Family-Friendly Meal Plan: Week #3

We are on our third week into the New Year, but I know for us it feels like we are just starting to get into the swing of things.

With my girls having just started back at preschool two mornings a week, I feel like it helps get our whole family back on a better routine. Including with meal planning and dinner prep! Can you relate?

Whether you have been following these meal plans closely and have already come to expect them in your inbox every Friday (you can sign up here!), or you are new to seeing how I lay out meal planning for the week, I invite you to check out the past two weeks of plans (here and here) and to enjoy the upcoming week's below!

 

Veggies & Virtue Meal Plan: Week of January 14

 
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STEP 1: PLAN

Are you a “cook once, eat twice” kind of family?

Many weeks, it seems we are either preparing extra batches of meals for neighbors who flooded (in Hurricane Harvey), friends with new babies, or to eat as lunches or leftovers. Some meals, I even prep everything twice so I can cook one and freeze the other for later!

I would love to hear if this is a method you use - often, on occasion, or rarely ever (by email or a PM on Instagram). Thinking through this not only helps me as I plan my own family’s meal plan, but also as I try out new menu items to share with all of your in the coming year!


Interested in walking through the steps to meal plan like a pro?

Download your copy of my Meal Planning Playbook. It outlines the following five steps of successful meal planning in more detail so you can achieve "Less Meal Time Stress and More Feeding Success" for your own family!


 

STEP 2: PICK

A special thanks to each of the following contributors for the delicious recipe ideas this week!

Dinner Menu:

1 ǁ Seafood Sunday: Asian Salmon (Recipe by @DamnDelicious)

2 ǁ Meatless Monday: Tasty Bite Madras Lentils (premade; available at Costco or affiliate link for Amazon)

3 ǁ Taco Tuesday: Taco Bowls with Instant Pot Black Beans (Recipe by @frieddandelions) and Cilantro Rice (Recipe by @foodfaithfit)

4 ǁ Asian Food Night: Teriyaki Beef (Recipe by @foost)

5 ǁ It's Almost the Weekend Wild Card: Leftovers

6 ǁ Family Night Out

7 ǁ Soup/Stew Saturday: Butternut Squash Chili (Recipe by me at @veggiesandvirtue)

 
 

STEP 3: PAIR

Coming off of the holidays, it can be hard to push a reset on our family’s cravings for the “sometimes foods” we don’t usually have around on a day to day basis. From the holiday treats we got as gifts to the cookies we baked for Santa to the cinnamon rolls we make every Christmas morning, it can seem like the sugar will never fully get cleared out. Or when it is, we are left with little ones who are asking for it ALL. THE. TIME.

So how do you handle this?

  1. Know it is normal for kids to crave high-sugar and/or high-fat foods. Like many adults, children are often times more susceptible to craving these foods. When these foods aren’t as readily available, kids can also become more fixated on these. Know that while it is normal for kids to enjoy such foods, it is your role to decide what foods from this category are made available, when, and where.

  2. Don’t use desserts as bait, but rather highlight how they fit into a healthy lifestyle by how often you eat them. Kids don’t need to be harped on about the health benefits in the foods they eat. Instead, it is helpful for them learn that certain less healthful options (like desserts) are "sometimes foods" to be enjoyed "sometimes." Instead of putting these less healthy option on a pedestal, use language to emphasize that you eat these “sometimes” while other foods you eat "everyday" (like fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean proteins). This also opens up the conversation about how often your family will eat desserts.

  3. Create a family dessert policy. When kids don't know when they will get a sweet or other preferred “sometimes” food, they may be more inclined to crave, covet, and constantly ask for it. Instead, talk as a family about what is realistic for your sweet schedule in the coming year. We usually offer fruit every night at dinner for a sweet "Love It" or "Like it" option, then we plan dessert as a family for two nights out of the week (for us, that’s usually on weekends). The conversation can start as simply as asking your spouse, "How do we want to handle desserts in our family?" to get the discussion going. Then, clue your kids in on what the new framework will be moving forward. This falls us OUR division of responsibility in feeding as parents to decide what/when/where certain foods (including sweets) are offered while keeping sugar available in moderation.

How do you want your family to handle sweets in the upcoming year? Make intentional steps in that direction - not by banning or bashing sweets altogether, but seeing how more healthfully can fit for your family.


Want to learn more about how "Love it, Like it, Learning it" works?
Grab your free guide here.


 

STEP 4: PURCHASE

 
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What I Buy and Why:

I love to cook, but since becoming a mom, I have a huge appreciation for certain ready-made items. While I would prefer to scratch-make everything, I know that just isn't realistic in my life right now. That's why I look carefully for ready-made items with ingredient lists that are natural and as close to the "real recipe" I would use if making myself. Some of the items I usually rely on ready-made for are Madras lentils, granola, trail mix, and guacamole, unless I know I will have time to both buy the ingredients AND make them from scratch myself. That's why this week's Costco haul had several items that were ready-to-eat favorites. The produce for the week I purchased separately and meat we already had on hand from a previous Costco run.

One thing I do do myself though is grate my own cheese. I buy this huge block of cheese and put it into the shredder on my food processor. It is quick, easy, super-cost-effective (this whole block is only $5) and the shredded cheese tastes SO much better than pre-shredded cheese which has added ingredients and fillers to prevent it from clumping that end up making it taste and melt funny in my opinion. So to make sure ours stays fresh, I shred it when I know we will be eating it in an upcoming recipe or dish (within the week, usually). I only shred about a half of the block at a time or whatever I think we will go through during the week. To store, I keep it in a dry air-tight Ziplock bag until we use it up.

 

STEP 5: PREP

 
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What I Prepped Ahead:

I cooked all of the food for grass-fed beef taco bowls with cilantro lime rice, instant pot black beans, and grilled corn. I prepared extra this week as I knew we would be bringing this meal to friends as well. I also cooked the quinoa and pre-made the dressing for the Asian quinoa salad that we will have with the salmon (sign up for my newsletter if you want to know the sides for each night!). Note, I didn't mix this as I will wait to do that until the night we have it, so it doesn't get soggy. I pulled out the salmon from the freezer to thaw and will later marinade it just before the meal. The teriyaki beef stir-fry is also all prepped and ready to go, with the marinade also separate in a jar so I can add it to the meat the night we make this. Chicken was cut so

I also prepared some strawberries washed and hulled, pumpkin pie energy bites for snacking, and chicken to be put on my husband and my lunch salads all week.

How Long it Took:

This was a longer prep session than usually and took me around 3 hours. While it is not a lot more work to prep large batches of food, it does take a little longer per recipe to prepare each. Additionally, since I know marinades take me a bit more time, I decided to make these ahead and jar them which also added some addition time to this week's prep.


Are you making these recipes?

Tag me on social media when you try a recipe from my meal plans! I would love to see what you are making and hear how you enjoyed it!

Family-Friendly Meal Plan: Week 2

Less than one week in to the new year and I am sure a lot of us are already seeing how hard it can be to stick with our New Year's resolutions. I am loving seeing how many of you want these meal plans though to help you overcome the headache of what to make and how to offer it to your family night after night!

Below you will find another tried-and-true meal plan shared from my family to yours! If ever you want to share feedback on what sounds and look good (or what doesn't!), never hesitate to contact me so that I can make sure the content each week is as helpful as possible,

 

Veggies & Virtue Meal Plan: Week of January 7

 
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STEP 1: PLAN

I'm curious:

How many of you do "themed nights?" Not only do I love this for helping me introduce variety into my family, but it takes the guesswork out of picking seven nights worth of what to serve. Then when I think about any need for convenience or how much time I will have to cook each week, I can delegate certain nights or menus to what meals are easier to simplify. Currently, these are some of our favorite themes:

Sunday: Seafood Sunday
Monday: Meatless Monday
Tuesday: Taco Tuesday
Wednesday: Pasta Night
Thursday: It's Almost the Weekend Wild Card
Friday: Pizza Night
Saturday: Soup/Stew Saturday

For our wild card night, we often rotate in breakfast for dinner, takeout, or leftovers depending on how much we have already eaten up as lunches over the week. What are your families favorite menu ideas? Experiment to see if assigning one to each night of the week helps simplify your planning and picking of what to make.


Interested in walking through the steps to meal plan like a pro?

Download your copy of my Meal Planning Playbook. It outlines the following five steps of successful meal planning in more detail so you can achieve "Less Meal Time Stress and More Feeding Success" for your own family!


 

STEP 2: PICK

A special thanks to each of the following contributors for the delicious recipe ideas this week!

Dinner Menu:

1 ǁ  Seafood Sunday: Tom Douglas Salmon (Recipe using salmon rub by Tom Douglas at @TomDouglasCo)

2 ǁ Meatless Monday: Coconut Curry -- omit chicken and use only chickpeas to make it meatless (Recipe by Me at @veggiesandvirtue)

3 ǁ Taco Tuesday: Meat & Mushroom Tacos (Recipe by Lisa at @100daysofrealfood)

4 ǁ Pasta Night: Caprese Pasta Salad (Recipe by All Recipes; modified to use EatBanza noodles and Formaggio marinated mozz balls)

5 ǁ It's Almost the Weekend Wild Card: Cottage Cheese Pancakes with berries (Recipe by Catherine at @weelicious)

6 ǁ Pizza Night

7 ǁ Soup/Stew Saturday: Mushroom Wild Rice (Recipe by Lindsay at @pinchofyum)

 
 

STEP 3: PAIR

I am excited to share new meal ideas with you and your family in the New Year. However, I don't want to get too far into this before I address something:

Where you are starting.

Maybe you just need the ideas I have outlines above and below and with that, are ready to take these weekly plans and run with it. Your family doesn't show any real issues with the food you offer, but rather your struggle is consistently coming up with the actual meals and menus to put out each night. If that is you, I am so glad this little resource can help you take that next step.

But what about all of you who are quite possibly a few (or several) steps "behind" that? Maybe you don't even have an established family dinner. Maybe you are starting with a norm of making four different meals each night to accommodate each family member. Maybe your child's list of preferred foods ("love it foods") seems so limited that you aren't really sure where to start in exposing him/her to new staples.

Well to you, I want to make one thing clear:

You are welcome here.

I have been feeding apprehensive eaters for over three years myself now and while we have see lots of baby steps of progress and several unexpected strides towards "feeding success," there have been several days when I just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Step by step, implementing the Division of Responsibility, offering preferred foods alongside non-preferred foods, and establishing the feeding environment and family menu I want my kids to grow to know and love...over time.

This meal plan is not expected to be a one size fits all approach. It also doesn't have a drag and drop feature to mix and match to your family's preferences. But what it does have (especially to newsletter subscribers who get the detailed menu with what I serve as sides), is the framework for you to figure out how to take steps in the right direction - meal after meal, day after day, week after week.

So if you have big goals for the New Year and yet are wondering if this whole meal planning and one meal for the whole family idea will ever work, know that where you are starting TODAY is the perfect place to be. Rarely does raising healthy eaters just happen without opposition. It takes your planning, patience, perseverance, and repeatedly putting healthy foods on the table to end the year in a different, BETTER place than where you started it.

Be sure you are signed up for my newsletter! If you want the extra nudge each week to what's on the menu and how to make it work for kids with more limited lists of preferred foods, this is your best starting place. It's all free and delivered to your inbox every Friday.


Want to learn more about how "Love it, Like it, Learning it" works?
Grab your free guide here.


 

STEP 4: PURCHASE

 
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What I Buy and Why:

Many of you might have noticed that last week I only spent $90 on our grocery haul! While part of that was due to some awesome sales at Sprouts and coupons I was able to use on items we bought, another reason for that was due to my buying behavior. I tend to buy majority of our animal-based products from Costco, as I find it easier than buying these items week to week. Some of our favorites are organic eggs, organic chicken, honey smoked salmon, cheeses, canned tuna, and turkey breast to slice up for sandwiches (MUCH cheaper than buying as pre-sliced lunch meat AND no nitrites!). I also buy our bread at Costco as it tends to be more cost-effective to buy there and then store the extra loaves in our deep freezer. If I am shopping at another smaller grocer the same week, I may also buy our produce at Costco so I don't have to make another trip. This supplements whatever we already have at home and growing in the garden!

 

STEP 5: PREP

 
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What I Prepped Ahead:

Do you struggle with making sure YOU eat something substantial in the middle of the day? Too often, it seems our lunch becomes nibbling on the leftover scraps on our kid's plates. We spend time and attention to give them balanced meals and yet, we often forget about feeding ourselves as moms too. That's why this week as the girl's go back to preschool two days a week, I also made sure I had some "working lunches" ready for both my husband and I to have. As shown in my weekly #vvmealprepchallenge posts, I love using EasyLunchboxes (affiliate link) to pack lunches for my husband and I to have throughout the week. They are easy, portable, and leak-proof enough for either of us to toss in our work bags before heading out for the day. They also are a good size to make sure we are getting "enough" mid-day fuel, without the temptation to overeat (as may happen when ordering lunch out).

How Long it Took:

This took two hours including the time to prep AND clean up, which I always try to either do as I go or before I officially wrap up. Dividing up portions for lunches helps a ton though when it comes to having dinner-sized portions ready to put out each night with lunches packed up for the week.


Is this new blog format helpful to you?

Then it probably would be to someone else you know too! Please share the love with another mama using the links below. Your word of mouth referrals mean more to me than you know!

Family-Friendly Meal Plan: Week 1

As we kick off 2018, I am sharing the seamless start-to-finish process of how I meal plan as a dietitian mom to two apprehensive eaters.

In these weekly blog posts, you will start to see a new flow for how the posts here on Veggies & Virtue will look in the coming year. Each week, I will walk you through my five-step meal planning process to help equip you to plan, pick, pair, purchase, and prep healthy, wholesome options for your family.

Even if you have a picky eater (or two!) at home as well, my aim and intention is that these posts will help you to build a foundation for "Less Meal Time Stress and More Feeding Success" in 2018!

 

Veggies & Virtue Meal Plan: Week of January 1

 
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STEP 1: PLAN

How do you plan out what is realistic for your week? Sometimes, life requires you to be ready to hit the ground running each day with breakfast options on hand. Other times, you need low-stress lunches or items that are quick and easy to get on the table after a long day. Whatever is on your schedule, addressing what you have on your calendar, a need for convenience, and what amount of time you have to cook (if any) is key to setting your schedule up for success.

That's why each week I will be sharing what our week looks like. This obviously can't reflect the snapshot of what everyone's week looks like, but it will help tie in with what I pick to serve for dinner each night and how I plan ahead to achieve the goal of having a plan for at least dinner all seven nights of the week! That doesn't mean my plan is to cook seven nights of the week, but rather that I have a plan in place so that I know what's on the table each night, in advance, even if/when it is leftovers on the menu!


Interested in walking through the steps to meal plan like a pro?

Download your copy of my Meal Planning Playbook. It outlines the following five steps of successful meal planning in more detail so you can achieve "Less Meal Time Stress and More Feeding Success" for your own family!


 

STEP 2: PICK

A special thanks to each of the following contributors for the delicious recipe ideas this week!

Dinner Menu:

1 ǁ Honey Garlic Chicken Thighs (Recipe by Lindsay at @TheLeanGreenBean)

2 ǁ Stuffed Acorn Squash (Adapted to be gluten-free from recipe byKara at @karalydon)

3 ǁ Veggie-loaded Bison Marinara (By me at @veggiesandvirtue

4 ǁ Cheeseburgers (homemade but don't use a recipe)

5 ǁ Homemade Pizza on Angelic Bakehouse Flatzza crusts for the family and Chebe gluten-free crusts (for me)

6 ǁ Breakfast for Dinner (eggs, all-natural bacon, and sweet potato hash) with Buckwheat Pumpkin Muffins (Recipe by Marta at @OrganicFoodforKids)

7 ǁ Leftovers

 
 

STEP 3: PAIR

Did you know?

My daughters are BOTH apprehensive eaters. The irony, I know! That's why I knew early on that in order to adopt and implement a Division of Responsibility in feeding in my home, I would have to find ways to take their food preferences into consideration without catering to them (i.e. short order cooking a separate meal when it was something they "didn't like"). I share how to do this with each recipe on my weekly meal plan for those who subscribe to my newsletter, but I thought I would go ahead and show you here just how this works with a given meal.

Let's take the stuffed acorn squash. The recipe is AMAZING (in my opinion), but it is safe for me to assume that this dish has too much going on for my girls' liking. So here is how I would plan dinner on that night - in layman terms:

Stuffed acorn squash with roasted broccoli, rolls, and a side of apples, and milk to drink.

Would your kid eat that?

Well, stick with me. Now, let's re-evaluate this same meal using my #loveitlikeitlearningit approach:

LOVE IT FOODS: Dinner rolls, apple slices, whole milk
LIKE IT FOODS: Roasted broccoli
LEARNING IT FOODS: Stuffed acorn squash

See how that works?

By breaking down the meal to make sure there is "something for everyone," you can transform a meal from "my kid would never eat that" to "there's always at least one thing each family member enjoys at any given meal." They are exposed to each element, even if they choose not to eat it. It is on their plate, an accepted part of the family meal, and one baby step of progress to ongoing food acceptance.

I encourage you to try this approach with any of this week's meals, and then report back to me with how it goes!

We will keep talking about strategies for pairing meal plans with apprehensive eaters in mind each week, so stay tuned. There will be more weekly ideas on how to get your child to become a more adventurous eater in each week's post.


Want to learn more about how "Love it, Like it, Learning it" works?
Grab your free guide here.


 

STEP 4: PURCHASE

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What I Buy and Why:

This week, I thought I would feature two newfound favorites around here: Angelic Bakehouse grain products and Veggie Fries. With these, we transformed the standard "cheeseburger and fries" dinner into one I felt better about serving my family. Using high-quality beef, whole grain buns, an offering of fresh spinach, tomato, and avocado, and a baked fry that my kids will actually eat, this was an easy dinner that is now a frequent request on Friday nights when we do a more casual, kick-back style family meal.

You know what was even better? We ended up saving these buns by Angelic Bakehouse (shown above). The beef hamburger patty itself used to be a learning it food and the bun was something I would include as my oldest's love it food. Since she asked for cheeseburgers on the menu though and ended up eating three small cheeseburger patties in one sitting, I opted to keep the patties naked on this night and save the buns for another night (like say when we serve salmon burgers, which are a learning it food)! Does that make sense?

So even though on some nights "just bread" seems to steal the show (like on acorn squash nights), that's a-okay. Be the gatekeeper to healthier alternatives to those staple "love it foods" (like Angelic Bakehouse hamburger buns and Veggie Fries "fries") as your child learns to like some of the other items being offered.

 

STEP 5: PREP

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What I Prepped Ahead:

Prepping the three most time-intensive dinners made for a huge stress-relief as we started the week. None of them are hard in and of themselves, but I knew that by having everything almost all ready, dinners would be on the table in a lot less stress all around.

I prepped everything for the Honey Garlic Chicken Thighs but kept the marinade separate until the day I was ready to cook it all in the crockpot (which was the day after I prepped).

For the Stuffed Acorn Squash, I went ahead and made the whole dish with extra filling to have for lunches. I went ahead and cooked them while I did my meal prep so that they could be eaten that night or easily reheated. 

With the oven already on, I prepped the Buckwheat Pumpkin Muffins while the acorn squash baked. Then by the time these were done, I was able to put these in the oven and bake them while I worked on the final few items. I love baking muffins ahead as we can have them on hand for breakfasts, snacks, or breakfast-for-dinner!

For the Veggie-loaded Bison Marinara, I used our Instant Pot to cook the spaghetti squash. You could also use a microwave or the already-hot oven, as well. While the spaghetti squash cooked, I cooked the bison marinara sauce on the cooktop. Stored separately, each will stay good in the fridge for a few days.

How Long it Took:

I spent about 1.5-2 hours getting all of these items washed, prepped, and cooked (for those that are cooked). I usually try to spend one nap time a week on meal prep.


Is this new blog format helpful to you?

Then it probably would be to someone else you know too! Please share the love with another mama using the links below. Your word of mouth referrals mean more to me than you know!

My Favorite Things, moms edition

How many of you currently have a husband saying, "Honey, my mom wants to know what you want for Christmas?" Or maybe if your husband is a bit more of a planner than the ordering-from-Amazon on December 22nd type, he is asking for ideas of what to give you himself!

Either way, I know this can be a tough question for us moms to give actual, concrete answers to. That's why I have created this post.

 
 

 

Even though it is humbling to be the recipient of a gift, I think it also creates a bit of angst among us moms in this season we are in of constantly giving. We may secretly wish for a massage gift card to use any and every day of 2018, but since I have yet to find a massage studio that also offers childcare, we all are probably better off asking for some other realistic ideas.

On the flip side, we are likely friends with a fellow mom friend who has this same "problem" as us and would never straight say what she wants to ask Santa for.

So whether it is you who need ideas or a friend/family member you want to surprise with an unexpected gift, here you have it.

 

My Favorite Things for Moms list of 2017.

Complete with some of the items I have fell in love with over the past year plus some of the products I would love to receive in the upcoming year, here are a few of My Favorite Things for you, for me, and for Mama Bears everywhere.

You could ask for any of these yourself, use this list to come up with the perfect gift idea for a friend, or consider gifting one of these to a teacher, coworker, or neighbor. Whichever way you use this, I hope these ideas will spur on generous giving and grateful hearts for you and fellow moms.

 

My Favorite Things for Moms

Please note that some of the following links are affiliate links. You are not charged any more for using these; however, a small commission from each sale helps support Veggies & Virtue continue its mission to serve families like yours. For more on my disclosure and privacy policies, please see my legal page.

 

A Good Water Bottle

It is hard to believe that I was still rocking one of those massive 32 ounce water bottles they give you in your postpartum birth suite up until Siggi's sent me a new water bottle, like this one. Now, I daily find myself drinking even more water than I was with the breast-feeding mammoth hydration machine I toted around before. Plus, it stays consistently cold (kind of like my coffee!).

 

Coffee Tumbler

It seems like everyone now has heard of YETI. If you haven't gotten on this bandwagon yet though, now may be your chance to do so.

Enter 2018 as a year with hot coffee, Mama!

I know it seemed impossible to achieve this as a mom, but coffee cups like this one by YETI or other discounted equivalents like these have transformed that morning cup of joe for many of us mom. What I love too if the tops like these that come with a straw so you can also ice your coffee and keep a straw in it during the summer (or 10 months out of the year here in Houston).

 

Wine Glasses

The chance to enjoy a glass of wine doesn't happen on a whim for many moms, but ever since seeing these Goverre wine glasses on Shark Tank I have felt like they are the perfect solution for many moms. Whether it is enjoying a glass at a holiday party or sitting on the floor and playing with your little's new train set on the night of Christmas, this spill-prook wine glass is such a great gift for the mom you don't know what to get. While it isn't officially a "leak proof" sippy cup for moms, it can drastically cut down the number of wine glasses that break or spills that happen as part of our classiest mom moments.

 

Wine Club Membership

This past September, my husband and I had the joy of finally visiting the Napa wine country for a dear friend's wedding. While there, we decided to finally participate in our first wine club membership. While this is something we have long argued as "unnecessary," it has become something that we now deeply enjoy and appreciate for date night ins. This would be such a thoughtful and generous gift to the women who enjoys a good glass of wine but may not otherwise justified buying it for herself. Also for anyone who may be a bit behind on shopping for Christmas gifts, this is one you still have time to easily set up and send a "voucher" for as having ordered on their behalf!

Three of our favorite wine clubs, include:

     

    Grocery Pads and Meal Planners

    I know I am not the only mom who misplaces my grocery list or forgot to include an item on it until after I already left the store. I also know that I am among the many moms who are trying to simplify this daily to do of figuring out what we feed out families. That's why I met my need and the needs spoken by many fellow moms with my grocery list and meal planning tear off pad. At $10, this pad gives you six months worth of pre-filled grocery lists on one side and meal planning templates on the other. That works out to be less than $0.50 per week to organize and streamline one area of mom life I know we all need a little hand with.

    I also have a Meal Planning Playbook for any mom who wants to take control of their meal planning in 2018. It walks you through a five step process to "Less Meal Time Stress and More Feeding Success." You can buy the Meal Planning Playbook here.

     

    Want to get free access to my tips and templates for "Less Meal Time Stress and More Feeding Success?" Sign up for my once-weekly newsletter here.

     

    Vital Choice

    Being a native Washingtonian, I have loved salmon for as long as I can remember. Up until this past October though, the only way I knew to get or gift fresh, local salmon was by calling one of the fisheries at Pike Place Market and shipping it. When I was at the Food & Nutrition Expo in Chicago this past Fall, I discovered a new seafood company from my home state that had me with the first bite.

    Anyone who has followed me on Instagram knows how much smoked salmon we go through in our home. I tend to buy a cost-effective and convenient one from Costco, which meets our needs on a week to week basis. But when it comes to the gifts to give and receive that get me really excited? Vital Choice takes the cake…or rather is a reel catch!

    That's why this Vital Choice Smoked Salmon Sampler is on my list. Not only is it delivering all the nutrition a foodie mom could ask for, but it gives options and variety that is perfect to put out for holiday hosting that I know even my kids will eat. I ordered the Vital Choice Vital Starter Box to send my 93-year old grandmother this Christmas. She lives alone, so these individual portions are perfect for her to pull out and enjoy! My husband and I are also going to enjoy the Vital Choice Vital Starter Box for "Date Nights In" in the coming year. It is cheaper than a date night out and yet we can still enjoy a nice dinner together...after we get the kids down.

     

     
     

    Gift certificates to Hello Fresh, Blue Apron, One Potato Box, Home Chef, or Fish Fixe

    You know what these are? Permission to take a week off. You all know I am pretty committed to meal planning and prep (as I share in my Meal Planning Playbook), but even I get burnt out or am straight unable to some weeks. That's why this past year I have wished I had given myself permission to just skip.

    For 2018, I am! On the weeks we are returning home late on a Sunday night or when I have been at home with sick kids and just need to reprioritize where my time and energy is invested, I would LOVE permission to pass on the meal planning and prep by having one of these services do (and deliver!) it all for me.

    • Hello Fresh
    • Blue Apron
    • One Potato Box
    • Home Chef
    • Fish Fixe
     

    Lettering Journals

    I understand that adult coloring books have been out for several years now and changing the way that we as adults find little pockets of stress relief. They're a popular stocking stuffer or easy gift idea, which is precisely why I know a lot of women who will LOVE these lettering journals by my dear friend Alex over at Prairie Letter Shop. For as long as I have known Alex, she has had that hand writing that you just drool over. Now, she combines her giftedness in lettering with her mastery of teaching to show anyone and everyone the stress relief, joy, and leisure of hand lettering. She has so many resources available, including her very popular Daily Lettering Journal, Second Edition and Daily Lettering Journal, Scripture Edition (which I had the honor to contribute to!). Anything that Alex offers I know will become an outlet for moms to unwind and enjoy.

     

    Comfy Mom Tees

    I asked y'all over on my Instagram what small businesses you loved comfy mom tees from and here were a list of 10 faves:

    1. Banky Girl Creations (@bankygirlcreations)
    2. Walk in love (@walkinlove)
    3. Crew and Co. (@crewandco)
    4. Jane.com
    5. Audience of One Apparel (@ao1apparel)
    6. Living on the Veg Tees (@living_on_the_veg_tees)
    7. Farm Fresh Designs (@farmfreshdesignsok)
    8. Declan and Crew (@declanandcrew)
    9. The BE Brand (@thebebrand)
    10. The BB Tee (@thebbtee)
     

    Little Dumpling Apron Set

    I admit, I will probably be asking for one of these Little Dumpling Apron sets for Mother's Day 2018, so I am going to go ahead and throw these out there for you now. I adore the high-quality aprons and eye-catching designs of these matching mother-child apron sets. So whether you have a lot of holiday baking you already need this for, or you plan to get inspired to have your kids in the kitchen more for the upcoming year, these are by far the most darling and endearing way to go about it.

     

    Want to get in on my free newsletter in 2018? Join us!

     

    Letterfolk Boards

    I don't know if anyone else out there is dying for a girls weekend away at the Silos as much as my girlfriend mamas and I do, but it just sounds so fun. Gawking over Joanna Gaines and anything and everything she creates, designs, and inspires. One of the small businesses that I know has made an appearance in Waco before is that of Letterfolk boards. You all may also recognize these from my "#whatIbuyandwhy" posts, which is just one of a million fun ways to use them! Be it for a pregnant mom friend who wants to announce how far along she is week by week, the mom with a wee-one sharing the month by month pics, or a mom just documenting funny quotes for motherhood, these are a gift I think most any would enjoy finding a use for.,

     

    Books

    Between an Audible subscription, Kindle edition, or book in print, there are so many ways to gift the perfect gift or cookbook for the coming year! I personally have asked for Emily Ley's A Simplified Life and Jen Hatmaker's Of Mess and Moxie (affiliate links) as inspirational books. Professionally, I hope to read Rising Strong and The Challenger Sale in 2018.

     

    iRobot Vacuum

    I can't help it. My husband and I gave this roomba to each other last year and yes, it indeed became one of my favorite things in 2017. The ability to have the vaccum run itself at any and every time of day has been AMAZING. So while it is a big investment, it can be an amazing gift that any busy mom (aka ALL OF US!) could likely use and appreciate.

     

    Custom Silhouettes

    I have prepped my husband for years that as soon as our family is "complete," I want custom silhouettes of each of my kids. There is something so magical, timeless, and priceless about the work that Le Papier Studio does to capture these silhouettes of children, I truly can't think of anything more wonderful than these as a gift for any mom. What I am particularly swooning over is our family ornament each year being these ones. How memorable would it be to have a tree 20 years from now covered with these keepsake ornaments on it from your family's most precious memories?

     

    Plus 10 Stocking Stuffer Ideas for Mom

    1. Exercise socks (I am obsessed with these for running)
    2. Chocolate (that's JUST for mom, like BarkThins or Justin's PB cups!)
    3. New undies (yes, I said it but I will skip linking any)
    4. A new set of frames (geek alert since this is my first year in my glasses!)
    5. Reflective gear for working out (since we often work out in the wee hours)
    6. BAMR bands (my FAVORITE work out head bands)
    7. Planner (I asked for this one)
    8. Bath bombs (my hubs sometimes gets these for me at airports after business trips - WIN!)
    9. Candles (these are made in Texas and heavenly)
    10. Gift cards for mani/pedi, new makeup, a massage (slash cash for a babysitter when you go!)
     

    Ready to start 2018 on a good foot? Get the info you need as the nutritional gatekeeper in your home with front row access to everything Veggies & Virtue offers. Register now for my newsletter!

     

    Merry Christmas!

    While these are far from an end all, be all list, but I hope it helped you to think of a few last minute ideas that were within a range of price points and could appeal to a lot of different people. Whichever items you ask for or give, I hope that you and those you love have a very, Merry Christmas!

     

    Christmas Movie Night

    Disclosure: This post is sponsored by RegaloPlease note, this post also contains affiliate links. As always, all opinions are my own.

    Christmas family movie night

    I love the movie Elf, but I think Will Ferrel and I need to have a little chat about the key food groups, especially for kids!

    "We elves try to stick to the four main food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corns, and syrup."   Buddy, "Elf" the movie

    The holidays are filled with special occasions and rare excuses to enjoy a few more "fun foods" than what we include in our everyday diets. That's okay and quite honestly part of why kids get so excited about this time of year.

    This being said, as a dietitian mom, I encourage families to offset all of the added sugars and unnecessary "junk" that is offered at class parties, hot cocoa with Santa, and cookie exchanges by making healthier choices when in the comfort of our own homes.

    That's why for this month's collaboration with the Littles & Me, Ashley and I wanted to come up with a simple and yet "sweet" take on a family movie night.

    Christmas family movie night

    We all have enough going on in the month of December that this is nothing to stress out about. Instead, print out any of the adorable invitations Ashley made over on her blog post here, then when it is time, let your kiddos grab their Christmas movie caddy, pop up their Regalo My Cot Portable Toddler Bed, and bundle up in a blanket.

    This is a family night that will refuel you and your littles amidst a season that can be so on the go.

    Family movie night

    How to Host the Perfect Family Movie Night this Christmas

    Image courtesy of The Littles & Me

    Image courtesy of The Littles & Me

    Send the invitation

    Ashley over at the Littles & Me has some adorable movie night invitations that can be printed here and used to invite your kids (and friends) over for a fun movie night in. Perfect for whatever Christmas classics are your family's favorite, these invitations will build anticipation over the night to come.

    Family movie night

    Make sure you serve dinner first.

    Want your kids to fill up on buttery popcorn and candy? Then forgo a main meal and let the snack food binge begin. Instead consider making a dinner like Rudolph Sloppy Joes to enjoy alongside a platter of raw veggies and dip. Then once everyone has had their fill of some "real (non-snack) food," you can settle in to snuggle time without endless requests for snacks.

    Christmas movie snack caddy

    Pack a Christmas Movie Caddy

    No one wants to pass the bowl of popcorn between kids who have emerging and yet at time conflicting personalities over what is "mine!" and yours. So instead, pack a simple Christmas movie caddy for each kid to enjoy on their own during the movie. Pack it with healthier options like homemade microwave popcorn (you can use Ashley's cute Christmas popcorn cups here), a milk box or KidsWater water box, a red, green, and white Christmas kabob, and/or one small treat (think no bigger than a fun-sized bag of candy or individually wrapped Reese's tree). If you are giving your child candy, consider something like a small candy cane or all-natural lollipop (being cautious of small hard candy choking hazards with kids under four). Lick for lick or bite for bite, it will take a child much longer to make their way through one candy cane or lollipop, compared to other candy that is easy to mindlessly over eat.

    Regalo My Cot

    Set up your snugly spot

    Be it in front of the fire for Mama Bear or cuddled up with all their stuffed animals for the kiddos, this movie night is the perfect excuse to bust out those Christmas PJs plus a portable cot as an early Christmas present for your kiddos.

    Since trying out the Regalo Toddler Bed as an early Christmas present in our home, my family has been able to enjoy many Christmas classics this past month. Besides the simple and yet intimate family time these movie nights afford us in, I appreciate that the My Cot is an easy and effortless addition. My kids love making forts for movies, but without wanting to disrupt too many of our Christmas decorations to do so, this portable bed has become our new go to.

    The Regalo toddler bed is plenty long for either of my littles, while still having a small footprint on the floor. I appreciate this, in the essence of keeping movie night cozy, compact, and still comfortably at the base of the Christmas tree. Plus, it folds up easily in a compact carrying case so we can store it in the coat closet or up in the girls rooms in between movie nights. Then when it is time for another family movie night, my oldest can get it out and set it up on her own (no pinched fingers and no lying on the hard floor). Unlike the frustrations of failed fort attempts for an almost four year old, my girls are enjoying a little newfound independence with their own Christmas snack caddies and "special spots" off of the couch on the My Cot.

    regalo my cot 8.jpg

    Savor

    One of my favorite traditions each year is giving my girls Christmas PJs, a new Christmas movie for our collections, and one gift the night before Christmas. There is something about that last snuggle before Santa that just seals all the joy of this season. What's more, it is one moment when "the stuff" has an intentional purpose of bringing your family together one last, treasured time.

    If you want to create this tradition in your home too, I invite you to get your free download and plan for a Family Christmas Movie Night. Go to Ashley's blog post, then think through what special snacks and spot your kiddo will get to have this year. I got the snack caddies at the Dollar Store. The Regalo My Cot Portable Toddler Bed can be purchased through Regalo directly or on Amazon if you want to make sure it gets to you in time for your movie night.

     

    However you decide to host a family movie night, Ashley over at the Littles & Me, our small business friends at Regalo, and I want to wish you all a very Merry Christmas!

    Elf on the Shelf Ideas

    Is it not crazy that Christmas is almost here?

    Whether you have an Advent calendar up or an Elf hidden on a shelf, chances are that your kids have found some way to start the grand 25 day countdown until Christmas.

    So even though we chose not to do Elf on the Shelf in our house this year, we had so much fun with ours last year that I thought I would share a month in review here.

    Scroll through the gallery below for the full month of the elf-inspired scenes we set up... all in and around food, of course!

    Each image also has a clickable link to the image and caption (as shared on Instagram last year) if you are interested.

     

    Whatever fills up your December days, I hope you may find joy in the simple yet sweet memories built with those you love the most!

    My Favorite Things List 2017

    I get it. I am not Oprah. But I absolutely love this time of year and how it has led me to find many of my favorite products for my kids. 

    From the first five items I ever shared on a Christmas wishlist (see 2015 wishlist here) to the gifts that filled my wish list last year (see 2016 wishlist here), I am now a proud owner of all ten of these items. They were the items I really, truly wanted for feeding my own family over the past two years as a new mom and items I am glad to have shared with each of you.

    This past year has opened up a lot of new opportunities though. I enter into 2018 humbled and grateful to not only have gotten to officially launch Veggies & Virtue LLC in 2017, but also to look back and see how much this platform has grown in the past 12 months.

    Beyond the number of you who now follow me on Instagram, Facebook, or my weekly newsletter, what means the most to me is how many of you have come to trust me.

    I want you to know that I don't take this lightly.

    As a mom, there is nothing I protect more than my children's well being. With this, comes the discernment to know when, where, and on what to invest our family's time, money, and energy. I weigh these decisions heavily myself in hopes that it will serve both my children and family well - not just now in these foundational years, but also in all the years to come.

    And I know you do too.

    That's why as a mom and pediatric dietitian, I make it a priority to scrutinize the products I recommend on Veggies & Virtue. I love sharing those that I see a natural place for in achieving,

    "Less Meal Time Stress. More Feeding Success."

    I also get pretty darn giddy imagining how these items may make their way into your homes and lives in the upcoming year. I get excited knowing the feeding wins I have seen in our home personally as well as with my clients professionally when using items like those I share below.

    So as one small business owner honored to support so many others with theirs, may you find comfort in knowing a few of Veggies & Virtue's Favorite Things.

    Use these as Christmas gift ideas or a little added inspiration for how to get your family on track with feeding in the coming year. In doing so, know:

    My small business and each of those below are so grateful for your trust and support.

     
    tHUMBNAIL.png
     
     

    Veggies & Virtue: My Favorite Things List 2017

    I have included three options under each of the following categories. While there are so many amazing products out there to try, these are my top three (in no particular order).

    Please note that some of the following links are affiliate links. You are not charged any more for using these; however, a small commission from each sale helps support Veggies & Virtue continue its mission to serve families like yours. For more on my disclosure and privacy policies, please see my legal page.

     

    Subscriptions

    Veggie Buds Club : Use code VEGGIELOVER15 for 15% off a 3-month subscription or VEGGIELOVER20 for 20%. Ends 11/25

    Veggie Buds Club : Use code VEGGIELOVER15 for 15% off a 3-month subscription or VEGGIELOVER20 for 20%. Ends 11/25

    Nomster Chef : Keep your eyes out in Spring 2018 for new subscription options!

    Nomster Chef : Keep your eyes out in Spring 2018 for new subscription options!

    Z Dough : Use code VERYMERRY for $10 off orders $40+ over the Black Friday weekend. Ends 11/27

    Z Dough : Use code VERYMERRY for $10 off orders $40+ over the Black Friday weekend. Ends 11/27

     

    Toddler Stools & Chairs

     

    Feeding Tools

    Meals with Milton : 20% off on all orders. Ends 11/27.

    Meals with Milton : 20% off on all orders. Ends 11/27.

    Lunchbox Love Notes : Use code BLACKFRIDAY for 50% off on 11/25 or CYBER60 for 60% on 11/27.

    Lunchbox Love Notes : Use code BLACKFRIDAY for 50% off on 11/25 or CYBER60 for 60% on 11/27.

     

    Kitchen Tools

    Foost Kid-Safe Knives : Use code veggiesandvirtue for 10% off

    Foost Kid-Safe Knives : Use code veggiesandvirtue for 10% off

    Mabel's Labels : 40% OFF the most popular labels. No code needed. Ends 11/27.

    Mabel's Labels : 40% OFF the most popular labels. No code needed. Ends 11/27.

     

    Lunchboxes

    Yumbox : Order on Yumbox.com with coupon Friday30 for 30% off.

    Yumbox : Order on Yumbox.com with coupon Friday30 for 30% off.

    OmieBox : On Sale for $29.99 (over 20% off!). Ends 11/27.

    OmieBox : On Sale for $29.99 (over 20% off!). Ends 11/27.

    Dishware

    ezpz : Use code EZPZFUN20 on Black Friday.

    ezpz : Use code EZPZFUN20 on Black Friday.

    Dylbug : Use code BLACKFRIDAY2017 for 20% off or get $10 off of orders over $50.

    Dylbug : Use code BLACKFRIDAY2017 for 20% off or get $10 off of orders over $50.

    Clothing

    Bapron : Use cofe BFCM for 20% off plus a free carrying bag with all orders. Ends 11/27.

    Bapron : Use cofe BFCM for 20% off plus a free carrying bag with all orders. Ends 11/27.

    Little Dumpling Apron : Use code BLACKFRIDAY for 20%. Ends 11/27

    Little Dumpling Apron : Use code BLACKFRIDAY for 20%. Ends 11/27

    Unitee Kids : 15% off + free shipping for orders over $100. Ends 11/27.

    Unitee Kids : 15% off + free shipping for orders over $100. Ends 11/27.

     

    Educational ITEMS (that you can totally use to teach in the kitchen and/or using food!)

     

    The Best of 2017

    Well, there you have it! Some of my most favorite small businesses and products from this past year. I hope you are able to score some deals to stock up on these items. No matter when you buy, I am confident these will be tools you and your family can use to achieve newfound feeding success in the New Year!

    Turkey Veggies Cups

    I have a lot of parents asking me how to handle feeding our kids around the holidays. Just as I shared with Amy over at Yummy Toddler Food this week and last, there are some key considerations that I think will help lessen your stress around what your kids are eating, or more so, being offered this time of year.

    One of the best ways to ensure your kiddos are getting at least a few healthy bites in each day is to focus on fun, festive veggie-based appetizers. Rather than filling up on less nourishing snack foods, consider putting out a platter with these individual turkey veggie cups before the big holiday meal.

    Created for a Friendsgiving playdate in the park I hosted over on the Sneakz blog (sponsored post), these are the perfect portion for small hands to hold, dip, and enjoy!

     
     
    Sneakz Friendsgiving 5.JPG
     

    Turkey Veggie Cups

    Supplies:

    • Small, clear plastic cups (8-12 oz in size; one per person)
    • Googly eyes (2 per cup)
    • One piece of orange paper for the beak
    • One piece of red paper for the wattle
    • Tacky glue for quick sticking

    Ingredients:

    • A small veggie platter or assortment of veggies
    • Veggie dip (like hummus or ranch dip, if included in the veggie platter)

    Instructions:

    1. Rather than buy several different bags of veggies, save yourself the time and excess at the store by purchasing a small veggie platter. This will have several different types of veggies included that can then be divided among cups.
    2. Assemble turkey cups by fixing googly eyes and beak onto each. Place cup down to dry.
    3. While the beak and eyes dry, add veggie dip of choice to the bottom of each cup.
    4. Add one or two of each veggie to each plastic cup, setting them in the veggie dip.
    5. Serve and enjoy!

    To see more ideas on how to use this recipe and others, hop on over to the Sneakz blog for the full Friendsgiving Picnic in the Park menu (sponsored)!

     
    Friendsgiving Playdate in the Park
     

    Want to make a large veggie platter instead?

    Need to bring an appetizer to your Thanksgiving gathering? Consider making a larger veggie platter instead. The one featured on my Friendsgiving post with the Littles and Me (shown below) is fun option for a crowd!

     
    turkey veggie platter friendsgiving.jpg
     
     

    Wishing you and your family a healthy, happy holiday tomorrow and into the weekend ahead!