What are your plans for the school holidays? Is it a time you enjoy, get to go away on holiday, and spend some great quality time with the family? Or is it a time you dread thinking about the cost, how to entertain the kids, how tiring it will be? Or are you working and feel you are missing out on spending quality time with the kids, palming them off onto friends and family, or forking out for holiday camps. Or are you a bit of all of these? Whichever is most like you, you probably have a mixture of feelings about the school holidays, and so will the kids with a difference in routine.
The school holidays can often change the way we eat, and for some families this can be quite worrying whether you struggle with excess or under weight, fussy eating, allergies and so on. Or for others this can be a great opportunity to combat some of these issues and take control. There can also be the issue of the cost of having the kids off school with endless snacks and eating out. In this blog I’ll be discussing how we can make the most of the 6 weeks holidays without breaking the bank, or good nutritional habits.
The school holidays can become costly for many of us, and with increasing bills at the moment this is a worry for many. Food is not exempt from the rising cost of living, but with good meal planning we can at least keep food cost and waste to a minimum.
A good weekly meal plan is always a good idea whether it’s the school holidays or not. Planning meals helps to avoid overspending in the supermarket, and also reduces waste. So try to plan the meals you will have for the week, write a shopping list, and stick to it. Pop on some extra nutritious snacks for the holidays including fruit, veg sticks and dips, yoghurts, cheese snacks, dried fruit, crackers and pudding pots. Try to choose home brands where possible which will really keep the costs down.
Planning meals can help to ensure good nutrition also. Think about variety, what everyone in the family enjoys, and really try to ensure a good mix of meals and nutrients across the week. Even if you have fussy eaters this way they get their favourite meal at least once per week. I discuss food parenting in more detail as part of my fussy eaters masterclass, but these principles are useful when feeding all children.
Try to keep a good routine, even if that means moving meals to later in the day to account for the later get ups and stay ups. I often talk about routine with families, and discuss ways in which to ensure these are flexible routines rather than strict to timings. Try to make sure you are still having breakfast, lunch and teatime, with a couple of snacks between meals. Keeping this routine will reduce the need for additional snacking and grazing throughout the day. If the kids have eaten well at breakfast, this will hopefully keep those snacking needs at bay until lunchtime.
Try to sit and eat together where possible. When we eat on the go, we are not being mindful and experiencing the other processes that surround the eating experience. Sitting down to a meal helps us recognise the wider sensory processes, and sitting together helps us to role model positive behaviours and create a positive eating environment for our children. This doesn’t mean you have to stay at home for mealtimes, you can take a picnic out with you and eat at a bench or on a picnic blanket. Kids love picnics, and it is all part of the fun, even if it rains and you end up under a tree or eating in the car. Enjoy the experience together, and you will save money by taking food with you, and also make sure there are more nutritious food choices, rather than eating in a café or restaurant. Get the kids involved and get creative with picnics with different sandwiches, pasta dishes, omelettes, veg and dips, homemade cakes and chopped up fruit. You might find that those fussy eaters will try something new when they feel they have been involved in creating the food, and food presented in a different way.
Invest in a good water bottle/ flask, or buy multipacks of home brand spring water to take out and about with you. Buying individual drinks when you are out for the day can get really expensive. I went to the park yesterday and it was £3 for a can of fizzy drink. Safe to say I didn’t buy one. Water and milk are the best drinks for littlies, but if you do struggle to get them to drink water pop some sugar free squash in their water bottle.
When you are off with the children get them involved with the food shopping, preparing and cooking meals. You might want to consider a fun baking activity, especially on rainy days. Try including foods they might have refused before and think about different ways to prepare them. You don’t even have to cook with food, you might want to make potato paint stamps, or create pasta pictures, or makes different sounds with dried goods in boxes/bottles. The internet is an abundance of resources for recipes and food play ideas, so tap it into your search engine for new ideas. Playing with food helps children to learn new skills, and familiarise themselves with foods which will make them more open to trying and enjoying food. It can also be a cheap activity instead of going on days out.
School holidays don’t have to be a time for anxiety or worry. Have fun with food, consider ways to keep costs down, take the opportunity to combat fussy eating behaviours, commence those allergy reintroductions if advised to do so by a qualified health professional, implement those healthy eating messages, and try out those food fortification techniques.
Please see my blog for advice on other topics. If you need more individualised support, or just want to talk things through in more detail please get in touch via my website or social media.