Busy mom and entrepreneur, Joanna Parker, knows all too well the pain active parents suffer when trying to feed their little ones every day. With three picky eaters for kids, she’d spend hours in the kitchen creating what she thought were nutritious, yummy meals only to have them rejected or worse, dumped on the floor.
“It’s maddening,” she says. “Every day was a gamble on a new dish and a struggle to make sure they were eating enough.”
Then, on a family vacation with food meltdowns happening daily, she said to herself, “There has to be another way.” She started researching and was surprised to find that no company was creating healthy meals for kids or helping busy parents cook. That’s when she decided to see if she wasn’t alone.
“I just posted a short note to a local Mommy Group on Facebook while we were on vacation, offering to cook and deliver meals for families to see if I wasn’t the only one that was feeling this pain.”
The next day her inbox blew up with interest—she had to cut the vacation short to start cooking. One year and hundreds of home-cooked meals for strangers later, her company, Yumble, was born as a ready-to-eat meal subscription service for kids.
While the team at Yumble has grown as the customer base expanded beyond its New Jersey roots, Parker stays close to the business she started in her kitchen. Every day, she talks (or texts) with customers, hearing feedback to tweak recipes and sharing her strategies for feeding kids. So, as an expert, we thought we’d ask her for her best tips for Healthy Meals For Kids:
First, remember that picky eating is a normal phase and many children go through some challenges when it comes to health eating, she says. Just as no parent throws in the towel on potty training or sleep training, Parker says they shouldn’t when it comes to establishing healthy eating habits. “We have to put in our time, we have to be consistent, we have to be clear about our objectives and our expectations,” she says. “Knowing that it is just a phase and it’s something your child will outgrow if you give them the right tools helps so many parents change their mindset.”
Talk to your kids like they are adults (because they are mini adults), she says. “I have found at almost every stage of life, if I explain why it is important to eat what I put in front of them, they are much more likely to eat it.” She also makes sure she talks with her kids about how some foods don’t have to be their favorites, but how they can still enjoy it because it is working to make them healthy and strong.
Relax. If mom and dad are more relaxed around mealtime, the whole family dynamic is more relaxed, she says. Her goal with Yumble is to take away the work families put into meal planning and creation, leaving the time to make mealtime playful and stress-free. “I think mealtime should be fun,” she says. “And if it is fun for the parents it will be fun for the kids as well.”.
Set realistic goals. For example, focus on one rejected food for a month. Take carrots, as an example. On day one, they might cry and scream seeing it on their plate. On day two, if they don’t cry, compliment them. On day three, encourage them to just touch it. And so on. “Each of those steps are important for your child,” she says. The earlier you start, the better.
Use a star chart. Kids are visual and want to have ownership of their achievements. Allow them to put a star or stamp on their chart when they eat healthy. The first delivery of Yumble includes a welcome pack with a star chart, coins, trading cars and activity sheets.
She says it all goes back to having fun with food and family. “Our mission from the first day was to lighten parents’ load. The emotional weight that parents carry is so heavy, I want to cross meal prep off the list while, at the same time, giving their kids access to healthy food.”