Mealtimes can be stressful, but they are extra stressful when you feel like a short-order cook providing everyone’s favorite thing at each mealtime before you even get a chance to sit down. Learn how you can make one meal for everyone in your family and have them be happy about it (most of the time).
I’m so glad you are here!
If you’re here I’m guessing you have some experience with feeding kids at dinnertime.
If you’re like most parents, dinnertime probably sometimes leaves you frazzled.
You may not be sure how to get your kids eating the way you want them to and you either have hungry sad kids because you’ve stuck to your boundaries and they aren’t eating, or you’ve become a short-order cook who is constantly catering to your kiddos demands and you’re exhausting.
So many parents don’t like cooking at dinnertime because they feel like it’s a waste of time and that their kids never eat what they cook.
I totally get that. I wish I could say that my kids gobbled up every single thing I made for them, but that’s simply not the case.
But, with time and consistency, you can be on your way to homemade meals that people actually enjoy and have your kids eating dinner with you without fights most nights.
8 ways to make one meal for everyone in your family
We’re going to dive right into this one and talk about the 8 ways you can be on your way to feeding your entire family the same meal and ending the cold cereal or pb&js at dinnertime for good.
Considerate without catering
This idea comes from Ellyn Satter and let me tell you, it’s gold.
For a long time I didn’t consider my kid’s preferences much at all at mealtime. I thought it was my job to keep serving what I wanted, and not let them demand their own desires at mealtime.
I thought that if I was going to make one meal for everyone in my family I was just stuck with the complaints and fights at dinnertime.
Now I understand that this was overly harsh and causing a lot of unneeded tension at mealtime.
It is totally possible to be considerate of my kids likes and dislikes while still serving wholesome meals.
The next tips will be some actionable ways to learn how to consider your kid’s and family’s preferences without catering to their every demand.
Work with your children’s personalities, instead of against them.
My oldest daughter has a great need for control. It’s an innate and god-given trait.
This trait used to cause a lot of fighting at dinner.
But what I realized is that I can totally maintain control of the menu and still let her give her input.
I can let her choose between two options. I can let her choose the snacks for the week (within parameters).
Allowing her to help choose meets her needs and greatly reduces the fights at mealtime.
Maybe your child has another personality trait that makes feeding difficult. Let’s say that trying new foods makes them anxious. In this case, don’t force or coerce them. Show them by example and don’t put pressure on so you’re not adding more anxiety.
I can’t go into every scenario here, but the good news is you are the parent and you are familiar with your child’s special needs. Look for ways that work for you and don’t force you to be spending extra time with meal prep but that also help your child explore within their own personalities.
Use “safe” foods (and don’t limit them)
This tip is KEY to making one meal for your whole family.
I sometimes forget this and I regret it every time I do.
A “safe” food is any food that your child normally readily accepts.
Make sure that every meal has at least one safe food on the table.
This will ensure that your child feels safe and that there is always something they can eat, so they feel less anxiety trying new food.
Keep things separate (Serve “bowl” style meals)
Restaurants are popping up everywhere that allow you to “build your own” dishes.
There’s a reason for this! People love to cater and choose according to their preferences.
This same idea works well at home.
Your meals may look a little different, but you can make a “bowl” style meal out of just about everything.
It will be easy to make one meal for everyone if they can leave off the mushrooms or add extra sauce, or ditch the sauce.
Serve meals family style
Some kids have a lot of anxiety about even having foods on their plate that they don’t think they will like.
It can also be very stressful for kids when we put too much food on their plates and they think that we expect them to eat it.
In recent years, most childcare centers have moved to serving meals family style to help with these things, and it’s a great idea to do this at home too.
Bonus here is that it builds fine motor skills as well.
Involve your kids in the menu planning process
There are lots of ways to do this. Maybe have them choose a favorite meal every week.
Or tell them what you are meal prepping as a guide and let them choose from a few different meals.
Maybe they can be in charge of choosing the fruit/veggie side dishes.
There are a lot of ways to involve your kids and still keep things manageable for you as the cook in the kitchen.
Set healthy boundaries around food
Kids will push boundaries. Kids will fight. Even if you implement all of these things and you’ve provided a safe food there will be times when your kids don’t want it.
This is normal.
Stick to your boundaries, and your kids will fall comfortably into them and the fights will decrease drastically.
It’s normal for your kids to fight at mealtime occasionally. Do your best to stay neutral and stick to the rules you’ve set.
We’ve got an episode coming up in a few weeks all about boundaries, but for now just remember. Keep your cool. Stick to your boudaries. You control you and how they react is probably proof that what you’re doing is working.
If you’ve consistently been making your kids extra food at mealtimes or allowing them to choose their own meals all the time, this is going to be a lot harder to implement.
Don’t lose heart.
Consistency overtime will create the result you desire.
Just know that the further you have to come, the more your kid will fight.
This isn’t meant to discourage you, just to point out that if you try these techniques for a few days and are met with a lot of angst and backlash, just hold your ground. It will get better!
Alright everyone. Next week we’re going to be talking about caramel apples.
I’ll be sharing how I make caramel apples that look professional (instead of like your 5 year old made them). This process took me about 7-8 halloweens to perfect and i’m excited to share it with you. It really is easy if you take the right steps.
Can’t wait to chat with you next week!