Surviving Summer Meal Planning

I am a summer girl at heart. I like to get every second out of the warm weather and love the free spirit of summer life. I’ll admit that by the time September comes, I am ready for routine, but not until then. Since having kids, I have learned that they crave routine and a sense of “normal” as part of each day so I do my best to keep routine in the times that food and sleep are offered. Don’t get me wrong…we have days that we get off schedule, and that is okay…teaches resiliency. But we aim for normal routine at least 6 days out of 7 each week. I find that meal planning helps with this SO much! If I don’t know what I am serving for supper and how long it will take, I will inevitably stay at the park/splash pad/beach too long and never serve supper on time. This leads to meltdowns from both kiddos and mama! I have also learned to plan ahead for the days that I know we will be “behind on time”….meaning that I take nutritious food with me that I can offer during the kids normal supper time, then a smaller snack once we are home.

I thought I would share some of my fave meals to make this summer that are quick, easy, and good for hot weather.

1. Chicken Stir Fry

This is a great one for walking in the door and needing to eat in 10 minutes. The key is prepping ahead. The night before or morning of get your ingredients ready. Slice a few chicken breasts into thin pieces (I plan on 1/3 chicken breast per child and 1/2 per adult) ans place into a container and put it into the fridge. Then, chop/slice/dice your veggies of choice ans it them into a container in the fridge. I like to do peppers, broccoli, and red onion but anything is great. You may also want to use up leftovers of vegetables from previous meals that are already cut up and cooked. When you get home, pull out your largest fry pan or wok and add in the chicken with a little bit of water and cook on medium or medium high until the chicken is cooked through. Then add your veggies and 1Tbsp. Avocado oil. Stir every few minutes to ensure even cooking until veggies soften slightly but still have some crunch. Then you can add sliced water chestnuts or sliced almonds for added flavour and texture.

At this point, I like to remove the kids chicken and veggies because my kids prefer theirs without sauce, but rather dip in hummus or guacamole. I then add spices, rice vinegar, and/or a sauce depending on what flavour we are interested in that night. Sauces can be a dense source of sodium and sugar so adding only a small amount at the end rather than a large amount throughout cooking can really cut down on empty calories and overdoing your sodium intake. This can be eaten on its own or on top of a bed of spinach or kale, or with rice, quinoa, pita bread, or in a wrap . Children should always have a source of starch with it even, if it is as simple as whole grain pita.

2. Summer Salads

Making a salad into a meal is a constant in our home. I love that I don’t need to turn the oven, stove, or BBQ on.  We always have spinach or mixed greens on hand, lots of veggies and fruit that are easy to chop up, and something that can be used for protein (leftover salmon or chicken, cold or sautéed shrimp, hard boiled egg, dried chickpeas, almonds, other nuts and seeds). For more salad combo ideas, see this post . If your kids are like mine, and turn their nose up to salad, you can make a “salad plate”….cut up veggies and the same protein that the adults are having.

3. Homemade Burgers

This is another one that works best if you do prep ahead of time. If you make up your burger mix ahead of time, then when you walk in the door, you can make up the patties and get them on the BBQ within minutes of walking in the door. With this, you can throw a salad together, or if your family prefers veggies and dip, set them out even before the burgers are cooked. Filling up on veggies is never a bad thing. Most dips are calorie dense and low on nutrition. Ratio of veggies to dip is important to monitor to ensure that tummies are more full of veggies than empty calories.

Hope this gives you a few simple and fun meal ideas to get through the next week. Don’t be afraid to keep it simple. As long as you are serving nutritious food, it doesn’t need to be extravagant!

Until next time…stay healthy!

 

 

 

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Hemp Hearts

When we decided to try Clay on a dairy free diet, I was quite concerned about how I would meet his protein needs with missing out on 16 grams of protein each day that milk had been providing…not to mention the Greek yogurt and cheese that would now be excluded too. I blogged about that process here.

One of the products I became very interested in using was hemp hearts. They are a source of complete protein, which is rare for a plant based food and means that the body can use them directly to make body proteins. (Other plant based foods that provide complete proteins are quinoa, soy, and chia.)

Costco carries Manitoba Harvest shelled hemp hearts, so I decided to try those and have loved making many products with them for almost a year now. I recently received a bag directly from the company with an offer to give one of my readers a free bag as well. Here is some information about them and ways that I used them in case you want to try them too.

As I mentioned above, they are a source of complete protein. 3 Tbsp. provides 10 grams of protein which is about the same as a cup of cow’s milk or soy milk (both have 8-9 grams per cup). By adding 3 Tbsp. of hemp hearts to a cup of almond or coconut milk, you have created a more nutritious milk alternative.

Hemp hearts are also a source of omega 3 fatty acids. These are essential fatty acids, which means that the body cannot make them. I’ve blogged before about the importance of omega 3 for our bodies at all stages of life. Starting from in the womb, while breastfeeding, and all throughout childhood, it helps in brain development. Research has also shown that later in life it continues to support mental health. Omega 3 also serves an anti-inflammatory role in the body, among many other roles.

In terms of flavour and texture profile, hemp hearts have a ever so slight nutty flavour and are crunchy when sprinkled on things and add wonderful creaminess to any smoothie.

Our whole family enjoys them. Here are my top 5 ways that I use them.
1. Breakfast or lunch wrap/sandwich: Whole grain wrap or toast, spread with natural almond or peanut butter, sprinkle hemp hearts, role up/out pieces of toast together, and serve with your choice of fruit (or put the fruit right in the sandwich/wrap.
2. Smoothie: Almond or coconut milk with any fresh or frozen fruit and 2-3 Tbsp. hemp hearts. Matcha powder can be a fun addition too! My kids and I also enjoy the Manitoba Harvest Hemp Smoothie Powder.
3. Salad topper: as I mentioned, hemp hearts add a nice crunch, so you can add them on top of any salad before or after you toss it.
4. Breakfast pizza: you can find this recipe here.
5. Banana snacks: my kids love when I slice a banana and toll the slices in hemp hearts. The slices are always gone in a matter of seconds.

You can also add hemp hearts to any recipe you make for muffins, pancakes, or cookies! There is always room for a nutrition boost when baking!
I hope this gives you some fun ideas on how to use this nutrition packed product.

If you are interested in winning a bag of your own, there is still time to enter. Visit my Instagram feed @mealsformeandmyminis and look for the giveaway post from Tuesday July 16th.

Thanks for reading.
Until next time…stay healthy!!!

Breakfast Pizza

My kids LOVE peanut butter and banana….lets be honest, I do too. Anyone with me? I thought it would be fun to take this old favourite and make a fun and healthy twist on it for breakfast today. We all loved it so I had to share! It is packed with protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates as well as amazing flavor!

Ingredients

1 thin flat bread or pizza crust (preferably whole wheat but can be white if that is all you can find)

1 cup natural peanut or almond butter

1/4 cup Manitoba Harvest Shelled Hemp Hearts

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1/4 cup PB2

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2 Tbsp. honey

1-2 bananas

1/2 cup raisins

1 Tbsp. Manitoba Harvest Shelled Hemp Hearts (for sprinkling)

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees F and put flat bread in for 8-10 minutes (or until it is warmed through).
  2. While your flat bread is heating, mix together peanut butter, hemp hearts, PB2, and honey.
  3. Microwave your mixture for 45-60 seconds to soften it and stir again.
  4. Once your flat bread and mixture are both warmed, pour the peanut butter mixture onto the flat bread and spread it out.
  5. Slice the banana(s) and place on top of peanut butter mixture (as pictured below).
  6. Sprinkle raisins and hemp hearts on top.
  7. Cut and serve!

Optional additions

  1. If you would like your mixture thicker, you can add in 1/4 cup of Baby Brain Organics or oatbran.
  2. If you would like some crunch to your pizza, you could mix in small pieces of almonds or walnuts, or All Bran buds with Psyllium.
  3. You could also replace the bananas with apples, or use both fruits.

Hope your family enjoys this as much as mine did!

Until next time….stay healthy!

Breastfeeding Twins

Feeding twins has been a fascinating journey to me. I could write forever about the experience but for now I thought I would write a little about their first form of nourishment…breastfeeding.

My journey started with NICU babies. My twins were born at 29 weeks, 5 days. I started pumping for them 2 hours after giving birth. I threw up as the medication from the emergency c-section had not warn off at that point. I cried from the pain that the pump caused me. I cried because I wanted to hold and nurse my babies. I cried because I didn’t know if they would live. And then, as the liquid gold came out, I cried tears of joy. This is not the way I had hoped things would go…but I had two babies that were alive and this was my start to nourishing them. I quickly turned my attitude around and got on board with putting their needs over my dreams.

As the weeks went by, the twins grew stronger and bigger. At 32 weeks gestation Wesley latched on for the first time. I will never forget that moment…I remember thinking “wow! I am actually nursing a baby!!!! Wes was the smaller of the twins but he was also the stronger one (it is often that way I am told). He was a speedy drinker…100 mL in 12 minutes the first time! It was unheard of. Over the coming days, NICU nurses came to watch him eat in awe of the 3 pound baby that was drinking so efficiently. You may wonder how we knew how much he  drinking. You weigh the baby with only a diaper on and hold all the wires up as best possible. Then you nurse them and weigh them again after. The difference in weight is the amount they drank. Even if they have peed or pooped in the diaper during the feed, you leave it all in place for the final weight as it was in them before it came out so it all counts.

My other son, Clay, on the other hand was a LAZY drinker!!!! He would only nurse from one breast – “the slow flow one” as we called it for weeks. And he drank 15-20 ml in 15-20 minutes. He would suck and sit and suck and sit. His alarms went off constantly with “A’s and B’s” (apnea and bradycardia).  It just wasn’t for him. But we persevered and slowly but surely he did eventually nurse well. He always took longer than his brother (and still is the slower eater to this day), but it didn’t matter to me what speed he ate at, as long as he was eating!

Nursing twins in the NICU is a little different process than nursing babies at home. First of all, they have wires attached to them. Secondly, their lips go blue and the alarms sound quite often as they desat and need time to sit up and re-oxygenate their blood. And last but not least, you have to pump ALL THE TIME! I longed to just hold the baby I had nursed, but instead I had to nurse one, nurse the next, then pump. This is to keep up supply for when they are older. Don’t get me wrong…I felt incredibly blessed to be doing this as I know my journey could have been so different. But at the same time, it was not what I had dreamed of.

At 37 weeks gestation we headed home. Both boys were drinking from the boob and the bottle which was nice. I was terrified to introduce the bottle, but I was so glad that I had when my husband could offer warmed breastmilk to one during night time feeds while I nursed the other. I found it easier to nurse one and the pump then nurse both and then pump. I would have never slept if I did that. Also, Clay preferred the bottle until he was about 3 months old because it was easier. I still nursed him as often as I could, but knew the bottle was more efficient for him at night.

For the most part, the boys drank at different paces and preferred different schedules during daytime hours until they were about 6 months old, then they settled into a similar routine. Everyone told me to get them on the same schedule right away, but it never failed that if I forced one to eat when the other one did we would end up with refluxed milk everywhere!!! Because they had been tube fed at the start, their esophageal sphincter was super weak and milk came back up very easily. For anyone who has pumped milk you know that you desperately want it all to stay down!!! It just wasn’t worth it to force them into a schedule that wasn’t their own. Moral of the story here…twins are VERY different from each other and have their own needs and wants. It was important to me to treat them as individuals right from the start in all areas, including feeding.

Eventually I dropped the pumping after daytime feeds, as they were drinking more and were on the move more so time wise it wasn’t practical to always pump. I stopped pumping altogether when they were 18 months and they both stopped nursing just before turning 2. I was 20 weeks pregnant with their little brother at that point and my milk was drying up on them.

I will be forever grateful for the opportunity to nurse two babies at once. The nourishment and immunological factors were very important to me but it went beyond that. The bonding time was significant too. At some point, I will write about the different experience I had nursing a singleton…which came only 18 weeks after the twins weaned themselves 🙂

One other piece I want to touch on is nutrition for moms who are nursing twins. You need to eat and drink every time you pump. Time is limited to care for yourself so eating and sleeping need to be two of your top priorities. It can be hard at times to take the time to do these things, but if you don’t eat, then the quantity of your breastmilk could suffer. Aiming for many small meals/snacks filled with complex carbohydrates, protein, healthy fats, and sources of antioxidants is crucial. Healthy fats are important for the babies’ brain and eye development and it is the main nutrient that can be altered in breastmilk by your diet. For night feeds, having something at your bedside, or in the nursery, or ready in the kitchen is nice. I liked muffins and bananas because they were quiet to eat and filling. You can just grab it and head back to bed.

If you are currently pregnant with multiples, have one or more babies in the NICU, or nursing multiples of any age and have further questions about my journey, please feel free to email anytime! My email is mealsformeandmyminis@gmail.com.

Sesame Broccoli

Broccoli is one of my family’s favourite vegetables!!! When the kids were younger I used to offer it with shredded cheese but now that they are dairy free, I have had to come up with new ways to serve it. I usuallt just add a little avocado oil and sneezed lemon and that goes over fine. This past week I tried something new and a little more interesting. It was a HUGE hit so I thought I would share.

Steam the broccoli pieces for a few minutes then toss in a small amount of sesame oil and top with sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds. That’s it!!!

 

They loved the flavour and extra crunch of the seeds. And of course their dad and I loved it too! Yay!!!

Until next time….stay healthy!

Einstein Bites

Here is a super simple recipe that I created recently with my kids. It is packed with nutrition, especially omega 3 fatty acids, which are essential fats (meaning the body cannot make them) and are super important for brain development. The other thing I love about them is that kids can easily help and they don’t take long so their attention is easy to keep for the whole process.

Ingredients

1 cup steel cut oats

1 cup mashed banana (2 large or 3 small)

1/3 cup Baby Brain Organics

2 Tbsp. Natural Peanut Butter or Almond Butter

1 Tbsp. Honey

Instructions

1. Mix oats and Baby Brain Organics together in a bowl.

2. In a separate bowl mix together the mashed bananas, peanut butter, and honey.

3. Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture and stir together.

4. Spoon the mixture into a mini muffin pan or onto a cookie stone. The coolest part of this stage is that your kids can lick the spoon and bowl since there are no raw ingredients!!!

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5. Bake at 400 for 12-15 minutes.

The recipe makes about 12 and if your kids are like mine, they won’t last long. And to be honest, I had a few myself too (don’t tell them). In case they do last more than 2 days in your house, you will want to refrigerate them after 2 days. They don’t have preservatives so they won’t stay fresh very long on the counter.

Hope me you and your minis enjoy!

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Until next time….stay healthy!

Chicken Feta Bruschetta Bake

This is one of my favourite chicken recipes to make and I thought that Canada Day would be a great time to share it. It is festive and can be served in a variety of ways the day that you make it and as leftovers which is always nice on a holiday weekend.

Ingredients (serves 4-6 people)

4 Skinless, boneless chicken breasts

2 cups of Bruschetta

1/3 cup Whole wheat or whole grain bread crumbs

1 cup crumbled Feta cheese

Instructions

  1. Mix together bruschetta topping and bread crumbs in a bowl and set aside.
  2. Chop chicken breasts into bite size pieces and place into baking dish.
  3. Pour bruchetta/bread crumbs mixture over the chicken pieces ensuring that you cover the chicken well.
  4. Cover the chicken with foil and bake in the oven at 375 for 25-30 minutes. At that time, remove the foil and add crumbled feta on top. Then put the dish back into the oven (uncovered) for another 10-15 minutes.

NOTE: Ensure that the chicken is cooked through before removing from the oven to eat. All ovens are different and timing may vary. If you are using larger pieces of chicken, your cooking time may be longer.

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Serving suggestions

  1. Serve hot with a vegetable and starch (quinoa, couscous, whole grain pasta, roasted potatoes, rice, etc.)
  2. Serve hot with lots of roasted veggies.
  3. Serve cold on a salad with Naan bread or pita on the side.
  4. Serve hot or cold on top of warmed Naan bread or small pizza crusts and add extra feta if you like. Serve this with cut up veggies or a salad.