Feeding the Whole Family

Are you like me?  Are you a mom trying to better herself on the daily?  While trying to better yourself are you trying to feed the whole family of which, all have a different set of taste buds?  Or maybe you want to start bettering your nutrition but perhaps your spouse or partner just isn’t there yet?  Feeding the whole family isn’t always the easiest thing in the world.  And I want to send a huge round of applause to the mamas that do it every day!  It doesn’t matter if you are feeding a family of four or a family of 8, if you are getting dinner on the table it is a BIG ACCOMPLISHMENT!  You are amazing!  Don’t ever doubt yourself!  EVER.

I can say this because I’ve been there.  I have doubted myself.  We had a few years where feeding the whole family meant eating a nice rotation of spaghetti, fish sticks, and hot dogs.  But don’t worry, we always managed to throw in some broccoli.  I remember feeling so frustrated during this time.  We were doing our best just to keep our heads above water.  We were both working, had a young child, and another on the way.  And then when baby #2 did arrive, it got even more challenging!  We added pizza to the rotation.

I’m not saying any of these things are bad.  But looking back on it, none of us really felt our best either.  We may have been feeding the whole family, but we weren’t doing a very nutritious job of it.  I swore up and down when I had kids I would do it right.  Everything would be organic, and they would for sure eat all their fruits and vegetables.  And I, well I would be this super fit mom who some how balanced it all without so much as a flinch.   HAHAHAHA!  That didn’t happen….at least not right away 😉

I knew we needed a change.  I felt incredibly exhausted.  I was still holding on to a few extra pounds.  But more than that, I felt weak and honestly, like everything was completely out of my control!  But that wasn’t true.  I could grab the reigns and start steering.  I just had to choose to.  So that’s what I did.  And feeding the whole family better became a top priority.  Here’s the thing though, when you decide to change how you do that, the change must be gradual.  So, here’s what I DIDN’T DO.

1.       Clean out the pantry and declare we would only eat whole foods from this point forward!

2.       Declare war against sugar.  All sugar!  Nope, the kids will never have an ice cream cone!

3.       Decide we must all go low carb – throw out the rice and spaghetti!

4.       Make fish sticks and hot dogs the devil and tell the rest of the family their evilness is no longer welcome in our home.

5.       Start the type of food prep only physique competitors maintain for competition and tell the family, it’s this way or the highway!

Nope, none of this happened.  N-O-N-E.  Feeding the whole family doesn’t have to be stressful.  In fact, it can be fun.  Will you nail it every day?  Probably not.  Can you get it right 4-5 days out of the week?  Of course, you can!  And that’s what they mean when they say living the 80/20 life.  But what do you do when your husband thrives on rice, you love spinach, and your kids could LOVE apples one day, and then declare they are completely GROSS the next?  Well, for starters, don’t panic.  You are like every other family in the multiverse.  But there is a way.  Perhaps what worked for me will work for you.  Or perhaps it will inspire you to try a different path.  What ever you do, don’t give up.  Small changes lead to big outcomes.  Stay the course and keep being a better you.  Here’s what worked for us:

 

1. First focus – ME: 

Yup, you got it.  I focused on ME.  But wait, I thought we were talking about feeding the whole family here?  We are.  BUT, you know what they always say,

 “If you don’t take care of yourself you can’t take care of anyone else!” 

 There is more truth in this statement than any other statement ever said, anywhere!  And in all truth, I really wish I’d hired a nutrition coach to help navigate the whole darn thing.  Looking back on it, I struggled.  It was hard.  Having someone in my corner would have really helped me.  How did I focus on me while feeding the whole family?  I focused on one meal a day.  One that would be relatively easy for me to focus on…. lunch.  Whether I was at work, or at home, I could eat whatever I chose for…. lunch.  I started choosing more wisely.  It required me to think ahead, sometimes make this lunch in advance, but it worked.  And slowly but surely, I started focusing on breakfast too.  Do you know what this led to?  A GOOD EXAMPLE.  I became the example for my family.  And slowly but surely, they started to make the shift too.  Mostly because they saw that I was enjoying what I was eating.  The kids wanted to taste it, I was there to share.  Then, my husband started making wiser choices for his lunches at work.  I feel the need to remind you that this didn’t all happen at once…it took probably about 8 months to a year!  Real change takes time.  And by simply setting the example, I was feeding the whole family in a better way.  And they never even saw it coming.

 

2. Recognize Kids are Kids:

I used to spend hours on the internet searching for kid friendly recipes.  I was determined to find a “healthy” chicken finger I could make at home that my kids would happily eat.  But alas, I’ve still not found that.  I won’t give up.  My point is that I would often spend so much time in the kitchen giving it my all, only to find that while feeding the whole family, the whole family (or at least my kids) didn’t like it!  In fact, they would say things like ‘this is gross’ ‘ewwww’ ‘uh, what IS this?!’  I would want to run into my room, shut the door and scream!  But the truth is, kids are picky.  I don’t care what kind of parent you are, kids are picky.  Should I say it again?  KIDS ARE PICKY.  My daughter calls it “being specific” – NOPE ITS PICKY. Sometimes they don’t want the mac and cheese because it happens to be shell noodles instead of elbow noodles, they suddenly decide they don’t like chocolate, or the broccoli they used to eat on pasta night suddenly becomes the one thing they can’t even look at.  Kids are kids.

  I can’t take it personally. 

 But I also won’t cave into their whines.  I make what I make, they will be grateful for the food on the table.  They can choose not to eat it, sure, but I will not get up and poor them a bowl of cereal instead.  I went through weeks of whines, but eventually, guess what, things changed.  The one thing I continue to learn…patience.  AND, not to take things personally.  I mean even I can admit that the at home chicken fingers don’t match up to the ones deep fried in vegetable oil.  But it was still edible.  I know because I ate them.

 

3.  Implement More “Assemble it Yourself” Meals:

When feeding the whole family even though everyone has a different idea of what taste good, this is THE best way to have a whine free night.  Taco night is our favorite night! But other nights include, Rice Bowls, Salad Night, Lettuce Wraps, “Sushi” Roles/Burritos, Meatball Sandwiches, Sliders/Turkey Burgers.  What’s awesome about these nights is that all I need to do is set out the ingredients and let everyone have at it.  If my 5-year-old wants to make her burger burger free, fine by me!  If my husband would rather have a taco bowl while the kids and I make tacos, so be it!  If the girls like vegetables but just not all blended together, build your own salad it is!  I simply put everything on the table, and everyone makes it with the ingredients they like.  It’s really a win-win.

 4.  Add “Kid’s Choice, Dad’s Choice, Mom’s Choice” to Your Weekly Menu: 

When feeding the whole family, involve the whole family.  I find that my family is more willing to eat the new more nutritious recipes, when they know they have a day in the week that is geared towards them.  Within in reason of course.  I mean, for the kid’s they know it must be something mommy can make at home, unless of course they’ve been given the direction that they can pick a restaurant.  Since we’ve spent years working on this they usually ask for things like tacos, udon soup, rice bowls, spaghetti.  All of these I can work with and make healthier and wholesome to feed the whole family.

 

5.       Pair Up

I find that when feeding the whole family it’s good to pair it with something else they are guaranteed to enjoy. 

 This is especially true for the kids.

 For example:  If I make a protein packed veggie rich chili, I will always make sure there is avocado, tortillas, or one of my more balanced versions of cornbread/muffins to go with it.  Why?  Well because if I serve it alone, they look at the bowl of chili like its poison.  But by pairing it with other things they enjoy, they eat everything on the table!  Making chicken?  Pair it with some roasted potatoes.  Having a salad night?  Pair it with some whole grain pita and hummus. 

 6.  Never Force, Just Keep Setting the Example

When I was young, I was as picky as they come.  I didn’t eat any fruits or vegetables.  But one of the things I can appreciate now, is that my parents never forced me to eat anything I didn’t want.  With two working parents, feeding the whole family can be a struggle. 

 However, forcing kids to eat a certain way can lead to a multitude of problems down the road

 I struggled with this idea at first.  Mostly because you want your kids to have the proper fuel for school and be set up for a lifetime of success.  But really, all they need is a good example.  When they are ready, they will follow it.  Keep nutritious food in the home, give your kids the illusion of choices, involve them as much as you can or that they allow you to, and the rest will fall into place over time.  Don’t ever fight, just flow.