Let’s be real here. I know what you’re going to say. Processed food is bad for you. Processed food is terrible for kids. There’s no nutritional value. The ingredients list is usually long and sometimes there’s things on there that you can’t pronounce. Please don’t go all sanctamommy on me. Let me explain.
Believe me, I get it. I stayed away from processed food for a really long time when I didn’t have kids. From time to time it till creeps into my dinner plans, and I’ve made peace with it. Toddlers can get picky no matter what you feed them as babies. Mine ate everything when he was just starting out with food, and now it depends on the day (and the colour of fork he has in his hands) to figure out what he’ll eat.
A Little Background
Before I became a parent, I had a bunch of ideas of how I wanted to raise my children. I knew I was going to limit sugar, make as many meals as possible for them, and make sure they tried a variety of foods so he would learn not to be picky.
When my oldest son, Kendrick, was old enough to eat solids, I used my best effort to make most of his foods and I made about 90% of his purees by steaming and blending fresh vegetables and meats. The other 10% of the time was usually when we were out and about and the Baby Gourmet or President’s Choice Squeeze packs were much easier to carry around.
When he was old enough to transition to milk, I bought him the organic version (even though hubby and I drank the normal milk) until he was two. He also didn’t start having juice until around 2, and even then it was a treat, watered down, and limited. He doesn’t eat cake, cookies, ice cream or chocolate (mind you, it helps that he doesn’t like any of those) and we try to limit treats (although he’s been getting a few more since we’ve been potty training). I make a real effort to make and prepare healthy meals for my family. BUT, as much as I try to be sometimes, I’m not SuperMom and I make something easy or grab something on the way home because I just don’t have the energy to cook anything fancy. This doesn’t happen all the time, so I’ve learned to embrace it and do the best I can to still sneak in those vegetables and not have dinner be a lost cause. Here are some of my favourite family food hacks!
Steamed and Chopped Veggies
Frozen vegetables are a parent’s best friend. I do buy fresh when I can but I find if I buy too much in inevitably goes bad before I have time to actually use it. I buy frozen veggie mixes (usually the Asian style or Italian style Sobey’s brand frozen vegetable mixes), steam the veggies in my handy Epicure steamer, and then finely chop them in my Kitchenaid food chopper. Then I add to EVERYTHING! I actually read somewhere that in frozen veggie mixes they only use “perfect” veggies so that optically it looks good when you open the bag, so that makes me happy!
Kendrick doesn’t eat a ton of meat but he LOVES meatballs. My favourite thing to add steamed veggies to is actually meatballs! It’s a great way to inject some greens into a toddler favourite! For these particular meatballs I used Epicure’s Meatball & Meatloaf mix (and the recipe on the back of the package) ground turkey, ground Italian sausage and one cup of steamed & chopped mixed vegetables.
Mac & Cheese & Everything
This is the name I give my meal when I make Mac & Cheese, as I never just make it plain. I buy Annie’s Organic Mac & Cheese as it tastes delicious and you can buy it at Costco! My son LOVES broccoli and corn so I tend to add those more often than not. I also add ground beef/turkey/italian sausage sometimes so I can get all the food groups in there! The Epicure Pizza Oven Fries spice is also a favourite to spice things up a bit! I also get these amazing Catelli macaroni noodles that have servings of veggies in them and add an extra cup. Double bonus!
Hamburger Meal (aka Hamburger Helper)
I make my own pasta sauce 95% of the time becauseI refuse to buy store bought sauces with sugar in them (and I can’t understand why you’d put sugar in pasta sauce). Yet, I usually have a box or two of lasagna hamburger meal (Sobey’s brand that’s soy free) in the pantry for the nights where I don’t have the energy to cook. Because I know Hamburger Helper in itself isn’t exactly healthy, I do my best to make it a little more healthy for my family. I use ground turkey or chicken instead of ground beef and I add broccoli or other veggies. It’s also a one pot meal which means less dishes to do when the kids go to bed. Still delicious!
Good Ol’ Pizza
Although this isn’t made at home, sometimes when we’ve needed something quick for dinner we pick up one of Sobey’s in-store made pizzas. They have multiple different kinds and it’s much healthier, cheaper and faster than ordering pizza. They make them in store fresh that day, and they are delicious! Sometimes I’ll raid the fridge and add some extra toppings too!
What I’m Trying To Say Is…
…it’s ok! It’s ok to not make fancy or extremely healthy meals every day. In the long run it will all balance out. What kid hasn’t ever had Hamburger Helper or Kraft Dinner? Sometimes you’ll order pizza. Other times you’ll go to McDonald’s. Everyone will survive.
Speaking of McDonald’s, the first time that Kendrick had McDonald’s I ordered him a McNugget Happy Meal. At that point he wasn’t eating much meat, but he ate all the chicken nuggets! Since then I’ve gone out and bought healthier versions of chicken nuggets and chicken fingers and now it’s one of his favourite meals! Even though chicken nuggets are processed food, at least I know it’s a way to get some chicken in him!
I’ve accepted the fact that sometimes you just need to get something on the table. Parenting is harder some days than others; I’m learning this even more now with an almost three month old at home on top of my toddler. Don’t let the Mom Guilt creep in. Your kid is going to be ok if he has something unhealthy once and awhile. I promise. You’re doing a great job!
I’ll leave you with some food for thought below. Are there any food hacks you’d like to share that work of your family?
Please note this post includes affiliate links. This means if you click through and buy through a link on my page, I may get a small commission.