Single parents want to provide their children with healthy meals even with busy schedules. In cases of divorce, children spend about 277 days a year with the custodial parent, and eating meals is an important part of your routine.
Over 65% of adults under 35 rent their homes — but whether you own or rent, healthy eating should be prioritized. Depending on the age of your children, teaching them how to prepare simple meals and select foods when shopping is a good skill for them to learn. As a single parent, you’ll also want to learn to make breakfast a priority, learn to use a crockpot and sheet pan for a make-ahead meal, figure out how to use leftovers, and plan meals ahead. When your children are older, let them help you prepare meals and shop. Here are just a few tips that will help you prepare nutritious and delicious meals all on your own for your kids.
Start By Making Breakfast a Priority
Breakfast does not have to be a complicated meal for those parents without time. Toasted whole-grain bread with peanut butter or nut butter can be a healthy start to the day. It’s a fast and easy way to provide your child with protein and carbohydrates to get them through the morning. You can also try frozen whole-grain waffles or pancakes that you put in the toaster and add butter, fruit, and syrup for a quick breakfast. Starting the day with good nutrition does not have to be hard. Hot cereal like oatmeal can keep kids full, especially when you add a bit of fruit on top. Smoothie bowls are also a great idea, as are egg bites that you can make ahead and heat up each morning. Teach your kids how to safely use the microwave and toaster or to boil water in a kettle on the stove. Healthy cold cereals without too much sugar or salt are a good choice. Add milk and some fruit for a healthy breakfast. Eggs can be hard-boiled ahead for breakfast and snacks at home.
Or how about a yogurt parfait with chopped nuts and fresh fruit? Buy flavored yogurt in cups and add the fruit and nuts. On a day with more time try scrambled eggs, fried, or omelets with toast. Get a recipe for omelets add veggies, cheese, bacon, and learn to make one. Practice makes perfect as they say. Check to see if your school offers a healthy school breakfast and let your children participate a few days a week. Breakfast is an important meal that shouldn’t be skipped.
Make Crockpot Or One-Pan Meals Weekly
Learn to use a crockpot and sheet pan to make your meals even easier. Crockpots can be used to make soups, stews, chicken dishes, sausage and peppers, chili, and curries. You can cook these meals overnight or during the day and come home to a hot meal. Freeze leftovers for nights that are busy and just reheat and serve. Get some simple recipes to try and have your children wash, cut, and peel vegetables to help prepare the meal. Sheet pans are easy to use, as well. Once you line them with parchment paper, you can load everything onto one sheet and create meals like jerk chicken and vegetables or shrimp and diced peppers. Refrigerate what you make and reheat in the oven or microwave. You can freeze soups, stews, and other meals or leave in the refrigerator to have as leftovers.
Cook Some Meals Ahead
When you have time, cook some foods ahead. On the weekends, roast an entire chicken to use throughout the week. Cut the roast into slices and freeze. The chicken can be used for sandwiches, soups, pies, or the main meal. Wash, cut, and prepare fruits and vegetable ahead and put in containers. Research some new recipes online or by getting a cookbook from the local library. Leftovers eaten the same week can be refrigerated instead of frozen. Another simple meal is pasta with sauce and veggies or protein. Try whole wheat or gluten-free varieties. Look for jar and canned tomato sauce low in sugar and salt. Aiming for recipes with colorful vegetables and fruits as eye appeal is important.
Pack a Healthy Lunch
Buy whole-wheat, pumpernickel, or rye breads that are packed with nutrition and vitamins. For sandwiches, try lean turkey breast, tuna, cheese, roast beef, or roasted chicken with barbecue sauce. Put cut fruit and vegetables in your kids’ lunches with a tasty dip, yogurt cups, or granola. Peanut butter with a banana or sliced apple is another healthy sandwich idea or strawberries and cream cheese. Homemade soups or leftover stews that can be heated in the microwave makes a healthy lunch. Think healthy and long-term when making lunch for your children. The gap between men and women for life expectancy has narrowed to just five years since 2017. Eating healthy improves your chances of living longer. Pack healthy snacks nuts, popcorn, fruit, hard-boiled eggs, salads, and sliced veggies.
When pressed for time, keep it simple and talk to your children about healthy eating. Let them help you prepare meals in a small ways and learn. Plan ahead and prepare some foods ahead on days that are not that busy. This is the best way for single parents to focus on good health.