Is it even New Year’s if we’re not talking about healthy eating resolutions? Indulgent eating at the holidays coupled with picking up bad habits while I was crunched for time during a very busy work season has left me craving a reset on my health goals for the year ahead. My best healthy eating successes comes when I have a good plan in place — which means meal-prepping, brainstorming easy recipes, and filling my fridge with healthy ingredients! I love following Lara from Plan & Plate It because of her super accessible, family-friendly approach to planning meals that fill us up with the good stuff, and wastes less in the process.  Continuing my week of posts here on the blog about New Year’s Resolutions, I’m interviewing Lara from Plan & Plate It to share some of her best hacks for kicking the year off with healthy-choices! (See my other posts in the series here about getting organized and going green).

Kate: Can you start by telling me a little bit about yourself and how you started Plan & Plate It? 

Plan & Plate It: I’ve always loved cooking, trying new recipes, and entertaining. When I was younger, meal planning wasn’t necessary. I’d go to the grocery store a few times a week, grab whatever inspired me off the shelves and cook my meals. As I got older and busier, meal planning became necessary because who has time to grocery shop every day?! I started sharing recipes and meal plans on my personal Instagram account and once enough friends asked me to share, I realized easy, healthy, meals and meal plans were something others were looking for too. That’s when Plan & Plate It was born.

K: Okay let’s talk meal planning! I love doing it, and when I actually make the time for it I feel like it benefits me on so many levels — I make healthier choices and I feel way more organized! What are some first steps or advice you have for making meal planning part of your routine? 

P&PI: I think sometimes people tackle meal planning with an all or nothing approach and that can make it really hard to stick to. I find a more flexible approach to meal planning really helpful. I typically plan only 3-4 days at a time (usually on Saturday or Sunday), allowing for changes in our schedule as well as honoring cravings. When a few of the days are planned and shopped in for, I can swap around the order of meals based on how long they take to cook, what we’re in the mood for, etc. I’m also a huge proponent of freezing meat and poultry and buying frozen produce when possible. This helps minimize waste if you’ve planned for a meal and you don’t get to it because basketball practice runs late. It also makes spur of the moment cooking an option on those weeks where you don’t have time to make it to the store. Keeping a stocked pantry and freezer helps me a ton.

K: I follow a similar approach! I try to plan 4 meals a week and then have some wiggle room the rest of the week. One thing that helps me is having a big stack of go-to recipes that I have printed out for weeknight dinners that I keep clipped together in the kitchen. Sometimes just coming up with the ideas is the hardest part! A good meal-planning notepad helps too, I use a dry erase board with a list of what we have to eat for the week so I can move meals around and remember what’s in the fridge to help reduce our food waste.

K: This is the first year I feel like I need to make some parenting resolutions. The end of the year was so crazy for me with work that I felt like we picked up a few bad habits with my toddler, particularly around eating. I want to start fresh in the new year with healthy eating for the whole family. What are some of your best tips for getting healthy foods to be “kid approved” when you have picky eaters? 

P&PI: Here are my best tips for getting kids to eat more wholesome foods that they might not gravitate towards naturally: 1) Eat together as a family. If your kids see you eating certain foods, they’re more likely to try them as well. Choose a meal that everyone can eat together and enjoy as a family. 2) Start small. If you want your child to eat broccoli, the worst thing you can do is place a full plate of broccoli in front of them. New foods are scary and overwhelming. The best way to introduce them is in small quantities. My son isn’t a huge fan of broccoli, so I pack his plate with the things I know he loves and then offer him 1-2 small pieces of broccoli. They might touch it, smell it, taste it, or ignore it completely, but keep going. It can take over 30 exposures to a food for a child to want to actually eat it. 3) Shop and cook together when possible. This one is easier said than done but allowing your child to choose their favorite fruits and vegetables at the store and then have a part in how they’re prepared can really help kids want to diversify their palette. 4) Make them kid friendly. When all else fails, I’m not above sneaking some veggies into meatballs, pasta sauce, muffins, pancakes and other foods that kids naturally prefer.

K: The cooking together is so key! We have been making smoothies this past week to get some fruits and veggies back in after the holidays and I’ve been letting Jane pick out which frozen fruits she wants to put in the blender. She’s actually been excited about making them which is blissful since we’ve been going through a tough picky-eater phase!

K: Do you have any favorite make-ahead recipes or meal ideas that help you feel prepared for a busy week ahead? 

P&PI: Even having one meal made before the week starts makes me feel like I’m ahead of the game. Typically, this is something for the kids that I can give them several times for lunch or dinner when they’re irritable and don’t have the patience to watch me cook a meal. I love my homemade chicken tenders or my hidden veggie meatballs, both of which are available in Volume 2 of my meal-planning e-Book. I’ll also usually make sure we have plenty of fruit and grab and go snacks for when my kids are constantly hungry.

K: I’m not very good at making ahead dinners, but we do try to meal prep lunches on Sunday for the week ahead which always makes me feel organized! We swear by these glass containers for lunch-prep (they reheat well and don’t get stained like some containers). 

K: Are you making New Year’s resolutions this year? Would love for you to share them with our readers if you’re comfortable! 

P&PI: I’m keeping things simple this year. My resolution is to drink more water! I often make it to 5 pm and realize that the only thing I’ve consumed all day is two cups of coffee. TERRIBLE!  If anyone would like to comment with their best water drinking tips, I’m all ears!

K: I’m the exact same boat! My water vs coffee intake could use some serious rebalancing, I might need to borrow that resolution idea. Thank you so much for your insight and ideas to help kick the year off right with meal planning and healthy eating ideas.

 If you’re interested in more meal planning ideas, check out my blog post with Meal Planning Tips, and this round up of my favorite dinner recipes.