Guest post by Amy Height of From the Ground Up Wellness
– Cooking for a household of adults and kids with varying preferences – and eating abilities – can be tough. Have you ever felt like a short-order cook, preparing 17 different dishes to please everyone’s tastes? It’s exhausting!
There’s value in eating together as a family. (You know that! That’s what you’re doing on this site to begin with, I’m sure!). When we share food, we share the energetic qualities of that food. This can improve communication and interaction, as well as take some stress of you as a parent about your kids’ nutrition. (Knowing they’re nourished at home means the occasional treat at school or friends’ homes isn’t as big of a deal.)
Luckily, with a bit of preparation (and some surveying of all of the diners in your home), meal planning and preparing can become a little simpler. Here are a few steps and whole food ideas to modify individual ingredients to appeal to everyone at the table. This means less work for you and more nourishing family mealtime. The name of the game is finding ways to adapt one dish or a selection of the same ingredients to fit the whole family.
Start by asking around. Identify which foods are shared favorites amongst family members. In particular, involving kids in this conversation gives them a sense of contribution to mealtime and increases the likelihood they’ll be on board with what’s served. Look for at least two proteins, four veggies and a grain or two. Consider these your staples and check in each week to mix things up.
Do a little research. Dig through your recipe box, Pinterest board or email newsletters for recipes that include some of these. Look for simple combinations of ingredients (five main ones, plus spices) and under 30 minutes of prep time. Keep an eye out for recipes that will allow you to keep ingredients separate, as well as ones with kid-friendly steps: mashing, slicing soft foods or measuring spices are great places to start.
Get cooking. Prepare your staples – like grains, legumes and other proteins – in batches so you can use them throughout the week.
Think texture. Simple preparations like baking, steaming or roasting typically mean that everyone at the table can partake: softened foods prepared in these ways can be puréed for babies, and adapted for dexterity and textural preferences for everyone else. It’s amazing how a masher or a food processor can turn an otherwise unacceptable food into an acceptable one. Plus, kids can help with this!
Think presentation. When we use separate simple ingredients, we can combine them in different ways to suit each family member. Consider the baked foods above: they can be separated on a plate for older kids who can’t stand when their foods touch. Grown-ups can eat these however they please: ingredients can be tossed together salad-style or served as a side, combined in a skillet, made into patties, or thrown into soups or chili.
Think dietary preferences. Have a meat eater who won’t consume a meal unless it contains an animal protein? No worries. Craft meals as vegetarian offerings and add cheese or meat for those who prefer it. Leave it off for those who don’t. Many vegetarian dishes like curries, stir-fries or pizza lend themselves to this kind of flexibility.
Spice things up. Don’t be afraid of condiments! They’re a great way to cook one thing and allow everyone to customize for their own taste. Fresh herbs, sugar free ketchup, garlic, pepper, or cinnamon can add variety and personalization to a meal without adding cook time in the kitchen.
Check out the chart below for some ways to adapt nourishing whole foods into family meals. Happy cooking!