Family-Friendly Meal Plan: Week #18

Summer is nearing in, the kids are almost out of school, and third trimester is creeping up on me! This has me planning and preparing for the next few months before baby #3's arrival in hyper-efficiency mode!

I am delighted by the overwhelming response to my weekly meal plans and how many of you have shared either publicly (on social media) or privately (via sweet emails and PMs) how much they have helped you and your family achieve variety in what is offered while also striving for less meal time stress and more feeding success. That was my aim and I am encouraged it has been achieved so far!

That's also why I am officially giving the one month countdown.

For the month of May, I will continue to share these weekly meal plans that so many of you are familiar with my doing. Come June 1st, my blog content will be shifting a bit to make room for an exciting new opportunity where my NEW meal plans will be housed each month!

This is an exciting collaboration with other experts in my field and a resource that I know many of you will find even more helpful than the complete meal plans I am sharing in my weekly emails (join here, if you aren't already subscribed!). If you would like to be among the first to know what is coming, when to get in on it, and how to access such meal plans after this month at a discount (as well as tons of other helpful printables and guides!), be sure to join the thousands of other mamas who already receive my newsletter.

I will be sharing more updates and exclusive discounts to my most loyal followers there, and I would love for you to be a part!

 

Veggies & Virtue Meal Plan: Week of May 6

 
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STEP 1: PLAN

Curious - do you plan your family's meals around the main course/protein? Or do the veggies take center stage in your meal planning efforts? Send me a quick note to share!

As I consider what we are making each month, it has me rethinking how I can highlight seasonal produce more in the coming months. I am excited to hear if and how this would be helpful to you!


Interested in walking through the steps to meal plan like a pro?

Download your copy of my Meal Planning Playbook. It outlines the following five steps of successful meal planning in more detail so you can achieve "Less Meal Time Stress and More Feeding Success" for your own family!

On sale!


STEP 2: PICK

A special thanks to each of the following contributors for the delicious recipe ideas this week!

Dinner Menu:

1 ǁ Seafood Sunday:  Salmon with Yogurt Sauce (from @foodnetwork)

2 ǁ Meatless Monday: Avocado Egg Salad (by @gimmedelicious)

3 ǁ Taco Night:  "Build Your Own Taco Bar" (by @veggiesandvirtue)

4 ǁ Asian Night: Sesame Orange Chicken (by @cleanlittleplates)

5 ǁ Grill Night: Honey Chicken Kabobs (by @allrecipes)

6 ǁ Pasta Night: Lentil-based pasta salad with cherry tomatoes, marinated mozzarella balls, broccoli, cucumbers, and berries (from my Costco printable shared here)

7 ǁ Family Night Out (slash Mom's Night Off!)


STEP 3: PAIR

In honor of Cinco de Mayo this weekend, I am bringing back a fun reminder for how to make "one meal, two ways" via tacos!

Dragons+Love+Tacos+Taco+Bar.jpg

I previously shared a post for how to create a "Build Your Own Taco Bar" set up here. You can use the recipe for taco meat or meat alternative shared on the post, or any other favorite your family has for tacos!

Whichever recipe you choose, I encourage you to try this type of set-up with your kiddos. It makes for a hands on meal that kids can customize however they'd like! Plus, as they become more adventurous in eating, they continue to try new flavor combinations and hopefully eat more veggies too!

 


STEP 4: PURCHASE

What I Buy and Why: Product Feature of the Week

I love stir-fry but I loathe having to cut all those vegetables on busy nights before dinner. That's why I love having a bag of frozen veggies on hand, like this one I get at Costco or Costco's big bag of frozen organic broccoli!

I have tried broccoli in this week's orange chicken and a veggie medley in the Cashew Chicken recipe (shared here) using both fresh-cut produce and frozen produce poured straight from these bags and don't know that I can notice a difference with either! Plus, frozen vegetables are often flash-frozen at their prime, so nutrients lost in freezing is not something to worry about.

Do you keep frozen veggies on hand? Which are your families favorites?

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Want my free grocery list download? Download it here.

Want your own tear-off pad of my go-to grocery list to keep on the fridge? Order your 6-month magnetic grocery list notepad here.


STEP 5: PREP

Admittedly, I haven't been doing a lot of meal prep in advance. Between being gone on the weekend and just straight tired on the Sundays I am home, I have been utilizing more shortcuts than my usual for meal prep.

Be it pre-diced onion, jarred minced garlic, or the frozen veggies shared above, these are all easy and efficient ways to make this week's menu items easier to execute!


Family-Friendly Meal Plan: Costco Faves

Hey Hey! It is my birthday week, which also means it is officially one year since I started Veggies & Virtue LLC! So since nothing says "Happy Birthday" like a meal I don't have to make, we are going back to some of these tried-and-true Costco favorites for this week's EASY, EFFORTLESS meal plan!

 

Veggies & Virtue Meal Plan: Week of April 22

 
 

STEP 1: PLAN

Knowing that we would be out of town visiting my mom and stepdad in Florida this week and into next, I wanted something EASY to come home to. For us, that means a Costco-run with lots of ready-made favorites. All I have to do is shop for the menu below, unload the groceries, and then reheat and/or assemble each night's dinner. This is exactly my kind of plan after returning home from a week away!

Be sure to share or pin this post so that YOU can reference it later when you are returning home and wanting some effortless meal ideas already assembled!


Interested in walking through my five steps to meal planning like a pro?

Download your copy of my Meal Planning Playbook. It outlines the following five steps of successful meal planning in more detail so you can achieve "Less Meal Time Stress and More Feeding Success" for your own family!

ON SALE!


STEP 2: PICK

Each ready-made item is available at Costco and included as a free download here.

Dinner Menu:

1 ǁ Seafood Sunday: Smoked salmon Caesar salad (with added spinach), gluten-free rolls, and apple slices

2 ǁ Meatless Monday: Quinoa salad with hummus cups, healthy dippers, and grapes

3 ǁ Taco Tuesday: Southwest salad with nacho bar and corn on the cob

4 ǁ Asian Night: Teriyaki chicken meatballs with brown rice noodles, broccoli, edamame, and pineapple

5 ǁ Breakfast for Dinner: Superhero scrambled eggs with all-natural sausage, toast, and a pomegranate chia smoothie

6 ǁ Italian Night: Pasta salad with cherry tomatoes, marinated mozzarella balls, broccoli, cucumbers, and berries

7 ǁ Burger Night: Chicken burgers with sweet potato fries and satsumas

STEP 3: PAIR

One Meal, Two Ways!

Kid's plate only shown

Kid's plate only shown

Kid's Plate:
LOVE IT: Brazi Bites, Honey Smoked Salmon, apple slices, water
LIKE IT: croutons
LEARNING IT: Caesar salad

My Plate: Smoked salmon Caesar salad (with added spinach and no croutons), gluten-free rolls, and apple slices

A lot of parents may assume there kids wouldn't eat "salmon salad ceasar salads" for dinner. But break it down in kid-friendly way by making preferred foods stand out with non-preferred foods, and this is a great family-friendly option with something everyone can enjoy!

Want the breakdown of how we use "Love it, Like it, Learning it" with EACH meal idea shared for the week? 
CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP.

My newsletter subscribers benefit from seeing how EACH meal plan menu item is broken down with "Love it, Like it, Learning it" suggestions (based on my children's preferences). This is free for subscribers and removes the guesswork with what (or how!) to serve each of the weekly menu items.


STEP 4: PURCHASE

What I Buy and Why: Block Cheese

I get asked A LOT about what items I buy at Costco versus elsewhere, so I am going to share one I get asked about a lot: block cheese!

It is so much more cost-effective to buy a large block of cheddar cheese and then to self-shred it. They have several varieties and brands at Costco; most coming in 2-pound loaves but all less-expensive in unit prices than what the equivalent cheese costs at the store. Shredding this cheese technically adds a prep-step to this week's meal plan, but I find that the result is such fresh, flavorful cheese compared to pre-shredded cheese bought in a bag (since often in that cheese, there are added fillers that act as anti-caking agents so the cheese appears nice and shredded vs as one big clump).

What I do is shred one-quarter to one-half of the block at a time. I use our grater attachment on the food processor for this, so it keeps it super easy to grate up. Then, I usually store with a paper towel (just to be safe in case there is any moisture in the bag) in a bag with the shredded cheese. This allows us to have fresh shredded cheese on hand that's less expensive and tastes (and melts!) better! I find it stays fresh once shredded for easily a week in the fridge, allowing us to buy about one block a month instead of a smaller block at the standard grocer each week.

For more ideas on What I Buy and Why - Costco edition,
get your copy of this free Costco dinner ideas download here!


STEP 5: PREP

None! This week's meal plan is intended to be nearly effortless outside of making a trip to Costco in and of itself! Also, by stocking some of these staples at your home, you will have them on hand for future nights when you need easy meal ideas.

So be sure to put these items on your grocery list, or better yet - use either the free download or magnetic grocery list below to color-code which items you will pick up from Costco next time you go! I find it to be so helpful to use these to help organize which grocery items I need to buy where.

 

WANT MY FREE GROCERY LIST DOWNLOAD? DOWNLOAD IT HERE.

WANT YOUR OWN TEAR-OFF PAD OF MY GO-TO GROCERY LIST TO KEEP ON THE FRIDGE? ORDER YOUR 6-MONTH MAGNETIC GROCERY LIST NOTEPAD HERE.

Family-Friendly Meal Plan: Week #16

We are heading out of town this week, so I won't make it through each of these meal ideas before we do. I love knowing these will be favorites for our Spring line-up though, as each are tried and true favorites around here whether we crave cold quinoa salad, grilling, an easy option in the oven, or a convenient take on fajitas in the crockpot.

I hope the menu for this week offers you and your family some new favorites as well!

 

Veggies & Virtue Meal Plan: Week of April 15

 
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STEP 1: PLAN

We are excited to be diving into grilling season! Living in Houston, we are blessed to grill majority of the year. I know in terms of sharing these meal plans though, that many of you may lie in colder climates! So while we will still be busting out the Crockpot to save us from turning on the oven in Spring and Summer months, I am excited to also begin integrating more recipes that can be grilled!


Interested in walking through the steps to meal plan like a pro?

Download your copy of my Meal Planning Playbook. It outlines the following five steps of successful meal planning in more detail so you can achieve "Less Meal Time Stress and More Feeding Success" for your own family!

On sale!


STEP 2: PICK

A special thanks to each of the following contributors for the delicious recipe ideas this week!

Dinner Menu:

1 ǁ Seafood Sunday: Asian Salmon (Recipe by @DamnDelicious)
Made with salmon from our Fish Fixe delivery.

2 ǁ Meatless Monday: Mediterranean Quinoa Salad (Recipe by @veggiesandvirtue)

3 ǁ Taco Tuesday: Steak Fajitas (Recipe by @geniuskitchen)

4 ǁ Asian Night: Shrimp Curry (Recipe by @thepioneerwoman)
Made with shrimp from our Fish Fixe delivery.

5 ǁ Pasta Night: Trader Joe's Bruschetta Chicken (Recipe by @feedinglittles)

6 ǁ Grill Night: Grilled Lamb Chops (by @GiadaDeLaurentiis)

7 ǁ Family Night Out (slash Mom's Night Off!)


STEP 3: PAIR

Ideas and encouragement for how to offer #onemealtwoways from this week’s meal plan!

Family Meal: Asian salmon, roasted red and sweet potatoes, an avocado strawberry spinach BYO salad bar, with half of a whole grain baguette from Angelic Bakehouse with Kerrygold butter. Served family style!

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Kids plate (self-served by my 4 yo):
LOVE IT:
strawberries, bread with butter, roasted red potatoes
LIKE IT: Asian salmon, sugar snap peas
LEARNING IT: spinach/kale salad base, roasted almonds, feta, roasted sweet potatoes

My plate: Composed salad with salmon and a side of mixed roasted potatoes

My youngest ate all of her spinach/kale mix and my youngest ate the roasted sweet potatoes - each for the first time EVER!


STEP 4: PURCHASE

 
*I received our first Fish Fixe shipment for free.   All opinions are my own. This post is unsponsored.

*I received our first Fish Fixe shipment for free. All opinions are my own. This post is unsponsored.

 

What I Buy and Why: Fish Fixe

Y'all know I tend to buy a lot of our animal products in bulk at Costco so I always have at least something in the freezer I can cook up on a whim. While I find the prices to be better on organic chicken, grass-fed beef, etc., I admittedly have never been a huge fan of the seafood I buy at Costco.

I also don't always want to have to spend time standing at the seafood counter to watch and snag sales on local or higher-quality seafood on a weekly basis, especially since I do majority of my meal planning BEFORE I head to the store.

That's why I got so excited when I heard of Fish Fixe. While it is local to me in Texas (hence the excitement over them offering Gulf shrimp!), it ships anywhere to simplify how to keep quality seafood on hand and even better, in stink-free packaging.

This is not a sponsored endorsement* (nor are any in this weekly product feature unless I disclose so), but rather a genuine mom-hack I feel has helped us to both eat AND enjoy seafood more since we got our first "fixe."

Besides enjoying each of the seafood products we were sent, I am semi-obsessed with the packaging. It helps for mess-free food prep but also to give last minute meal ideas if I don't know what I want to do to prepare it. I love seafood, but admittedly don't always feel like I know how to cook it. So simplicity always wins and makes for a healthy, EASY meal in under 30 minutes with whatever simple sides we have on hand.

If you want to include more seafood in your family's meal rotation this Spring and Summer, hop on over to Fish Fixe and use code VEGGIESANDVIRTUE at checkout for $10 off your first order. I hope you enjoy this "fixe" to your seafood dilemma as much as I do!


Want my free grocery list download? Download it here.

Want your own tear-off pad of my go-to grocery list to keep on the fridge? Order your 6-month magnetic grocery list notepad here.


STEP 5: PREP

Tips on items to prep ahead:

1 ǁ Seafood Sunday: Asian Salmon (Recipe by @DamnDelicious)

  • Remove Fish Fixe shrimp from freezer and thaw according to package instructions

2 ǁ Meatless Monday: Mediterranean Quinoa Salad (Recipe by @veggiesandvirtue)

  • Chop veggies and make vinaigrette in advance. Cook and cool quinoa. Assemble in advance to eat over the week, or keep elements separate until ready to serve.

3 ǁ Taco Tuesday: Steak Fajitas (Recipe by @geniuskitchen)

  • Slice peppers, onions, and steak the night ahead so it can be tossed into crockpot in the morning. Shred cheese block, if needed.

4 ǁ Asian Night: Shrimp Curry (Recipe by @thepioneerwoman)

  • Remove Fish Fixe shrimp from freezer and thaw according to package instructions. Dice extra onion when cutting onion for fajitas.

5 ǁ Pasta Night: Trader Joe's Bruschetta Chicken (Recipe by @feedinglittles)

  • Thaw chicken. Prep sides, as needed, so all can be thrown in the oven together.

6 ǁ Grill Night: Grilled Lamb Chops (by @GiadaDeLaurentiis)

  • Make rub in food processor. Store in a glass jar until time to cook.

7 ǁ Family Night Out (slash Mom's Night Off!)


Family-Friendly Meal Plan: Week #15

I am out of town this weekend to celebrate two of my very best friends! One is having her daughter's first birthday and the other and I are doing a "mini bachelorette party" to make up for me having to miss her real one in May! So getting to go away to my home state of Washington for some quality time with friends a real treat. Here is how I am planning for it!

 

Veggies & Virtue Meal Plan: Week of April 8

 
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STEP 1: PLAN

Anyone ever find that when they return home after being away that things are a bit crazy back at home?

All hands raised, right?!

Husbands are awesome partners but there are just certain things that I know at least in my home are going to go undone while away: grocery shopping and meal planning, to name just two.

So while there isn't much I can do to plan in advance for the piles of laundry that will be awaiting my return, I can have this meal plan ready to go before I get home! This allows me to not only get off my red-eye on Sunday night with a plan, but also the chance to pick-up groceries that I already ordered from my plan on the way back from the airport. Win-win!


Interested in walking through the steps to meal plan like a pro?

Download your copy of my Meal Planning Playbook. It outlines the following five steps of successful meal planning in more detail so you can achieve "Less Meal Time Stress and More Feeding Success" for your own family!

On sale!


STEP 2: PICK

A special thanks to each of the following contributors for the delicious recipe ideas this week!

Dinner Menu:

1 ǁ Seafood Sunday: Tom Douglas Salmon (using rub available on Amazon (affiliate link))

2 ǁ Meatless Monday: Chickpea Avocado Salad (by @twopeasandpod)

3 ǁ Taco Night:  Meat & Mushroom Tacos (by @100daysofrealfood)

4 ǁ Asian Night: Cashew Chicken (by @eaturselfskinny)

5 ǁ Grill Night: Cheeseburgers (by @geniuskitchen)

6 ǁ Pasta Night: Shrimp Scampi in the Instant Pot (recipe featured on Copy Me That)

7 ǁ Family Night Out (slash Mom's Night Off!)


STEP 3: PAIR

Kid's Plate from dinner: cashew chicken, rice, edamame, and grapes

Kid's Plate from dinner: cashew chicken, rice, edamame, and grapes

Kid's Plate:
LOVE IT: 
edamame, grapes
LIKE IT: rice, cashews
LEARNING IT: cashew chicken

My Plate: I had a shallow bowl with rice at the base and the cashew chicken piled on top. I put the edamame into my bowl, then ate the grapes separately as "dessert."

Having a preferred food at the table like edamame in the pod is a great way to keep kids engaged and eating on a night that might not be their "favorite" meal. Fine-motor practice plus plenty of nutrition packed into the edamame, making for an enjoyable meal where everyone enjoyed at least something!

 

Want the breakdown of how we use "Love it, Like it, Learning it" with EACH meal idea shared for the week? 
CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP.

My newsletter subscribers benefit from seeing how EACH meal plan menu item is broken down with "Love it, Like it, Learning it" suggestions (based on my children's preferences). This is free for subscribers and removes the guesswork with what (or how!) to serve each of the weekly menu items.


STEP 4: PURCHASE

What I Buy and Why: Product Feature of the Week

Shortcuts. I looooove them. I rarely did before motherhood because the frugal, past-Grad-student in me was convinced I could "make it myself for cheaper." As a mom though, I live by these products that are all the ingredients I would otherwise use, already all in one!

That's why this is one simple salmon-lovers dream! Shared out of inspiration for the fact I am in Seattle myself this weekend, this Tom Douglas' Salmon Rub is a staple in our home (affiliate link). It makes whipping out a delicious salmon effortless...not to mention inspiring a meal that my mom-brain may not otherwise be up to putting much effort or inspiration into!

Try it out, and tell me what you think (affiliate link)!

Want my free grocery list download? Download it here.

Want your own tear-off pad of my go-to grocery list to keep on the fridge? Order your 6-month magnetic grocery list notepad here.


STEP 5: PREP

Tips on items to prep ahead:

1 ǁ Seafood Sunday: Tom Douglas Salmon (using rub available on Amazon (affiliate link))

  • Thaw salmon. 

2 ǁ Meatless Monday: Chickpea Avocado Salad (by @twopeasandpod)

  • Make in advance to have as a side on Sunday, as well as for lunches during the week.

3 ǁ Taco Night:  Meat & Mushroom Tacos (by @100daysofrealfood)

  • Dice onion and garlic, or buy pre-diced. Use pre-sliced mushrooms. Brown meat in advance and cook with vegetables, then store in glass container until the night this is to be eaten.

4 ǁ Asian Night: Cashew Chicken (by @eaturselfskinny)

  • Use frozen stir-fry veggies from Costco to save time!

5 ǁ Grill Night: Cheeseburgers (by @geniuskitchen)

  • Thaw meat the night before.

6 ǁ Pasta Night: Shrimp Scampi in the Instant Pot (recipe featured on Copy Me That)

  • Cut shallots in advance and add in with the garlic when cooking!

7 ǁ Family Night Out (slash Mom's Night Off!)


Family-Friendly Meal Plan: Week #14

I hope you enjoyed the past four week's worth of dietitian-inspired meal plans! I know I loved getting to feature a few of my foodie-favorites with you all and trying many of their recipes myself!

 

Veggies & Virtue Meal Plan: Week of April 1

 
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STEP 1: PLAN

Now that Spring has officially sprung, I am going to be planning more of our menus on a quarterly basis. This means you will still get a new meal planning post each week, but it will also begin to reflect recycled recipes that are favorites for the season.

This technique helps me in my home and I am confident is an approach that will help you and yours. It allows us to plan ahead in our prep, often batch-cooking recipes when we can or "cooking once, eating twice (or thrice!)" by freezing extra batches for upcoming weeks. I know not everyone has a deep freezer for copious amounts of extra food storage, but even if these are just recipes you learn to like and soon love, having go-to recipes in your wheelhouse makes picking what's on the menu so much easier IMO. I hope you'll agree!


Interested in walking through the steps to meal plan like a pro?

Download your copy of my Meal Planning Playbook. It outlines the following five steps of successful meal planning in more detail so you can achieve "Less Meal Time Stress and More Feeding Success" for your own family!

On sale!


STEP 2: PICK

A special thanks to each of the following contributors for the delicious recipe ideas this week!

Dinner Menu:

1 ǁ Easter Dinner

2 ǁ Meatless Monday: Chickpea Cucumber Salad (by @cathy_lemontreedwelling)

3 ǁ Taco Night:  Shrimp Tacos (by @thegirlwho8everything)

4 ǁ Grill Night: Best Chicken Marinade (by @veggiesandvirtue)

5 ǁ Build Your Own Salad Night: Loaded Greek Salad Night (by @cafedelites)

6 ǁ Pasta Night: Instant Pot Sausage and Penne  (by @atxlemonlavenderlove)*

7 ǁ Family Night Out (slash Mom's Night Off!)

*Modifications recommended by a fellow dietitian friend. See comments under prep!


STEP 3: PAIR

After a month of other dietitian features in this section, I will again be switching up this section. It quickly became a FAQ section for all sorts of questions submitted by parents, which I love addressing! However, the aim of this section is to focus on how "pairing" what you offer with your meal plan each week can both help to accommodate for more apprehensive eaters while also ensuring that we moms making only ONE meal for the whole family.

One of the main ways I do this is through the bonus content shared in my weekly newsletter. CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP.

My newsletter subscribers benefit from seeing how EACH meal plan menu item is broken down with "Love it, Like it, Learning it" suggestions (based on my children's preferences). This is free for subscribers and removes the guesswork with what (or how!) to serve each of the weekly menu items. Sign up here to get these concrete ideas and simple examples in your inbox every Friday morning - requiring no additional effort from you!

I will elaborate on this approach in this section each week, by featuring my upcoming "One Meal, Two Ways" posts. These will show you what both my plate and my child's plate look like at a given meal from the weekly meal plan. This will also be shown on my Instagram every Tuesday!

Otherwise, the FAQ of the week I featured before will now be shared every Friday with "FAQ Fridays" on my Instagram. This will include the wide range of feeding, nutrition, and product-related questions that come in! If you would like your question to be featured, please subscribe here and reply to any of my once-weekly emails! I always value knowing what feeding struggles are stumping you and how I can help solve them. The best way for me to keep track of these is by email (not via PM on Instagram, please).

Lastly, I now offer 30-, 60-, 90-, and 2-hour consultation packages. Ranging from a "Ask Me Anything" 30-minute Q&A to more comprehensive packages, please see my consultation options here if you have questions you would like me to address on a one-on-one basis.


STEP 4: PURCHASE

What I Buy and Why: Product Feature of the Week

The noodles we are using in the recipe for "Pasta night" this week are this lentil-based pasta option from Trader Joe's, similar to pasta from well-known brands like Eat Banza.

While we aren't personally fans of the black bean pasta option from Trader Joe's, this option in this recipe does really well. It is an especially great option if you have a carb-o-holic on your hands that wants pasta every night and yet may struggle to eat protein in standard forms!

This is a more nutrient-rich option with the only ingredient being red lentil flour. Lentils, unlike refined wheat or even whole grain noodle varieties, are packed with plant-based protein and fiber. This will help your child not only meet their daily protein needs (13g protein per 3/4 cup!), but also help boost their satiety through the added fiber and protein helping to fill them up between meals!

Want my free grocery list download? Download it here.

Want your own tear-off pad of my go-to grocery list to keep on the fridge? Order your 6-month magnetic grocery list notepad here.


STEP 5: PREP

Tips on items to prep ahead:

1 ǁ Easter Dinner

2 ǁ Meatless Monday: Chickpea Cucumber Salad (by @cathy_lemontreedwelling)

  • Wash and cut cucumber and red onion while the cutting board is out for other veggie prep. Make vinaigrette in advance, or prepare whole salad and have on hand for the week.

3 ǁ Taco Night:  Shrimp Tacos (by @thegirlwho8everything)

  • Cut red onion while the cutting board is out for other veggie prep (like night one). Chop garlic, cilantro, and jalapeno while cutting board it out. Make shrimp marinade in advance. Thaw shrimp, if needed.

4 ǁ Grill Night: Best Chicken Marinade (by @veggiesandvirtue)

  • Make marinade in advance in a large ziplock bag. Thaw chicken (if needed).

5 ǁ Build Your Own Salad Night: Loaded Greek Salad Night (by @cafedelites)

  • Wash and cut romaine while the cutting board is out for other veggie prep. Store with a paper towel in a large bowl until ready to use. Up to 3 days in advance, Wash and cut bell pepper, red onion, and olives while the cutting board is out for other veggie prep. Store separately from the romaine. Make marinade/dressing in advance. Thaw chicken, if needed.

6 ǁ Pasta Night: Instant Pot Sausage and Penne  (by @atxlemonlavenderlove)*

  • If preparing using Trader Joe's Red Lentil Sedanini, consider the following modifications (kindly shared from a fellow dietitian-friend who first shared this recipe with me): omit 1 cup water, use turkey sausage, and add a few handfuls of curly kale. Cook on Manual high pressure for 4 minutes!

7 ǁ Family Night Out (slash Mom's Night Off!)


Family-Friendly Meal Plan: Week #13

My fourth and final feature for National Nutrition Month comes from a fellow dietitian mom who is truly a woman after my own heart: Megan McNamee MPH, RDN, CLT from Feeding Littles.

Megan has become one of my most favorite people to meet in the small yet connected online Instagram community of dietitian moms. She is a brilliant dietitian who is respectfully evidenced-based and yet honest and highly-relatable in all of the feeding info she shares. I have learned so much from her over the past year, and I know you all will too with the EASY recipe ideas and kids feeding info she shares with us this week.

To note, Megan is also business partners with a very-talented Occupational Therapist and Feeding Specialist, Judy Delaware OTR/L. While Judy may not be a dietitian, I can't help but share some love during this National Nutrition Month for her and all the collaborative work she does to help raise healthier kids. Judy and Megan have truly formed a dynamic duo in the work they do to help families feed their children, and I appreciate getting to constantly learn from the added expertise Judy shares as part of the Feeding Littles team.

 

Veggies & Virtue Meal Plan: Week of March 25

 
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Disclaimer: I am an affiliate for Feeding Littles. While this post is unsponsored, I do receive a commission when purchases are made using my discount code. To get $10 off either their infant or toddler feeding courses, use code “VEGGIESANDVIRTUE.”

 

STEP 1: PLAN

If you follow Megan on Instagram, you know she is insanely gifted at coming up with easy meal ideas on the fly. She is a working mom with two precious girls and always inspiring me with EASY ideas that are practical to mom-life.

That is what became the inspiration for this week's meal plan. Not only does she show what items she buys (see Step 4: PURCHASE below), but she gives the quick prep-free meal ideas all of us moms need when schedules are crazy, appetites are active, and yet we have healthy goals to achieve.


Interested in walking through the steps to meal plan like a pro?

Download your copy of my Meal Planning Playbook. It outlines the following five steps of successful meal planning in more detail so you can achieve "Less Meal Time Stress and More Feeding Success" for your own family!


 

STEP 2: PICK

A special thanks to Megan of Feeding Littles for the delicious recipe ideas this week!

Dinner Menu:

1 ǁ Seafood Sunday: Salmon Noodle Casserole

2 ǁ Meatless Monday: Veggie Soup with Grilled Cheese

3 ǁ A Feeding Littles Favorite!: Trader Joe's Bruschetta Chicken

4 ǁ Slow-Cooker Saving Grace: Crockpot Pomegranate Chicken

5 ǁ Breakfast for Dinner: Banana Protein Pancakes with Superfood Smoothies

6 ǁ Pizza Night: Did you know that pretty much every dietitian I know still eats pizza? Fun fact: Megan’s favorite type of pizza is mushroom! She says the more, the better!

7 ǁ Noodle Night: High Protein Creamy Pasta

 

 
 

STEP 3: PAIR

You know when you see someone who's done something very similar to what you yourself dream of doing "some day"?

Well, that's Megan and Judy's Feeding Littles online courses for me.

I am so impressed by the quality of content they share in their online Baby Led Weaning Infant course and Toddler course.

While I try to offer valuable insight on my Instagram posts and in this section of the meal planning posts to help parents better understand how to "pair" meals in a way that works with raising healthy kids INCLUDING picky eaters, I know a lot of moms are seeking more information than I can share all at once (without a one-on-one consult). That's why I love how Megan and Judy have consolidated all of the FAQs and evidence-based information about infant and toddler feeding to create these two unique and yet complementary self-led courses for parents. 

If you tend to find yourself with questions on how to introduce solids, be sure to read more about their online Baby Led Weaning Infant course. If you find yourself with a child one year or older and have questions about toddler feeding and nutrition, be sure to look into their Toddler course. Both offer video and audio based segments, short enough to fit them in on your crazy schedule and yet comprehensive enough to bring you the insight and action-oriented advice you need to make progress.


Want to learn more about how "Love it, Like it, Learning it" works?
Grab your free guide here.


 

STEP 4: PURCHASE

What I Buy and Why: Ready-Made Options

One of the reasons I try to feature my grocery hauls and/or favorite products is because I for one know how overwhelming grocery shopping, ESPECIALLY grocery shopping with kids!, can be. That's also one of the reasons I love how Megan shares her tried-and-true meal ideas.

Not only does she give you the quick steps to executing, but often she shows the very ingredients she buys and shortcuts she uses to put healthy, wholesome meals on the table. She is practical in what she spends her money on, weighing the nutritional value of foods with the added convenience of having items on hand that help make healthy meal ideas easier. In most of the recipes above, you will get a glimpse at the very ready-made ingredients she herself buys and approves as a fellow dietitian mom!

If you would like to know what ingredients/products Megan included on this week's "complete" meal plan (including all the sides offered with the above main courses), be sure to sign up for my newsletter to get the items that accompany each of the items on this week's menu!

 

STEP 5: PREP

Unlike last week's 60-minute meal prep game plan, this week is all about prep-free meal ideas. Megan is masterful at finding the ingredients and products that are as good as homemade and yet save you any time from having to prep anything in advance. I always appreciate seeing what meal prep shortcuts she takes, be it using an Instant Pot for quick dinners or ingredients that need little added love to end up as delicious dinners.

Although we all get this week is easy on the meal prep, thanks to Megan's effortless-to-execute meal ideas, be sure to check each of them out on the meal plan above or in this week's newsletter for more info on what to make with each night's menu!


Happy National Nutrition Month!

To You and Your Family's Health,
Ashley & Megan

Family-Friendly Meal Plan: Week #12

In carrying on with my theme of featuring favorite dietitians throughout the month of March (National Nutrition Month), it should come as no surprise for me to introduce Mary Ellen of Milk & Honey Nutrition.

Mary Ellen was one year ahead of me in grad school, as well as the LEAH Fellow the year before me. When I eventually was asked to help her conduct home visits for her thesis project, it was the start to a fast friendship.

Since then, she and I have been co-workers and neighbors, young wives and first time moms together, and now private practice dietitians and lifelong friends. I not only admire the gorgeous food photography Mary Ellen shares with us, but I am always learning from the creative ways she comes up with so many recipes I crave!

I know you will enjoy them as well this week.

 

Veggies & Virtue Meal Plan: Week of March 18

 
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STEP 1: PLAN

This is totally my kind of “week when my husband is out of town” meal plan. Lots of salads and easy recipes I can eat again and again, while still finding ways to fit in love it and learning it foods for my kids.

My only qualm with it? None of it ever tastes as good when I make it myself.

You know how you have those favorite recipes that only your mom or dad can make “just right?” Well, having known Mary Ellen since my very first few days in Houston, she has become a dear friend and someone whose recipes have brought me a lot of comfort over the years. After the birth of each of my daughters, when my dad passed, and on lunch time play dates with our kids, many of this week’s chosen recipes are the ones I will always adore as nostalgic favorites from my dear friend, Mary Ellen.


Interested in walking through the steps to meal plan like a pro?

Download your copy of my Meal Planning Playbook. It outlines the following five steps of successful meal planning in more detail so you can achieve "Less Meal Time Stress and More Feeding Success" for your own family!


 

STEP 2: PICK

A special thanks to Mary Ellen of Milk & Honey Nutrition for the delicious recipe ideas this week!

Dinner Menu:

1 ǁ Seafood Sunday: Fish Fixe Salmon with Maple Black Pepper Bacon Brussles Sprouts

2 ǁ Meatless Monday: Homemade Mac & Cheese

3 ǁ Salad Night: Kale and Chickpea Tuna Salad and Grain-Free Cheesy Rolls

4 ǁ One Pot Wonder Wednesday: Cranberry Quinoa Veggie Saute

5 ǁ Breakfast for Dinner: Scrambled Eggs, Roasted Sweet Potatoes, and Blueberry Chia Muffins

6 ǁ Pizza Night: Did you know that pretty much every dietitian I know still eats pizza? Fun fact: Mary Ellen’s favorite type of pizza is this one!

7 ǁ Comfort Food Saturday: Turkey Sloppy Joes

 

 
 

STEP 3: PAIR

Are you subscribing to my newsletter? If not, sign up using the button above (where it says "SIGN UP HERE." In my once-weekly newsletter, I share how I breakdown EACH night's menu to make it kid-friendly for even the kids who "don't eat everything." It is delivered to your inbox every Friday morning too, so you have it in time to plan and prepare for your upcoming week.

So if you don't know how to breakdown one dinner and make it work for the whole family, subscribing to my newsletter is your go-to way to find out "what to pair" with each night's dinner ideas using a "Love it, Like it, Learning it" approach. With these tips of what I do in my own house, you will see how virtually any dish can be offered fuss-free as a family meal!


Want to learn more about how "Love it, Like it, Learning it" works?
Grab your free guide here.


 

STEP 4: PURCHASE

What I Buy and Why: Avocado Oil

A question I often get is what type of oil I recommend in cooking. Even as a big fan of avocado oil myself, I figured I would ask Mary Ellen to address this week's "What I Buy and Why." She is who first introduced me to avocado oil and an avid user of it as well, as well as an ambassador for Chosen Foods!

Mary Ellen shares below a bit more about "smoke points" and how avocado oil offers a superior product to fix this problem in a helpful article here.

Every oil that you cook with, even the “healthy” oils, has a certain temperature called a smoke point. Once an oil is heated enough and reaches its smoke point, it does just that... it starts to smoke and break down. As the oil is breaking down, it starts to become more oxidized. These oxidized parts of the oil may cause damage to cells inside your body, and increase your risk for cancer.
— Mary Ellen, Milk & Honey Nutrition
 

STEP 5: PREP

I am sharing my tips for how to meal prep this week's menu over on Milk & Honey Nutrition. If the idea of a marathon meal prep session has always sounded too overwhelming to make you even want to start, be sure to check out my post here! I give the one-hour rundown on what I did to make meal prep for this week in less than 60 minutes worth of meal prep time!


Happy National Nutrition Month!

To You and Your Family's Health,
Ashley & Mary Ellen

Family-Friendly Meal Plan: Week #11

Next up for National Nutrition Month is another dietitian I am always impressed with:

Nicole Fennell is a Integrative & Functional Registered Dietitian as well as a Certified LEAP Nutritional Therapist from Chews Food Wisely. Nicole tailors nutrition counseling based on the needs of each client, sharing evidence-based guidelines and research, and providing the necessary tools for permanent lifestyle changes utilizing a “real food” philosophy. Through the use of advanced, state-of-the-art laboratory testing, Nicole is able dive deep into a client's cellular nutritional status and individualize nutritional recommendations for each patient. Nicole believes healthy eating, physical activity, and peace of mind are the keys to disease prevention and treatment.

 

Veggies & Virtue Meal Plan: Week of March 11

 
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STEP 1: PLAN

As a pediatric dietitian to two "picky eaters" of my own, I am constantly trying to make sure there is always something on the table my kids *could* eat. I admit, sometimes this makes me overly simplistic in what I think to offer though.

That's one of the reasons why I love watching and learning from Nicole. She helps me to re-evaluate the types and combinations of foods I eat (and offer) from a standpoint of functional medicine. While this sounds kind of fancy in my usual "kid-focused" world, I love how Nicole shares simple, realistic meal ideas for the working mom on her Instagram account - including those she offers her son!

On this week's meal plan, Nicole shares with us the breadth of ways we can incorporate "real foods" into our "real worlds" with recipes from her e-Cookbook & Nutrition Manifesto (available for purchase here). She has generously given permission to share each of the recipes included in this week's plan below through this FREE download.


Interested in walking through the steps to meal plan like a pro?

Download your copy of my Meal Planning Playbook. It outlines the following five steps of successful meal planning in more detail so you can achieve "Less Meal Time Stress and More Feeding Success" for your own family!


 

STEP 2: PICK

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A special thanks to Nicole from Chews Food Wisely for the delicious recipe ideas this week!

All of Nicole's recipes are available in her complete e-Cookbook & Nutrition Manifesto (available for purchase here). Nicole has generously contributed the following recipes from her cookbook in this FREE download.

Dinner Menu:

1 ǁ Family Dinner Sunday: Simple Snapper Bake*

2 ǁ Meatless Monday: Egg Frittata

3 ǁ Taco Tuesday: Slow-Cooker Carnitas with Slaw*

4 ǁ Asian Night: Egg Roll Bowl*

5 ǁ Leftovers

6 ǁ Pizza Night: Did you know that pretty much every dietitian I know still eats pizza? Fun fact: Nicole's favorite type of pizza is: Against The Grain Pesto Pizza

7 ǁ Breakfast on Saturday: Sweet Potato Hash with Eggs*

*Find all of this week's recipes in this FREE download!

 
 

STEP 3: PAIR

Nicole will be one of the first to share that she got lucky having her son be an adventurous eater, but she deserves credit too for using a few consistent key tricks to reinforce healthy habits in her home. She shares pictures of her son's plate shared on her Instagram, which would leave any parent wanting to know how she gets her son to both eat and enjoy half his plate as veggies! Here is what she has to share:

My secret to getting my kid to eat:
1. Make food taste good. Would you want to eat bland, boring food? Yeah, me either
2. Repetition, repetition, repetition.
3. Eating the same foods as my son. Setting an expectation that we eat as a family and we eat the same thing.
4. Luck. Seriously, luck.

Take it one meal and one snack at a time. Find ONE thing you can incorporate that will promote health, and slowly build upon that.
— Nicole, Chews Food Wisely

Want to learn more about how "Love it, Like it, Learning it" works?
Grab your free guide here.


 

STEP 4: PURCHASE

What I Buy and Why: 

Nicole shares the below shopping tips for some common items fellow moms have questions about!

Grass-fed Beef
Cows are meant to survive on grass, not corn and soy based feed. Studies on the omega-3 (anti-inflammatory) versus omega-6 (pro-inflammatory) content of grass-fed versus grain-fed cows show that grass-fed cows have a much high ratio of omega-3 fatty acids, which most diets are very lacking of.  Omega-3 fatty acids not only help to manage the inflammatory response in the body, but are essential to brain health of both growing babies, children, and adults.  Omega-3’s also support heart health and keep cells nice and fluid versus stiff and difficult to penetrate.

Full-Fat Dairy
The key to full-fat dairy products is first identifying that the dairy product is from a grass-fed cow that is free from added growth hormones and antibiotics. Animals, just like humans, store toxins in fat cells, so if conventional dairy is the only option available, then opt for the lower-fat. However, the fat in dairy products not only helps to keep you fuller longer, but provides the necessary fatty acids required to absorb fat soluble vitamins, minerals (like calcium), and keep your blood sugar stable between meals. The fat, especially from grass-fed animals, contains the super important omega-3 fatty acids.  Grass-fed dairy contains the sometimes hard to get fat-soluble Vitamin A in its activated, bio-available form that is really important for growth and tissue repair (of both kids and adults!).

Pickles
The best option for pickles would be to find something that is naturally fermented so boost probiotic content of your meals.  To identify if is it natural fermented, check out the ingredients to see if there is any added vinegar.  If the ingredients are just salt, water, pickles, and maybe some herbs/spices, you’ve found yourself a fermented pickle! These will likely be in the refrigerated section of the store.  Otherwise, check your pickle jars and make sure there isn’t a lot of added unnecessary dyes, sugars, and preservatives. 

Organic vs. Non-Organic
Opt for organic as much as you can, but if that’s not an option, at least for the Dirty Dozen and anything you can’t peel.  If you can peel it, often times non-organic is just fine (with the exception of corn, papaya, and a few others on the Dirty Dozen list).

Which grocery item were you the most unaware of how to buy from the above? Take Nicole's tips to gradually change your buying behaviors to include these tips in ways that fit for your family.

 

STEP 5: PREP

For more information on what ingredients to prep for this week's meal plan, be sure to get your free download of all this week's recipes HERE.


Happy National Nutrition Month!

To You and Your Family's Health,
Ashley & Nicole