Guest Post: Q&A with Lunches + Littles

Hi Kizingo blog readers! It’s Lunches + Littles here today with a little Q & A session!

If you don’t already follow me over on my feed; I am a busy Mama of three little ones (ages 2, 4 and 5 years), and as you can probably imagine, life can get a bit hectic at times in our home. That’s why I work hard over at @lunchesandlittles to develop recipes that are doable for real life, all while being kid-friendly, healthy and full of color. I am a huge believer that we all (especially our little ones) eat with our eyes first, so naturally, showcasing color as part of a healthy dish is very important to me. One of the hopes with my feed is that I will inspire other parents to offer up healthy, real foods in a colorful and/or fun way.

Now, I know that a lot of parents can be intimidated when it comes to offering little ones real, whole foods. But, they don’t need to be. The recipes I share on my feed are the same ones I make in my home and serve to my own family. And here is what I want you to know - real food really can be fun– and enjoyed by the whole family! I share a wide-range of recipes on my feed; everything from vegan dishes to dairy-free ice cream, meat free and meat centered; I like to think I have recipes for everyone – so be sure to check it out!

But for right now, I am answering five of the most commonly asked questions I get from followers. So, let’s get right to it!

Tell us about your meal planning? How do you plan meals for your family for the week?

I am actually NOT a big meal planner, which everyone is always really surprised to learn. I am friends with a lot of meal-planning mamas and follow several more online, and I am always so amazed at their organized planning. While this is something that I want to get better with, it is definitely not an area that I have mastered at this stage.

When it comes to planning – day to day things look different, but the most I usually plan in advance is a main dish, and then throughout the day (usually mid-afternoon) I will take a look in the fridge and counters and see what kinds of sides, etc. I can whip up with what I have. Other days when I have no main dish planned, I will start around mid-afternoon thinking up a whole meal. As much as possible, we try not to waste food, so I often times need to get extra creative coming up with a full meal, but something always works out. This may not be the best approach for everyone, but it works for us right now, and I always have a little fun with it too.

What are a few favorite menu items in your household?

Like most little ones, my kiddos love pasta (and so do I!), but we don’t serve traditional pasta that often. I use a lot of zoodles and other spiralized noodles to make healthier versions of pasta dishes, as well as to incorporate some kind of noodle into other non-pasta centered dishes. For example, this Sausage, Apple, Spiralized Sweet Potato + More Tray Bake. Having said that, we do enjoy an occasional bowl of spaghetti and meatballs every now and then, because I truly believe that life is all about balance!

My family also really likes chicken and so we do a lot with that. A couple current favorite recipes include these Kid-Friendly Buffalo Chicken Tacos, Balsamic Chicken and Veggies Sheet Pan Dinner and this One Pan Chicken Cacciatore with Spiralized Zoodles.

Do you really believe that repeated exposure of new or disliked foods can help a child change their mind?

Yes. I do! I remember being really frustrated as a first-time mom with questions like, “Why won’t my son eat what I give him?”“How can he not like _______?”even after just a couple offerings. It wasn’t until my son was a little older (and we already had another babe) when I read for the first time that you often need to offer or expose a new food twenty times or so before a child will be interested. Twenty times? Yeah, I was surprised too. A couple kids later though and I am not – I have found that it can often take even more than twenty exposures in our home. But, I have seen with my own eyes children come around to different foods when the repetition is demonstrated. Like most things – persistence pays off.

Any quick tips for picky eaters?

One of my favorite tips is to get kids involved – in the kitchen, at the store, etc. Getting little ones involved in the process surrounding meals from the shopping to the actual meal prep can do wonders for a child’s desire to eat foods.

 Now I know that a lot of us prefer to grocery shop alone, but I think this is a missed opportunity. Letting our little ones help at the store is a great way to encourage healthy habits and teach our children about the foods they eat. Even if you can’t make it work every time you go the store, make an effort to grocery shop with your kiddos as much as possible. And, once at the store, let them be hands on… let them help pick out the brightest carrots, the “coolest” shaped sweet potatoes, the biggest bunches of broccoli, etc. It may seem like a small thing, but when your little one feels like they are part of the process, I have found that they are more excited to see the end result and eat the food!

 And, don’t let the helping end when you leave the store. Getting your kids in the kitchen is not only another way to bond with your little one; it’s also a great way to teach them new skills (mixing, pouring, etc.). I love seeing how proud our kiddos are when they help my husband and/or I prep meals. And when they are proud, they are excited, and often can’t wait to eat what they made.

 Another tip is to get creative and fun with the food you serve. Sometimes it is as simple as cutting a veggie into a shape using a mini food cutter. Small changes in the presentation of food can go a really long way. For more fun plating ideas check out my feed,@lunchesandlittles.

Your feed always looks so healthy. Does your family eat healthy all the time?

I get asked this a lot, especially as it pertains to snacks in our home, since I do share a fair amount of homemade “treats” on my feed. No, not every single meal I serve is homemade, and not every dinner plate is full of whole foods and greens. Oh, and my kids do know what fruit snacks, pudding cups and goldfish crackers are, and believe it or not – they have even had a sugar filled popsicle or two.

When at home I do try as much as possible to serve my family healthier options. When I make treats at home, I know exactly what is in them and the ingredients are far better and far less in number than their store-bought competition. So homemade treats like these No Bake Homemade Chocolately Granola Bars,Dairy-Free Chocolate Chocolate Chip Ice Cream, and Strawberry and Orange Ombre Fruit Popsare often made and loved. Meal wise – we eat out at restaurants, we get together with friends who serve varying dishes, and we enjoy favorites on occasion too (my personal weakness: Chinese takeout). One thing I have said before but it’s worth repeating – I usually share a post or two a day on my feed, Monday through Friday. So, if I share 7-10 posts a week, that is less than half of the dishes we consume as a family. So, if your plates don’t all look like my feed; know that neither do ours! Only a fraction ever make the cut.

Anything else you want to share?

Yes! Something I am really passionate about is getting out to your local Farmer’s Markets. And right now, the markets are back open for almost everyone, so it is the perfect time to talk about it…

We make it a habit each weekend to visit at least one farmer’s market, though lately, we have been going to two or three. Our entire family loves the experience, and we love that our kids get to be exposed to so many fresh foods up close. I have found that when little ones get to touch and choose different foods and be such an integral part of the selection process, it really helps with mealtime success later on at home.

Each weekend we let our oldest two kids (ages 4 and 5 years) choose at least one new-to-them food from the market, with the understanding that they will be trying it at some point throughout the weekend in a meal or for a snack (some examples:green plums, duck eggs, salt and pepper cucumbers, etc.). Week to week, these new-to-them foods may not always result in a new love for the foods chosen, but again - exposure is key! And with continued exposure to new foods, you are not only broadening your little one’s palate, you are also making them a little more adventurous around food overall, and that is something that may very well stick with them for a lifetime!

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Thank you Kizingo for having me here, and thank you for reading. If you have other questions about meal times, let’s connect over on my feed; @lunchesandlittles. And, be sure to follow along over there for delicious, colorful recipes that are vibrant, nutritious and easy to make! And stay tuned for a @lunchesandlittles giveaway coming to @kizingokids Instagram soon!

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