fuel up better, and enjoy more variety if I chop up a couple of fruits and veg, and put them on a platter along with crackers and cheese or dip and crisps. Sometimes I add dried fruit, nuts, or frozen fruit, sometimes marshmallows, choc chip cookies, or some choc rice cakes.
All foods fit in our family, and supplying the children with some processed options alongside the fresh stuff means they can learn to regulate what they eat without the influence of restriction, which can lead to overconsumption of processed foods in the future.
All foods fit!
Before and afters of one of our morning teas... they they often eat it all and ask for more...
Nourishing food on school holidays doesn't need to be complex. Simple, colourful, and nourishing variety is the best. Eating the rainbow has lots of benefits, most notably, that it's tasty.
The bonus about school holidays is sometimes being home for lunch. So lunch can be leftovers! Filling, quick and easy. Embrace the essence of cooking extra the night before.
If not leftovers, this is a great time to let your children do some meal prepping... cutting, grating ect. You decide the basis for lunch then get them to help out.
Meat and salad wraps are a fun and easy option, as are toasted sandwiches and rolls, or why not try a frittata and get the kids to crack the eggs and mix them.
And lets admit, going out for lunch can be a lovely break, so enjoy those opportunities, as even these can be times to let your older kids make some good restaurant choices. Eating is all a learning curve.
How about working mums who need extra organisation?
Yep, I get you. If you’re a work from home parent, you’ll need a few tricks up your sleeve. So why not make your children a school holiday ‘lunch box’ each day. The lunch box could have all their food for the day, or just their share of snacks. Then you can just focus on life, or just lunch.