The essential guide to feeding children over the holidays
How am I going to ensure my children eat nutritiously while we are at the beach, out of routine, and have no household help when we are back home?
Firstly, I remind myself get my perspective in check.
The right perspective
When your children end up eating way more sugary or processed foods than you would like, don’t get hung up on it. Holidays are about memories which your children will hold onto forever.
Eating soft serve on Sedgefield beach in the Garden Route is one of my most cherished childhood memories. I am so glad my parents didn’t ruin it by freaking out about the sugar or telling us it’s not healthy or that we haven’t eat “proper” food that day so we can’t have soft serve.
Hang onto perspective. Expect that eating and feeding is going to be different and less structured. It is a few weeks out of the whole year, and you can trust your children and yourself to self-regulate and balance their nutrition and growth over time. Focus on the connection, joy and change of routine, not on who is eating too much or too little of what.
With that in mind, my family still needs to eat regularly!
Children are starving on the holidays –swimming and playing all day means very busy people with big appetites.
I don’t want to spend the entire holiday shopping and cooking, but it doesn’t change that it is MY job to provide food regularly.
With a bit of planning and a lot of perspective, you can set yourself up for success and focus on spending precious time with the family.
- Prepare easy snacks ahead of time: Do a big fresh produce shop so your house is full of fresh fruit and vegetables. Summer in South Africa is the best fruit ever – litchis, mangoes, watermelon, peaches. When you have a few minutes, cut up carrot sticks, cucumber slices and melon cubes. Prepare some easy dips – tuna mayonnaise, egg dip, cream cheese. A variety of crackers is useful to have on hand. Boil some baby potatoes, mielies and eggs and store them in the fridge. Having this ready, you won’t panic when your children ask for a snack, and they can fill up on tasty nutrient-dense food.
- Eat dinner for breakfast. Arriving home with dirty and exhausted kids who have fallen asleep in the car means supper is a non-event, so why not make breakfast your main meal. The children won’t say “I am hungry” the moment you leave the house.
- Toasted sandwiches or a sandwich bar, fresh fruit juice, cut up vegetables
- Scrambled eggs, fried sausages, toast, baked potatoes
- Pasta dishes
- Smoothies saviors. Summer means smoothies! And smoothies mean delicious and nutritious snacks. Freeze a few kilograms (yes I mean a few kilograms) of really ripe/ overripe bananas, and blend with any combination of milk, yoghurt, frozen berries, frozen mangoes, almonds, spinach, dates. Yum!
- Slow cooker magic Your slow cooker is your holiday lifesaver – if you own one. Throw in a frozen chicken in the morning, whole potatoes and some spices, and come home to steaming roast chicken. Put out some baby tomatoes, and grapes and VOILA – a hot, nutritious meal in a minute for hungry children and parents. Lamb also cooks beautifully in a slow cooker.
TWO-MINUTE SLOW COOKER DINNERS
Slow Cooker Chicken – Take a whole chicken (fresh / frozen) and rub with a few spices eg salt, paprika, garlic powder, thyme and place in slow cooker. Add baby potaotes or chopped unpeeled potatoes. Add a chopped onion – optional. If fresh, add half a cup of water. Cook on slow cooker on lowest setting for minimum of 7 hours
Incredible Slow Cooker Lamb Stew – Place 1 – 2 kg of stewing lamb in the slow cooker. Add 1 – 2 tins of chopped tomatoes. Add 1 teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoon garlic powder and 2 teaspoons dried rosemary. Cook on low for at least 6 hours, the longer it cooks the softer the meat will be.
- Take the easy way out. Eating out, ordering takeout and relying on ready-made deli food is perfect! You also need a holiday, and there is no guilt around doing what you need to provide food (whether in the holidays or throughout the year). Convenience foods like frozen pizzas and ready-made pies are there to make your life easier. Don’t fall into the habit of “feeling so bad” that you aren’t feeding your family “properly”. If you are providing edible food on a regular basis, you are amazing! While I try provide nutrient-dense foods throughout the year, I lower all my expectations of myself in the holidays.
And finally, let go!
As hard as it may be please please do not spend the holidays worrying or fighting about food. Yes, there will way more eating of sugary and processed foods. Yes, you will want to argue, restrict and threaten around foods eaten. Please remember your children will be okay. They will eat what they need. Focus on doing YOUR job – the what, when and where of feeding, and creating special memories which will nourish your family forever.