Favorite Meals to Bring New Moms

We have all been in those early days after giving birth when the sleep deprivation is real and the ordeal to make breakfast, lunch, or dinner just seems beyond our abilities. We are starving 24/7 and yet we don't even have two hands free to open a wrapper let alone to put a meal together that extends beyond a protein bar.

That's why you need a #MomSquad to step in.

For some, this is made up predominantly of family. For others, it is a solid group of friends. Either way, every new mom (or mom to a newborn+other littles, especially!) needs a little love postpartum by way of good nutrition. And although there is lots to be said about the nutritional demands of a new mom, I'll save that for another post. Today, we are talking about the meals that we moms can bring other moms to support them and their families in those early, sleepless days. 

Because the best meal for a new mom is one she actually gets to eat!

 
my favorite things (1).png
 

 

In this post, I will share some tried-and-true recommendations on:

  • What makes a great meal for new moms

  • Favorite meals to bring new moms

  • What you can do if you live too far to bring a new mom a meal


What makes a great meal for new moms

The obvious, sentimental answer is the fact that you are just seeking to support this new mom so pretty much any item she doesn't have to make will taste amazing to her! But beyond the emotional aspect of offering to bring someone a meal, here are some practical tips to consider:

Cost

This is obviously an added expense, so consider up front how much you are willing/able to spend. This will likely help guide what and how much you choose to bring (homemade vs takeout; a single batch vs extras).

Time

If you find yourself short on time, consider which items are easier to assemble and/or order to bring a new mom. While everyone appreciates a home-cooked meal, there are plenty of quick, ready-made options or elements to a meal you can effortlessly add on.

Effort

If you are bringing a meal to someone, it is often easiest to plan for your family to have the same meal. By making twice as much of whatever you intend to bring, you add minimal effort on to what you would already be preparing for your family alone.

Add-Ons

If you are going to bring a family a meal, do everything you can to bring not only enough but also some add-ons. Whether this be to help the picky eater in their home have something to eat, or to make sure the mom has enough to snack on later when her appetite spikes again, I don't think any mom has ever let food go to waste. Adopt the mentality that if you bring it, it will get eaten.

Versatility

Consider if what you are bringing is something that may sound good any hour of the day. This isn't an essential, but it is a nice added mention. With new moms having such a messed up internal clock, they may be eating what you bring in the middle of the night or right after their morning feed. Consider if the main meal or one of the add-ons (like rolls, fruit, etc.) may hold well to also be had later on at a less official "dinner time."

Allergen-Friendly

Whether it be a known allergy (in mom or baby) or just an intolerance for either, it is always smart to ask the new mom before bringing her and her family a meal if there is anything she or her family members can't tolerate.


Favorite Meals to Bring New Moms

Beyond the freezer meal ideas I shared in last week's blog post, I previously asked a few fellow dietitian moms to chime in on what their favorite meals to bring new moms are. Here is a round-up of our top faves, with some suggestions for things to keep in mind that make them favorites for good reason!

DIETITIAN MOMS LOVE: Simple MyPlate Pairings

As dietitians, we often live our lives with an innate need to build "MyPlate" at almost every meal. So by including a tasty protein with simple plant-based sides, bringing a meal that includes protein + veggies + whole grains + fruit for a family will help to not only satisfy their cravings for a complete meal but also help them to meet their nutritional needs from ALL food groups by giving them an assortment of options to build their plate with.

Slow Cooker Honey Garlic Chicken Thighs

Courtesy of Lindsay Livingston, RD of TheLeanGreenBean.com

I love Lindsay's add-on ideas of bringing this dish with brown rice, steamed broccoli (or just send broccoli in a microwaveable steamer bag!), and washed grapes!

 

DIETITIAN MOMS LOVE: Foods that Make Nutrient-Dense Breakfasts or Lunches (Especially Those You Can Eat with One Hand!)

Some of my favorite meals I have received as a new moms aren't actually "dinner" per say. While sometimes we have gone ahead and eaten these breakfast and lunch items for dinner, I often save these for mornings and mid days as those seem to be the hardest meals to get in (especially once a spouse returns to work!). Consider bringing frittatas, healthy muffins, sweet potato hashes, or even deviled eggs, chicken salad with crackers, or cold quinoa salads. These work to eat any time of the day and can be a nutritious way to help new moms, especially those breastfeeding, to get in a lot of nutrition outside of just at dinner time.

Cranberry Quinoa Veggie Saute

Courtesy of Mary Ellen Phipps, MPH, RD, LD at Milk & Honey Nutrition

A recipe I have enjoyed eating on several occassions myself (including as a new mom!), this is one of those versatile meal options that makes a nutrient-dense lunch, dinner, or any time in between!

 
 

DIETITIAN MOMS LOVE: Delicious Leftovers

Cook once, eat twice. I am pretty sure that is a mantra of motherhood, but especially in the early days. For that reason, consider dishes you could make a larger portion of so it serves the family not just on the night you deliver it, but also for leftover lunches or another night's dinner as well. This doubles the blessing of you bringing a meal well beyond just one night's worth!

Salmon Noodle Casserole

Courtesy of Megan McNamee MPH, RDN of Feeding Littles

This one sounds fancy but is an awesome, affordable option. Packed with great nutrition, I love how this one takes care of the protein, fat, starch, and veggie for a meal by putting them all in one! This is one of the best "one pan" meals you could pop on by with!

 

DIETITIAN MOMS LOVE: Dishes with Added Veggies

We all struggle with getting enough veggies in not only our kids but also ourselves. For this reason, bringing family favorites that you have added veggies too can be a welcomed surprise to mamas who want to eat healthy, wholesome favorites outside of just adding raw or cooked veggies on the side of any given entree.

Zucchini Lasagna

Courtesy of Emily Rose Samuels, MS, RDN, LD

Some of my all-time favorites dishes are those tried and true by fellow dietitian friends, and this one from skinnytaste.com is no exception. I love how this recipe could be whipped up the night before, held in the fridge at work, and dropped off at a friend's on the way home without being a big mess nor hassle!

 

DIETITIAN MOMS LOVE: Healthy Toppings and Sides

If you are short on time to cook up a bunch of options or know this new mom maybe has another apprehensive eater at home, bringing a dish with lots of added toppings and sides can help to ease her anxiety around "what else to offer" her other family members when you bring the meal. Some easy ideas are to include kid-friendly sides that you either make or quickly pick up at the store on the day of delivery. Such ideas as tacos or tortilla soup where you make the taco meat or soup, than add on a bag of shredded cheese, Greek yogurt, avocados or guacamole, fresh pico de gallo, whole grain tortilla chips and/or tortillas, and a can of black beans or cook-in-the-bag brown rice can make it an easy to execute meal on both you and the new mom!

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Courtesy of Me at Veggies & Virtue

This is such an easy recipe to make a double batch of then split to serve out to your family and another. Then just buy doubles of: cheddar cheese, whole grain chips, avocados or guacamole, sour cream (or plain Greek yogurt!), and any other fixings you fancy!

 

DIETITIAN MOMS LOVE: Desserts with Added Nutritional Benefits

Lactation cookies understandably get a lot of attention with new moms but there are lots of delicious and nutritious dessert ideas to consider adding on to a meal you plan to bring a new mom. Think about adding avocado or zucchini to a batch or brownies, or wholesome ingredients like cashews, almond meal, and oats to something like a yogurt berry tart.

Yogurt Berry Tart

Courtesy of Yaffi Lvova, RDN at Baby Bloom Nutrition

If you are looking for a healthier option of dessert, this would make a delightful addition to any dinner that could be enjoyed around the clock. Plus, what newly promoted big or little sis wouldn't love to be told they can have dessert for dinner?!

 

What you can do if you live too far to bring a new mom a meal

See what options exist in the region of the new mom. There are lots of ways to send edible support even when you can't physically stop by with dinner.

Set up a meal train for them

There are a lot of websites out there that will organize this for you, but one that I have used several times is MealTrain.com. This allows you to set up a care calendar for the new mom/family with all the information one would need to bring them a meal.

Order delivery or takeout

Between UberEats or a takeout order for the dad to pick up, sometimes ordering delivery or takeout is a great alternative option when you can't bring something homemade. Just pick a place (or two), shoot over a web link to the menu(s), and ask her to give you the order for her (and her family). Then, agree on a pick-up or delivery time with her, and you take care of calling it in and covering the bill.

Think outside of dinner

Whether it be ordering from Great Harvest Bread Company's delivery options (a personal favorite to send people; free delivery available for orders over $35) or sending someone a cart full of groceries via services like Instacart, she is sure to appreciate any food she doesn't have to fetch during her round-the-clock feeding and out-of-whack eating schedule. This is a great way to help stock her up on some goodies that may serve for breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner.


What will you make for your #MomSquad?

There are so many ways I have been blessed by way of food in the postpartum season. I hope these ideas above help give you some ideas on what you could do to support fellow moms in their postpartum season, knowing there is a good chance they will gladly reciprocate if/when you too find yourself needing a meal you don't have to make yourself! If you want more ideas of freezer-friendly meal ideas for new moms, be sure to see last week's post sharing my Favorite Freezer Meals to Make Before a New Baby.

Freezer Meals to Make Before a New Baby

If you have ever been a first-time mom, I would bet that in all of your nesting activities, baby-prep book reading, Pinterest searching, and conversations about survival with fellow moms, you have probably seen or heard the terms "make ahead meals," "batch-cooking," and/or "freezer meals" at least once or twice. If you are an expecting mom with other children, this topic has likely come up either with gladness that it was something  you did do before a sibling was born or with regret that it wasn’t you didn't do before delivery.

That’s because whether you endured the marathon cooking spurts before your baby was born or have just heard from moms who have done this, you can imagine how that "my freezer is full of healthy staples" feels. Just thaw, cook, and serve with little stress nor sweat amidst the newborn season.

Sometimes just starting that process to stock your freezer with food for postpartum is the hardest part though.

That’s what this post is here to help with.

 
8.png
 

Before our first daughter was born, I literally spent an entire weekend "batch-cooking" while my mom was in town to help. Although it was totally exhausting to spend several days on my feet cooking towards the end of my third trimester, it was oh-so-sweet when all I had to do was thaw and cook our pre-made meal post-pregnancy. 

I have repeated this marathon meal prep with each pregnancy since and am here to share some of my tried and true staples. Because although there are several websites, blogs, and pin-worthy recipes to give you ideas for bulk recipes to batch-cook and easily freeze for future use, I have a few thoughts and ideas to share of my own.

In this post, I will share:

  • What are Freezer Meals?
  • How to Turn Favorite Recipes into Successful Make-Ahead Freezer Meals
  • My Favorite Supplies for Making Freezer Meals
  • Favorite Freezer Meal Recipe Ideas for New Moms

What are Freezer Meals?

Freezer meals are meals that have been assembled ahead of time with the intent of being cooked (or reheated) in the future. These are frequently touted as a time-saving, cost-effective technique to any meal, as freezer meals provides you with already assembled easy, healthy recipes to have on hand.

Many meals can be converted into a freezer meal with a little modification to the ingredients needed (multiplying the batch to make more) or by shifting the time in which the instructions are done (some in advance; some saved for after the meal has been frozen).


How to Turn Favorite Recipes into Successful Make-Ahead Freezer Meals

1. Pick one of your family's favorite recipes

I have prematurely made several make-ahead freezer meals using recipes I have never even tried before.

It still makes me upset when I think of how much time, energy, and money I wasted on what just boiled down to being a recipe I loathed having to eat again.

Instead, freezer meals should make you want to do a happy dance when it comes to dinner time because they are just that easy. You invested little extra effort to get the meal assembled and on to the table. Otherwise, that anticipated disappointment of going into dinner for a meal you didn't even like the first time totally defeats having freezer meals at all.

That's why, it is key to figure out how to convert your family's favorite recipes into make-ahead freezer meals.

Think through what types of recipes your family tends to gravitate to. Instead of assuming the lists of "freezer meals to make before a new baby" fit your family's taste preferences, make a list of your own family favorites and sort through the steps below to see which ones might be able to be converted to a freezer meal.

2. Identify which step in the instructions is the best "stopping point" to prepare a freezer meal from.

For recipes prepared on the stove-top or grill, this is often done after the step of making a marinade or sauce. Marinades/sauces can be made in a large batch and then portioned into small freezer-safe containers in the amount needed or you can put the marinade in with the meat to be immediately frozen. The latter will take more space (for those who might be more limited for freezer space), so you can always make just small jars/bags of marinade and keep them labeled to be added to the meat or dish later on.

If multiple but separate steps can be prepared in advance for the freezer meal, plan accordingly. Prep and store these items separately until the meal is cooked and assembled. An example includes:

  • Kung Poa or Orange Chicken: both call for chicken breasts to be cubed or thinly sliced as well as a sauce. Cut up all the raw chicken for as many batches worth as you made the sauce, and then freeze it in batches so it is ready to toss in the pan with no more raw-chicken-prep-nastiness required. Prepare the sauce separately, and store it in a container alongside the raw (but ready-to-cook) chicken.

For recipes prepared in the crock-pot, majority of the meal prep can occur in advance. All steps can be completed and combined into a freezer-safe container and later added to the crock-pot when it's time to cook. Exceptions may be when a recipe states to layer a fresh ingredient first (like onion slices) before adding the meat on top. If this is the case, just note that detail on the freezer bag/container so you remember to add that item prior to cooking (without having to go back and reference the recipe itself).

For recipes prepared in the oven, the freezer meal may include every step up to actually putting it in the oven. Preparing these freezer meals in oven-safe and freezer-safe containers makes this a one-pan way to prepare, store, cook, then toss away the dirty "dishes" when done!

3. Evaluate the total yield for the recipe as it is written.

Before deciding on how many batches you plan to make and freeze, ask yourself:

  • How many servings does the as-written recipe yield? What is the assumed portion size for each? If this isn't appropriate for your family, adjust up or down as desired.
  • Do you prefer to make a large batch and have leftovers, or to prepare enough for only one night's worth? Make a double or single-serving accordingly.

  • How often do you foresee your family eating this over the next 3+ months? Note in freezer-safe containers, most freezer meals can be stored for 3+ months in a regular or deep freezer. Depending on how often you want to include this meal in your rotation and how much freezer space you have, make that number of batches for the given recipe.

  • How much freezer space is available for this meal, while still leaving ample room for other freezer meals and staples? While a deep freezer may not be realistic for all families or in all homes, a chest deep freezer is an economical, efficient storage option (space wise) that can often be found at places like Costco for around $150. This is often less than families would spend on eating out or ready-made meals after a baby and may be an investment to consider before a baby arrives.

4. Modify the amounts of the ingredients in the as-written recipe based on the yields you desire.

Note: this depends on your answers to the questions in step #3.

  • Multiply the ingredients to be included in the freezer meal (those to be cooked and included before the stopping point) by the number of batches for each recipe you desire to make in advance.

  • This will give you a large-size batch for the X number of meals you are wanting to make ahead. Divide this into X number of freezer-safe containers to store.

5. Make a note of the items to be added later (and in what amounts) when only preparing part of the meal in advance.

These ingredients do not necessarily need to be multiplied by the full amount of ingredients needed at the time of shopping for and making freezer meals. Instead, you may want to write that these items are still needed directly onto the storage container so you see what else is needed when you pull the otherwise prepared item from the freezer. Examples include:

  • Broccoli for broccoli beef that is added later on in the recipe

  • Shredded cheese that is to be added at the end of cooking a baked dish

  • Garnishes like nuts, seeds, or fresh items (like green onions) added after cooking

6. Try it Out!

If you feel a bit overwhelmed initially, experiment and gain experience doing this approach before it is time to actually make these meals as freezer meals for a new baby. The next time you plan to prepare a family favorite anyways, walk through the above steps. See how easy (or not!) it is to prepare this meal idea not only for that one night, but also as a freezer meal option. Make any notes and modify accordingly so when you are ready to make freezer meals for postpartum, you know if this is one you want to include or not.


30 Favorite Freezer Meals Cover.jpg
 

Want a list of links to:

My 30 Favorite Freezer Meals to Make Before a New Baby


My Favorite Supplies for Making Freezer Meals

This post contains affiliate links, though all opinions are my own. When you purchase anything using these links, it will not cost you more to use. It does, however, give Veggies & Virtue a small commission to help me further pursue my mission of helping other achieve less meal time stress and more meal time success. Thank you for your continued support, both with your affiliate purchases and interest.

Foil Pans

These are available at any grocery store, but by far the best deal I have found is at Dollar Stores. Often, you can get 2-3 smaller pans in a single pack for only a dollar! Similar items are easily $3-4 per 2-pack at the store. Stock up on these before planning a big freezer meal making session, or buy extras so you can use to bring meals to new moms in these too (so that they don't have to worry about washing and returning your dishes!).

Disposable Pan options (from Dollar Tree)

Freezer-Safe Ziplock Bags

I try to be conscious of the environment and prefer to use glass over plastic when possible. But when it comes to marinading meats and making efficient storage of freezer meals, I truly love using freezer-safe Ziplock bags. Whichever size you choose, simply fill; remove the air (manually); seal; lie flat to freeze. Then, once frozen, all meals can easily be stacked on top of the other or upright in a row in the freezer. This both helps to save space and find items easily.

Freezer-safe gallon-sized Ziplocks  (for chilis, soups, fajitas, etc)

Freezer safe quart-sized Ziplocks (for quinoa, rice, and spaghetti sauce)

Plastic Food Storage Containers

For these, you want something sturdy and reusable and yet disposable (in case you don't want to deal with any dishes). My favorites for these are the following:

8 ounce (for frozen marinades)

16 ounce (for frozen sauces)

32 ounce (for extra chicken stock, leftover soups ready for lunches)or 

Costco also carries a very economical option that serve as perfect leftover containers for lunch the next day (similar to these). These are not my favorite for liquids and sauces, but they work well for grains, a muffins, taco meat, beans, and other items you may only need 2-4 cups worth of per container.

Mason Jars

I love mason jars for a lot of things and prepping freezer meals are no exception. Mason jars can be great for storing marinades or making smaller batches of soups, say to pull out and have for a serving or two worth of soup. Just be sure to leave a little space at the top when storing liquids in mason jars so there is room for the food to expand (when frozen).

Mason jars (2 cups)

Mason jars (4 cups)


30 Favorite Freezer Meal Ideas for New Moms

Many of you have been asking for the latest list of what meals I prepped ahead for this postpartum period. So as promised, you can score the complete list of links to the following meal ideas on the download linked below. There are SO many more I could have included from family recipes as well as some Fall favorites (like chili, soups, and stews). But since I don't have electronic recipes for all of these and personally wasn't craving a lot of "cold weather" meal ideas (having an August baby in Houston and all), I opted for the following 30 freezer meal ideas instead! I am excited to enjoy these in the coming months as we welcome our newest member!


Did you find this article helpful?

If so, please be sure to share on social media or send the URL to fellow mom friends who might also benefit from more ideas on how to prep freezer meals for postpartum!

Food Prep for New Baby

There are over 200 MILLION hits on google for “what to do before baby is born.”

Between buying bottles and washing all those adorable little garments in gentle detergent, there are a lot of tasks, to do lists, and items to tackle before the big day. You can find lists that simplify it to the "Top 10 Things to Do Before Your Baby is Born" to more comprehensive lists covering all the ins and outs of planning ahead before your baby’s arrival depending on the degree of OCD you are.

One thing I don’t always see amidst the lists of “what it pack in your hospital bag” though is the wide list of what to pack in your kitchen! If the nursery is picture-perfect but we fail to plan what food will keep us and our families fueled postpartum, the saying rings true:

Fail to plan and plan to fail.

Now I recognize we can’t always (slash never!) get as ahead as we would like as moms, be it our first kid or our fifth! Here I am prepping for baby number three and just had the bomb dropped that they might have to induce me three weeks early ... Wait, WHAT?!?!?!

Thankfully the pause button was pushed on that for now, so that as I write this post in anticipation for my maternity leave, I have a bit more peace. My point is though, life happens. As much as we want to get "everything" ready before our precious little one arrives, we aren’t always able to do it all - in or outside of the kitchen.

As a dietitian mom, many of you could probably assume that food prep for postpartum is an area I prioritize heavily at the end of each pregnancy. It has evolved and honestly expanded quite a bit from what I did when planning for our first child. That’s why I want to take the next four weeks to share with you my TOP tips. This isn’t an end all be all list (since no list ever is), but if you have the time and are looking for the tools for how to prep for your next baby’s arrival as it relates to all things food:

 

This is Your Guide for Food Prep Before Baby

Over the month of August, you can expect posts on the following:

Freezer Meals to Make Before a New Baby

How to Manage Meals as a New Mom

Meal Ideas to Bring New Moms

 
6.png
 

Don't Miss This Info...

Once the above blog posts go live, I will come back and link them all above so this one post can act as your go-to hub for food prep before a new baby resources. But since our little one will be born sometime between now and then, I can't encourage you enough to sign up here for my newsletter! That way, even when I am up all night with our newborn in the coming weeks (and likely on social media and email a lot less), you can still plan to hear from me every Friday morning via a little note delivered to your inbox. In it, you will find an easy link to my weekly blog post for each of these topics above.

 

Whether you’re expecting another addition to your family or just want to tap into some of these ideas to make mom life in general more manageable, I know these upcoming few week's worth of posts will be as helpful to you as I know they have been to me.

Gardening with Kids: August 2018 edition

How are we already in the peak heat of Summer? In just weeks, our little man will arrive which is a good thing since this big ol' belly is having a hard time bending over to do much in the garden anymore. We have enjoyed what harvest we have gotten though this summer, are learning from what harvest we didn't yield (yet expected we would), and excited to plan for what's to come for each of the garden beds as we move from Summer to Fall.


Areas of Growth in the Garden

Garden Yields Update

Total seasonal yield to date: 
82 baby tomatoes
7 cucumbers
14 bell peppers
35 beans
7 yellow squash
4 zucchini

gardening with kids tomatoes 2.jpg
gardening with kids tomatoes 1.jpg
june 2.jpg
gardening with kids tomatoes 4.jpg

New Feeding Wins or Progress via Food Play

What a great month to be sharing more on tomatoes, considering my youngest decided she has learned to like them this past month!

Admittedly, homegrown tomatoes are worlds better than those you buy from the store, but even still - last summer she would bite into them, feel them burst, then spit them out while this summer, she has started to pop them in her mouth and gobble them up!

Some days, she still decides she doesn't want them and skips them when offered or spits them out when served as part of our meal. More often then not though, she helps me "find the red ones" in the garden, eating them as we go, and then willingly initiates eating them when I put some of them on her plate.

I hope we can keep this momentum as our homegrown tomato supply dies off to the summer eat (and pesky squirrels!) and we go back to buying them at the store in the off-season!


Veggie of the Month: Tomatoes

I am honored to be a monthly contributor to Veggie Buds Club. Intended for children ages 3-6, Veggie Buds Club offers activities that empower kids to Learn + Cook + Play + Create + Grow with a monthly vegetable. Through fun, pressure-free ideas, Veggie Buds Club helps expose your child to a variety of vegetables in age-appropriate and engaging ways.

If you are interested in checking out Veggie Buds Club for your family (or to gift a friend!), I encourage you to hop on over today! Monthly registration closes at midnight on the first of the month, so be sure to sign up so you get this month's box - complete with a tip sheet featuring the advice I share below!

Images from past month's Veggie Buds Club.

Tips shared in this month’s Veggie Buds Club:

There are many kids who are obsessed with ketchup and will use it as a dip for nearly anything. Majority of kids will also chow down on pizza or maybe even spaghetti without any wonder of what the red sauce is made of. Offering a fresh, raw tomato to a child rarely goes over as easily as the above options however.

That's why for this month's tip, I encourage you to expose your child to tomatoes in their many forms and see which ways they might be most interested in trying them. For each, consider talking through with them if they "love," "like," or are "still learning to like" each type of tomato product. You could even draw a scoring guide out on a simple sheet of paper with a happy face, neutral face, and frowning face, or a green circle, a yellow circle, and a red circle for the foods they love, like, and are still learning, respectively. This will give you as the parent a starting place for introducing new foods and the potential for food chaining based on what tomato products your child loves, likes, or is still learning. Making this an engaging "taste test" activity over the course of the month also allows you to continue to bring all these options back to the tomato/veggie of the month itself (which kids may be more receptive to than if you were to just randomly offer any of the following):

  • Ketchup
  • Pizza sauce (on pizza)
  • Marinara sauce (as a dipper, for items like the zucchini dippers from last month!)
  • Spaghetti sauce
  • Make your own spaghetti sauce and let them help squeeze the whole tomatoes!
  • Salsa
  • Make your own pico de gallo and let them use a kid-safe knife to help cut the tomatoes!
  • Quarter cherry tomatoes to eat raw or in a pasta salad
  • Halve cherry tomatoes with marinated mozzarella balls
  • Skewer cherry tomatoes on kabob sticks for a BLT on a stick
  • Serve beef steak tomato slices with sliced mozzarella and/or olive oil, balsamic, salt and pepper
  • Sliced tomatoes (to eat plain with eggs or add to sandwiches, burgers, on top of pizza, etc.)
  • Roast cherry tomatoes or thick slices of tomatoes

What other ways could you offer tomatoes to your kiddos this summer?

Remember to check out Veggie Buds Club before 12/midnight on the first of every month if you aren't already a subscriber. Then you can still order this month's box and veggie in time to participate!


Want More Actionable Ideas on How to Turn Your Veggie Averse Kid Into A Gardener?

Subscribe here for updates and early bird access anytime there is a new resource added and available!


For More Posts on Gardening with Kids:

Average versus Extreme Picky Eating

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Super Simple Online. As always, all opinions are my own.

Ever wondered if your child's picky eating is "normal"?

While I have worked with many families on How to Handle Picky Eating privately (through one-on-one consultations) and publicly (through blog posts and presentations), I will be the first to share:

Most picky eating is normal, but not all picky eating is average.

 
 

What I mean by this is that for most children, picky eating is as normal stage of development as toddler tantrums, sleep regressions, endlessly saying 'no' or asking 'why?', separation anxiety, and wanting to 'do it myself' as they exercise independence. As with all aspects of raising tiny humans however, some child fall into a more average pattern for these developmental milestones while others are what we may consider a bit more extreme in how they react and respond.

That's why over on the Super Simple blog this month, I share more about, What is “Normal” When it Comes to Picky Eating?

In the post (read it here), you will find a summary of what average and extreme picky eating individually are, how each normally presents, their unique impacts physically, socially, and emotionally on a child, and what the best solution for addressing each are. This way, if you find yourself asking, "Is my child's picky eating normal?," you can quickly identify what average versus extreme picky eating looks like, how each differ in their physical, emotional, and social impacts on your child, and what course of action may be most effective should your child fall into the more "average" picky eating realm or be a child with more extreme picky eating.

If you'd like to read more on this for yourself, click the button below to see the full article.

I know this will help put a lot of parent's questions and concerns at rest and/or in the direction of seeking the best-suited action plan to help a picky eater get the assistance they need to grow, thrive, and live out a healthy childhood!


For more on this topic, visit these posts:


Looking for more inspiration on how to help picky eaters?

Be sure to follow my Instagram where I share tips, tricks, and endless encouragement for raising healthy children (even if they are currently more apprehensive than adventurous)!

Every Bite Matters: Quick and Efficient Snack Ideas for Kids

Summer is here, which seems unanimously to come with kids’ endless requests for a snack.

Somewhere in the flexibility of being home more and the need for boredom-busters that often have kids ending up in and around the kitchen though, kids constant questioning “can I have a snack” is one that parents can start answering with a more proactive approach.

Instead of feeling pressured to either provide a snack upon being asked or to tame the hangry temperament until the next meal, this post will help parents to make the most out of each bite offered with quick and efficient fuel ideas.

 

Every Bite Matters: Quick and Efficient Snack Ideas for Kids

As with when I have shared about how to build a healthy snack, one thing that continues to be an area of emphasis is to offer a balance of nutrients.

One of the reasons kids often ask for endless snacks is because they aren’t being satiated enough with a given snack. While starchy foods more traditionally seen as “snack foods for kids” are often enjoyed in large amounts by little ones, they lack the nutrition to effectively fuel a child for their high energy and spurts of activity in between meals. Additionally, for children who may need snack options that pack in more nutrition to help promote growth as well, snacks become an especially opportune time for each bite to be optimized. Rather than filling up the precious real estate of a child’s stomach with “filler foods,” parents can also use the following principles as criteria for what to include in their child’s snack offering.

That’s one of the reasons why I always encourage parents to “boost each bite.” What I mean by that is to find small, subtle changes that add major nutrition to your child’s otherwise normal snack. Although you can always add a scoop of ice cream to their smoothie/shake or offer processed, high-fat food for merely more calories, it probably goes without saying that these aren’t my ideal “boosts.” Instead, I love encouraging parents to try out other products on the market that help to deliver more nutrition with each bite, sip, or slurp. As you will see in the examples below, I like to suggest the idea of using a kid-friendly protein powder, like Healthy Height. I know that nutritionally it adds the boost children need in their diets. Equally important, I trust this product is backed by pediatricians who saw the need for a healthier shake supplement and have since created this as a safe, more-natural alternative for families (with less sugar than its competitors).

This way, whether you have a child who seems like they can never stay satisfied (and always wants snacks) or a child who seems like they can never eat enough to gain weight and grow properly (and often “eats like a bird”), you as the parent can confidently approach snack time knowing you have wholesome, nutrient-dense options for optimizing each bite. The following balance of nutrients in the snack options you offer will create a framework for snack time success:

Aim to Include a Combination of Protein, Fat, and/or Fiber for Extra Fuel

While having snacks that include any one of these components can be sufficient for some or when a small snack is merited, including options that include protein, fat, and/or fiber will help to both fill and fuel your child for longer.

 
 

Protein

As the most asked about macronutrient by parents, protein is a hot topic of concern. Many parents are concerned their children don’t eat enough protein (click here to see how much young kids need!), especially in the form of proteins often offered at meals like meat, poultry, seafood, beans, or eggs. That’s why finding creative ways to get protein in at snacks can help to both lessen the concern on how much children eat at mealtimes while also providing them with valuable fuel that helps them to feel full longer.

Here are some easy and efficient ways to add protein for extra fuel:

  • Offer Healthy Height* instead of a standard juice box for a protein-rich option
  • Add hummus to fresh veggies sticks and/or crackers
  • Add nuts or seeds (as appropriate for child’s age) to homemade trail mix with dry cereal and dried fruit
  • Hard boil eggs for a quick addition to any snack plate
  • Make energy bites with added nuts and seeds instead of standard grain-based granola bars

 

Fat

With more calories per gram than either carbohydrates or protein, fat offers a nutrient-dense way to make a snack more satisfying. That means, bite for bite, your child eats the most calories from fat (compared to from carbohydrates or protein). Fat also helps us to feel full longer, so simple swaps of low-fat options for higher-fat ones or additions of healthy fat options can help curb kid’s hunger even if they only eat a few bites.

Here are some easy and efficient ways to add fat for extra fuel:

  • Mix Healthy Height* with whole milk instead of water
  • Add nut butter spreads, smashed avocado, or melted cheese to toast (instead of using jam or other alternatives)
  • Pair fruit or crackers with nut butter as a dip
  • Offer whole milk yogurt in place of lower fat “kids yogurts”
  • Include hemp, chia, or ground flax seeds with items (in muffins, mixed in yogurt or applesauce, sprinkled on top of toast)

 

Fiber

This is a great reason why adding fruits or vegetables to a snack helps to not only round out what is offered nutritionally, but also provide an element that promotes added fullness. Fresh fruits and vegetables are always an easy idea to add to a snack, as is dried fruit if parents want an option that holds up better in the heat and provides more compact calories (energy!) than fresh alternatives.

Here are some easy and efficient ways to add fat for extra fuel:

  • Make a fiber-rich green smoothie with frozen fruit, a few handfuls of greens, and a scoop of Healthy Height*
  • Offer a fresh fruit salad instead of fruit snacks
  • Opt for whole grains in snack foods, cereals, and crackers
  • Cut up fresh veggie sticks and offer alongside “veggie straws” or other low-fiber snack foods
  • Use whole grain flours like whole wheat or oat flour (instead of white flour) when making muffins or other baked goods that work for easy, on the go snack options

 

In Summary

Any parent knows there is a need for both quick AND efficient snacks when fueling small stomachs. So instead of reaching for snacks with empty calories on the regular, consider the above advice and ideas. Use these to help brainstorm ways that you could help your child to make the most out of every bite by adding in more protein, fat, and/or fiber at snack time. Also, if your child’s pediatrician has suggested you try Pediasure, Carnation Instant Breakfast, or any other oral supplement to try and promote more nutrient-rich options in the diet, I encourage you to check out Healthy Height*

*When checking out HealthyHeight.com, use code VeggieVirtue15 for a 15% off discount on your order.

A Parent's Survival Guide to Having a Kid in a Full Leg Cast

A special thanks to Regalo for partnering on this post. As always, all opinions are my own.

This post also includes affiliate links to Amazon. While these do not cost you more to use, they help provide Veggies & Virtue with a small commission from Amazon to support my ongoing efforts and mission. For more info, please visit my legal page.


Many of you might remember this past March when my four-year-old very innocently and far too easily broke her leg while jumping on a trampoline.

While much could be said about if/whether kids should be on trampolines at all (especially if/whether adults should jump with them!), that's another topic for another day. It was an unfortunate situation but also a reminder that accidents will happen and as parents, it's best we be prepared for how to stay positive when they do.

That's why I wanted to gather my thoughts and create "A Parent's Survival Guide to Having a Kid in a Full Leg Cast." Over the past few months, I have had multiple parents who have reached out wanting advice on how to handle having a child in a full leg cast when they've unfortunately found themselves in a similar situation. With each, I have tried to share some of the ideas that worked for us in hopes that it would help other families after such accidents.

While I hope this isn't needed for many of you, it would feel that good came out of the situation if this post could be shared, saved, and referenced by families who do need the added insight from a fellow parent who has been in their shoes.

Here's to safe childhoods, healthy kids, and yet adaptable, optimistic approaches to all that parenthood throws our way!

 
IMG-0315.JPG
 

A Parent's Survival Guide to Having a Kid in a Full Leg Cast

1. Addressing Immediate Needs

When my husband initially called me on the way to the ER, I knew by my daughter's screaming that 1) something was not right and 2) there was no time to waste. I packed my youngest up in the car and we jetted to the emergency room just like any other parent would in this situation. What this meant though was that we came home to an environment that was far from "ready" for this type of unexpected event.

The week this happened in our home, my husband was going to be on a work trip and I was well into my second trimester with our third child. I knew I needed to come up with some simple solutions to avoiding carrying our daughter up and down stairs several times a day and allow us to temporarily live predominantly on the first floor. Here are some immediate modifications I made to our environment to make things work a bit more smoothly as we got settled:

  • A comfortable and yet central resting place (we put out our Regalo My Cot in the middle of the living room)
  • Loose, comfortable clothing (that could fit over the splint/cast)
  • A lovey/stuffed animal (we took one to the ER that stayed with her nonstop for comfort the first week)
  • Favorite, low-mess snacks (to be eaten from comfortable resting place)
  • Movies and other no-movement-needed entertainment like books and the iPad
  • A plan for pain management
  • Wipes and disposable clothes (since hand washing and baths are more burdensome)

 

2. Supplies for Survival and Sanity

Initially, there was a sense of survival mode that allowed me to overlook typical boundaries on screen time, changing out of PJs and into "real clothes," and flexibility around allowing more snacks given upon request (versus our usual snack schedule) and admittedly as rewards for taking medication or doing necessary things amidst obvious discomfort. Once we moved beyond that first weekend with the splint and then cast though, I knew that we would be relying on certain essentials for both our four- to six-week survival and sanity.

My Cot

kid in cast 2.jpg

We received a Regalo My Cot over six months ago and have enjoyed it in several applications since. The girls love to play with them, build forts with them, and put them out for movie night, but never have they proved as practical and useful as when my oldest broke her leg.

Low to the ground and an easy option to put out or move about, our My Cot was a comfortable place our daughter contently rested often while in her cast. I appreciated I could easily lift her on and off of it, and eventually when she was able to move more, it was the most appropriate resting place for her to lift herself on and off of. I also appreciated that it had a fitted sheet (unlike our couch cushions), so that my daughter could eat and drink on it without me having to worry about the mess.

I truly found it more helpful than I had ever imagined when we were in this situation and would genuinely recommend it as something that repurposed to serve us in this season so well. For anyone wanting to send a gift to someone who just broke their leg, this is one of those items parents in that moment may not think of but would greatly find use for.

Breakfast in Bed Style Tray

Our girls love doing breakfast in bed on holidays, so having this style tray around already proved extra helpful during the many meals we ate around my daughter on the floor. Since she couldn’t sit in a normal chair at the dinner table very comfortably, we set up family picnics on the ground and allowed her to use this to prop her plate up and balance it over her lap while sitting up on her My Cot.

Large Blanket for Family Picnics

Sometimes you just have to adapt, and that’s exactly what we did when it came to meal times. It didn’t feel right to have my daughter eat alone on her cot while we all sat at the table, so we used a large blanket spread out in the living room to all sit on at meal times. The three of us either used the coffee table or the ground for our plates, while my oldest was able to gather around with us using her tray+cot combo.

Toys

Any no-mess, imaginative toy here is golden. Depending on the age of the child who was injured, there are a variety of ideas to help keep them entertained. In short though, think of those that are low-mess and require little to no movement from the child (i.e. kneeling to push or play with). We found the following especially fun (affiliate links):

Games

Another thing we did to help pass the time without relying on screen time was play games. Here are a few that our family enjoys:

IMG-1179.JPG

Double stroller

Nothing makes a family stir-crazy like not being able to let your child play outside during the start of Spring. To curb these feelings of being on house arrest, we took daily walks with the double stroller. We love and constantly use this one. It allowed us to not only get out and enjoy fresh air but also to see neighbors and have a change of environment without expecting anywhere to be conducive to a child in a cast.

 

3. Steps to Recovery

We were lucky. I know many children with full leg casts aren't able to bear any weight, which initially is what we were told to expect. Thankfully, my daughter had a cast with her foot exposed that they allowed her to walk on (when she was ready). I assumed she would immediately walk on it since technically, she was both allowed to and "able." This was not the way she processed the injury though. It was a big ordeal to get her to bear weight on it, let alone walk with her cast (something I as a pregnant mom was not particularly in love with taking added time). There are a few things that worked for us though, given the doctor's permission to regain mobility while in the cast:

As always, be sure to consult your doctor and follow medical advice based on your child's unique needs and plan for recovery.

Patience

Whether it be encouraging your child to walk or just the woes of trying to sponge bath them without getting the cast wet, it goes without saying this season takes a bit of extra patience. With many challenges in parenthood though, I just try to remind myself how grateful I am that this is truly so small compared to what other families face. A quick look on Instagram at any family who is facing #childhoodcancer, #cysticfibrosis, or #nicubaby, usually gives me that added bit of insight I need to remain patient and keep this stint of inconvenience in perspective.

Practice Crawling

I wish I remembered who advised we do this so I could personally thank them, but the tip to encourage my daughter to crawl before expecting her to walk was hugely helpful. Not only did it take some of the work off of me from having to carry her everywhere, but it was a HUGE boost in her own morale when she realized she still could move from place to place by using a crawling maneuver when needed to reach another toy or shift how she was sitting.

Climbing up onto Things

The My Cot was our BFF for many weeks, especially when Claire was unable to lift herself up onto a chair or couch. It also was a good step in between being carried and placed onto anything and her learning how to get up onto something on her own. Helping her practice how to both climb to then crawl up onto a raised cot/chair/couch helped her to develop more confidence with how she could safely regain mobility and independence.

"Do Laps"

The irony of having my daughter break her leg on a trampoline (not ours), was that our own trampoline lives in our formal dining room (because who uses "formal" anything with kids anyways, right?!). It acted as the perfect place for us to practice "doing laps" where my daughter could hold onto the trampoline with one hand and onto me with the other. We would do circles around it as many times in a row or over the course of a day as she felt up to in order to help her establish confidence with hopping, then tip-toeing, then lightly stepping, and eventually walking on her foot as possible.

Offer Something that is an Incentive to Move

Having one friend over at a time was really uplifting to our daughter in her recovery. Any more than that became a bit much when she couldn't move, but one friend seemed to be a good number to have around to play with when stationary. It also helped act as an incentive to getting our daughter to apply safe amounts of pressure onto her leg again to move. While I was there to help her as needed, nothing made her want to be independent like having a friend over who on their own was. It was almost as if when it was just our family, my daughter didn't mind being waited on. But when a friend was there and prompting, "Come on, Claire, let's ... (something that required her to move)" my daughter recognized a heightened desire to be able to play and act more independently again.

 

In Summary

This is in no way a comprehensive summary of everything our life entailed for that month with my daughter in a full leg cast, but I hope it will lend as a helpful resource to other families should they find themselves overwhelmed when initially in a similar situation!

 Getting her cast on

Getting her cast on

 First signatures

First signatures

 Getting her cast off

Getting her cast off

Gardening with Kids: July 2018 edition

We are officially into the peek of summer and exploring our garden almost daily for what we can find, explore, or feast on! I hope you will find the ideas shared below on how we are learning to like vegetables and enjoying zucchini in particular (as part of this month's Veggie Buds Club) both fun and helpful!


Areas of Growth in the Garden

Garden Yields Update

Total seasonal yield to date: 
56 baby tomatoes
3 cucumbers
6 bell peppers
25 beans
7 yellow squash
3 zucchini

june post 1.JPG
june 3.jpg
june 2.jpg
june 4.jpg

New Feeding Wins or Progress via Food Play

I admit, sometimes I go out to the garden and am underwhelmed. A few beans, a squash or two, with a couple handfuls of baby tomatoes. It isn't this grand, magnificent yield that will earn me a spot at the local Farmer's Market. But is that really the goal?

Most definitely not!

What hit me this month was the significance that comes in these SMALL numbers. My four year old isn't counting to 100 yet nor is my youngest able to carry much more than a couple of this or that without them tumbling out of her arms on the way from the backyard garden to our kitchen counter. This makes our little backyard garden and the SMALL yields it offers our family perfect for helping me achieve my actual goal:

Getting my girls engaged and excited about fresh vegetables from the moment the seed hits the soil through the time they are offered at the table.

There is something about gardening that is both disconnected from the table and yet beautifully tees up to a meal time. I love that even for foods my girls are learning to like, they get to LEARN to like them in completely experiential ways without "eating" ever even being mentioned. These small amounts make it less intimidating and more manageable as well by beckoning the girls to come out and pick what few items they can find each day.

This past month, we made a chart where we could keep track of how many of each vegetable we grow. I have intended to do this each season, but now is as good of a time as any to get started! Especially since my oldest is more than able to now help count the crops, make hash marks, and add them up in sets of five so we can see our running totals. One afternoon (after we had been away and not picked in a few days), she collected 26 cherry tomatoes. It still didn't necessarily look like a lot (in my gluttonous gardener eyes), but it was A LOT to her little hands and for her little mind to count and keep track of on our chart. Better yet, this was a simple way of doing nutrition education at home that integrated so many age-appropriate activities without ever speaking to the actual "nutrition" of the foods at hand.

That's key with little kids.

They don't need to hear the word lycopene nor about its health implications before they enter kindergarten. They don't need to know how much protein are in the beans we are growing nor stress about if they're getting enough at a given meal. They don't need to be convinced to eat fresh grown cucumbers over cheddar crackers at snack time.

Nope. What they need is to touch, experience, engage, count, and play with the very foods we want them to find joy in so that ultimately, later in life, they will appreciate them to be "healthy," "everyday," and "good for them" choices. My goal is to continue to offer them the experiences that allow them to do this through our garden without really ever saying a word about "health" or "nutrition." This is the kind of pressure-free exposure and true nutrition education we are having fun with from this spring and summer. I hope your family can enjoy the same through SMALL yields and yet BIG wins.


Veggie of the Month: Zucchini

I am honored to be a monthly contributor to Veggie Buds Club. Intended for children ages 3-6, Veggie Buds Club offers activities that empower kids to Learn + Cook + Play + Create + Grow with a monthly vegetable. Through fun, pressure-free ideas, Veggie Buds Club helps expose your child to a variety of vegetables in age-appropriate and engaging ways.

If you are interested in checking out Veggie Buds Club for your family (or to gift a friend!), I encourage you to hop on over today! Monthly registration closes at midnight on the first of the month, so be sure to sign up so you get this month's box - complete with a tip sheet featuring the advice I share below!

Images from past month's Veggie Buds Club.

Tips shared in this month’s Veggie Buds Club:

Parents are constantly asking about how to get kids to eat more vegetables, especially in safe forms for sharing between older and younger siblings (who may still be learning to crunch raw veggies). This is a hard question for me to answer not so much because I am without ideas, but rather because the root of HOW to get our kids to eat more vegetables rarely rests in simply needing more ideas.

Instead, we as parents and families as a whole need to continue to shift our mindset from "HOW to GET our kids to eat vegetables" to exposing them to veggies in as many ways as we can in hopes that they find a few they genuinely WANT to eat (on their own).

Do you see the mindset shift there between "getting them to eat" and "finding ways they want to eat" vegetables?

That's why this month I want us to get out of our common rut of offering only raw versus roasted vegetables and instead share how many options there are for exposing our kids to even a single vegetable like zucchini!

Zucchini is by far one of the most versatile veggies out there! With it, we can find a variety of ways to expose and safely offer to even the youngest of eaters. Here are several ways to help your kids learn to like zucchini in the coming month!

  • As a topping on pizza
  • In lasagna (in addition to or in place of noodles)
  • As hummus (like the one from Heather in this month's Veggie Buds Club)
  • To make zucchini boats (stuffed with meat and other veggies)
  • For zucchini roll ups (just use a vegetable peeler to create a long strip)
  • As zoodles (mixed with regular noodles or in place of)
  • Tossed in with eggs or an omelet
  • Added to pasta dishes or stir fries
  • As breaded spears (with a side of marinara for dipping!)
  • Baked in circles as "chips" with Parmesan
  • Grilled on a kabob with a lean protein and/or other summer veggie
  • For dessert in cookies or brownies (like those from the recipe Heather shares in this month's Veggie Buds Club)
  • Shredded into muffins or quick breads

Even just making this list compels me to go check the garden to see if we have any zucchini ready to make something with! There are so many options, i.e. reasons we don't need to be in rut with how to offer this seasonal veggie!

Remember to check out Veggie Buds Club before 12/midnight on the first of every month if you aren't already a subscriber. Then you can still order this month's box and veggie in time to participate!


Want More Actionable Ideas on How to Turn Your Veggie Averse Kid Into A Gardener?

Subscribe here for updates and early bird access anytime there is a new resource added and available!


For More Posts on Gardening with Kids: