Having a baby is a major life event, and these significant moments deserve love, care, and unwavering support. Offering some help and supporting the well-being of a new family is one of the best ways you can show up in those initial postpartum months. That's where the magic of a meal train comes in. A gifted meal can leave new parents feeling valued and supported during their new journey.
In this blog post, we're talking all things meal trains for new parents. You'll learn everything you need to know about how best to start and participate in a meal train. We'll share helpful tips and a list of 10 of the best meal train ideas. Let's get started!
What is a Meal Train?
A meal train is an organized initiative that brings a sense of community and care to those experiencing significant life events or challenging times. Coordinated by family, friends, or colleagues, a meal train involves a group of people taking turns to prepare and deliver meals to the person or family in need. This thoughtful gesture not only provides much-needed nutritional support but also delivers a powerful message of love and support during times of joy, grief, illness, or any other transitional phase.
A meal train's importance lies in its ability to ease the burden of daily meal planning and preparation, allowing the recipients to focus on what matters most. Beyond nourishing the body, a meal train nourishes the soul, forging a strong sense of community and connection that shows how small acts of kindness can make a significant impact during life's most profound moments.
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How Would a Meal Train Benefit New Parents?
A meal train can be a tremendous source of support and relief for new parents as they embark on the exciting and challenging journey of parenthood. Here are some specific ways in which a meal train benefits new parents:
- Time-Saving: New parents are often overwhelmed with the demands of caring for their newborn, leaving little time for meal planning and cooking. A meal train ensures that they don't have to worry about preparing meals, giving them more time to focus on bonding with their baby and adjusting to their new role as parents.
- Nutritional Support: Proper nutrition is essential for new parents, especially for mothers who may be recovering from childbirth. With a meal train, they receive a variety of healthy and balanced meals, ensuring they get the nourishment they need during this critical time. Meat, bone broth, and other animal products are especially important during this phase of recovery!
- Emotional Support: Parenthood can be emotionally taxing, and the outpouring of love and care through a meal train can be incredibly uplifting for new parents. Knowing that their community is rallying around them and showing their support through something as fundamental as meals can provide a significant emotional boost.
- Reduced Stress: The arrival of a new baby can be overwhelming, and having meals provided through a meal train helps reduce the stress of having to think about grocery shopping, meal preparation, and cooking while juggling all the responsibilities that come with caring for a newborn.
- Connection and Community: A meal train fosters a sense of community and connection among the new parents and their support network. It brings people together in a meaningful way, strengthening bonds and creating lasting memories.
- Encouragement to Accept Help: New parents may hesitate to ask for assistance, but a meal train provides a tangible and practical way for friends and family to help without the need for the new parents to feel like they are burdening others.
7 Essential Tips to Set Up a Meal Train for New Parents
Setting a meal train well is important because it ensures that parents get the help they need. A meal train can provide much-needed support and assistance in times of need. Therefore, explain these six essential tips for a successful meal train for new parents.
1. Plan in advance!
If possible, don’t wait until the baby arrives to begin this process. Setting up a meal train in advance is less stressful than trying to write down all of your preferences with a newborn on board.
2. Find a Leader.
Who will volunteer? It is helpful if one person takes on contacting friends and family and answering questions about the meals so this doesn’t become an added burden for the new parents.
3. Choose an app, website, or process that is easy for everyone
4. Compile your preferences
It feels unfortunate to get food that you just don't want to eat, and it's equally unfortunate to make food that someone else doesn't want to eat. So make your preferences clear up front - it's a win-win for everyone. You'll want to include things like:
- Dietary preferences (include both restrictions, specifically noting food allergies, and things that you don't care for, like "no pasta dishes please")
- Ideal drop off times and guidelines for visiting (for example, "leave in the cooler outside" or "text before you come and we'll let you know if it is a good time")
- Preferred recipes or dishes (many people love some guidance, so feel free to include specific dishes you love, or even links to favorite recipes)
- Favorite restaurants (some people want to help but don't want to cook)
- Contact info for your leader (they may prefer to reach out to your leader rather than feeling like they are bothering you)
- Preferences for seeing the family or baby (feel free to make clear up front if you aren't up for visitors yet, if you could use other help, etc. A simple sentence like "we really appreciate the meal and are excited to reach out when we are ready for our new baby to meet you!")
4 Essential Tips for Providing Food in a Meal Train for New Parents
Here are 4 quick tips to make your meal train delivery smooth and as helpful as possible for the new family.
1. Use containers that do not need to be returned
Having to wash and return containers puts an extra burden on the family, so send your meal in containers that don't need to be returned. Glass and silicone make reheating easier (and are safer than plastic) and can be a nice added gift to the family.
2. Keep the food as familiar as possible
Make sure to follow the family's request list, and if they don't provide one, give them a few options while also emphasizing nutrition wherever possible.
3. Include instructions for reheating and storing the food
Make it simple for the family to eat what you bring by including instructions for reheating or assembly. And remember, it doesn’t have to be homemade! You can pick up food from one of their favorite restaurants, or place a delivery order on their behalf.
3. When in doubt, send MORE!
Portion sizes can vary by person, and new moms are often very hungry as they recover, so err on the side of more if you are unsure. They can always eat it as leftovers. You can also double what you make and freeze half so they have more for another day when they need it.
4. Don’t expect to hold or even see the baby
Don't assume anything when it comes to visiting the family. Plan to just drop off food unless other instructions were provided to knock, call, or come in. If you are invited in, offer to help around the house and don’t overstay your welcome. Watch for cues that it might be time to leave (e.g., the baby needs to eat or sleep, the parents indicate they are tired, etc.).
10 Healthy Meal Train Ideas for New Parents
Some of the hesitation with providing a meal for new parents is not knowing what to make, so we've compiled some meal train ideas and meal train recipes to make the process easier, emphasizing their nutrients and how they can nourish their bodies in their situation. Focus on nutrient dense foods like Meat, bone broth, animal products, vegetables and healthy fats:
1. Build your own bowl or salad
If you're not up for a full meal or main dish, compile a bunch of prepared food that can be easily assembled into bowls or salads. For example, you can shred meat from a prepared rotisserie chicken, cook some quinoa in bone broth, chop or roast veggies, get some pre-washed greens, and include some healthy sauces or dressing. We like the bottled options from New Primal, Primal Kitchen, and Siete.
2. Chicken pot pie
Chicken pot pie is the ultimate comfort food, and when it is made with good quality ingredients, it can be quite nourishing. We love this recipe from Paleo Running Momma that includes bone broth, veggies, healthy fats, and more.
Pizza is a comfort food for so many people, and a perfect meal train idea when the family has hungry siblings or picky eaters at home. We love to enjoy it grain free with the crusts or pre-made pizzas from Capello's. Pair it with a protein packed salad for something extra.
4. Baked spaghetti
Baked spaghetti is a great meal train option since it reheats well. We love to use bone broth in place of water and lentil pasta to make it gluten free and add some protein and fiber.
Burritos are a great make ahead recipe that also freeze well. We like to use Siete tortillas and load them with our favorite proteins and veggies. Remember to include a side of guacamole, salsa, or any other condiments they like. For an added bonus, include some frozen burritos with eggs and bacon that they can enjoy in the morning with some fresh fruit.
6. Chicken noodle soup with turmeric and ginger
Chicken noodle soup can be amped up for postpartum recovery with bone broth and warming herbs and spices. We love this recipe from Fed and Fit.
7. Hash brown quiche
Eggs are so nourishing, but they don't always reheat well. Quiche is an exception! We love to make a crust with frozen shredded potatoes and grass fed butter (like this) and then load it up with proteins and veggies.
8. Beef stew or chili
Stews and chilis heat up and stay good for leftovers which is great for a meal train meal. You can also send it in a slow cooker, or in a container for a family member to easily dump into a slow cooker. This one is a great meal train recipe.
9. Lentil soup
Lentils are a nutrient dense food and a great option for families that prefer to avoid meat. Lentils contain B vitamins, non-heme iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc, plus lots of fiber. We like this recipe from Minimalist Baker. If animal products are ok with the family, we suggest that you swap any chicken stock or veggie stock for bone broth.
If the family loves Mexican food, create a taco bar for a meal train by cooking seasoned ground beef or chicken and then including all of the fixings separately so they can build their own. Include things like cheese (if they do dairy), sour cream, salsa, guacamole, shells or tortillas (we love Siete).
But remember you don’t have to make the food! Is easy to get takeout delivered to the family! Just confirm which restaurants they like and order per their dietary guidelines.
A fresh meal is a great way to support and nourish a new family, and setting up a meal train can help simplify the process of bringing or receiving. We hope our tips help empower you to help a new family, or to ask for help yourself!