· By Julia Boase

Why I think Meal Planning is Essential for Families (especially if you have pikcy eaters!).

Meal planning is an essential tool for nurturing your family's health, especially if you have picky eaters. As a paediatric dietitian, I firmly believe that this practice can transform not only how you feed your loved ones but also how you feel about the entire process.

In today's fast-paced family life, where both parents often work, finding time to plan, shop, and cook can feel overwhelming. The evenings are usually a whirlwind of school pickups, sports, lunchbox preparation, cleaning, and preparing for the next day. Adding a last-minute trip to the supermarket can only add more stress and chaos to your already hectic schedule. Plus, it often leads to relying on convenience foods or takeout, which can be less nutritious and more costly.

I used to avoid meal planning myself before becoming a parent. I cherished the idea of cooking whatever I craved on the spot after work. But over time, I've realized that the calm that comes with knowing what we're eating and having all the ingredients on hand outweighs the desire for spontaneous meals.

From a dietitian's perspective, there are even more benefits to meal planning. I encourage families to consider their whole family's preferences when planning meals. Divide your week into meals that both you (and your partner) want to eat and meals that you know your kids will enjoy. This approach helps you break free from the cycle of always serving what your kids like and exposes them to new foods, expanding their palates.

Meal planning also allows you to prepare for meals that your children may not be fond of, such as spicy dishes. You can serve these deconstructed or offer complementary sides to ensure everyone has something they enjoy. This approach reduces mealtime stress, as you know there are meals coming up where your kids will do well.

Remember that not every meal needs to be perfectly balanced. Children can choose to eat just rice at one meal, as long as their overall nutrition is balanced over time. As a dietitian, I emphasize measuring nutrition over time, not meal by meal.

Meal planning also helps you achieve a balanced and varied diet throughout the week. I recommend incorporating one meat-free or vegetarian night, 1-2 fish meals, 3 red meat meals, and the remainder featuring another protein like chicken. Plan to offer a variety of colorful vegetables to ensure diverse nutrients and continue exposing your kids to new foods.

Consider your family calendar when planning meals, especially on days when late-night sports leave you exhausted. Use your slow cooker or prepare quick tray bakes for such evenings. Convenience options like frozen fish, homemade oven fries, and bagged salad can also come in handy.

Don't forget to plan lunches, too! Have a couple of easy lunch ideas in mind, and keep lunchbox staples readily available for the kids. Adapt your meal plan to your family's size and available storage in the fridge and freezer.

If planning for a full week feels overwhelming, start with three days. Many find it helpful to use a template for meal inspiration, grouping meals by cuisine type, such as Mexican, Italian, or BBQ nights.

i truly believe that meal planning can empower you to make informed choices and reduces the chaos of last-minute meal decisions. Embrace this practice, and you'll find that mealtimes become a more enjoyable and stress-free experience for the whole family.


An example of what your weekly meal plan might look like...





Wednesday (late night soccer and gymnastics - quick dinner)


Friday (soccer after school, likely to be too tired to cook)



Kids fave/red meat








chicken - serve items separately as some kids don’t like capsicum. 



easy chicken fajita tray bake (use chicken tenderloins as they require almost no prep, pre cut capsicum, red onion in the morning). Serve with store bought tortillas, sour cream and smashed avo)





parents preferred meal. Serve with rice and tortillas separately. Meat free meal


lentil curry






Fish meal. 




Fish burgers and oven fries + salad




easy meal





freezer bolognese 









eat out/take away

frozen pizza with salad and fruit plate


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