Nobody tells parents-to-be the commitment involved in feeding a family. Once my daughter started eating regular meals and snacks, I panicked because I realized I’d be doing this for the next 17 years. Three meals and two-to-three snacks, day in and day out.
So each week I’d tell myself I “should” get to meal planning but always put it off. I did such a poor job that I’d run back to the grocery store all week long. You see, even though I’m a dietitian I never learned how to cook for a family. Not only was I lacking confidence, I felt like I just wasn’t born with the gift of cooking.
Thankfully, I changed my attitude, got organized and now find great satisfaction in the whole process (although it’s nowhere near perfect). But nothing was going to work until I overcame my barriers.
Welcome to part I of Raise Healthy Eaters’ Meal Planning Series. Before digging into the mechanics of meal planning, take time to consider what may be holding you back from feeding your family the way you want to.
1) The time factor: In our recent survey, many parents said that time is a barrier to planning and preparing meals. Maybe you work long hours or have a high-needs child that doesn’t allow for free time. Or maybe it’s something else.
Whatever it is, dig a little deeper to see if time is really a red flag for something else. Maybe you don’t feel confident preparing meals for your family. Or maybe you’re less than thrilled with the way your dinners turn out. And if it is because of your busy schedule, stay tuned because this series will give you plenty of ideas on how to make meals happen without taking a lot of time out of your day.
2) Expecting perfection: I’m not a food snob. I don’t expect parents to always use whole foods fresh from their garden. It’s a wonderful thing to work towards but if you currently rely on convenience foods, or eating out, changing overnight to making everything from scratch is not realistic.
So parents may put off making meals until they have more time to cook from scratch, instead of starting where they are now. As Ellyn Satter said in my interview with her, simply start by getting into the habit of eating together. In part 2 of this series, you’ll learn easy ways to add tasty and healthy meals to your repertoire.
3) Wacky schedules: One parent works late so dinner doesn’t happen. If your kids are older they might play sports, making it hard to come home and prepare meals. Families are so busy today that dinner together can seem like an impossible feat.
Just know there are always solutions to schedule conflicts. If your husband works late, for example, see if he can come home early (and work from home if need be) one day a week and make sure the family eats together on weekends. We’ll talk more about this in part 3 of our series: Secrets to the Perfect Weekly Meal Plan.
4) Our culture: Several years ago my husband and I visited my family in Serbia. I was amazed at how my aunt and cousin cooked breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I mean real, from-scratch meals. In their culture, feeding yourself takes priority.
But in our culture it is acceptable to feed yourself poorly. I once talked with a woman who thought going into a store and buying a cheese stick was too much work. When I find myself complaining about going to the grocery, I remind myself that nothing is more important than feeding myself and my family well.
5) Kids won’t eat it: There’s no doubt that coming up with meals everyone likes is a major challenge. We’ll get into this later but don’t let your kid’s picky palate hold you back from making family meals.
It’s important to remember that the dinner table is where kids learn how to eat. You can’t expect them to come there already loving a variety of foods — it takes time. Sometimes changing your outlook is all that’s needed. For more on this see How to Make Dinners More Kid-Friendly.
I know there are all types of people reading this blog. Some of you are avid cooks and others are beginners. Many of you might be meal planning already while others haven’t even thought about it. But more than anything I hope we can learn from each other so we can raise children who make feeding themselves a priority.
So I leave you with one question that you can comment about or stew over. What is (or was) your biggest barrier to getting good-tasting, nutritious meals on the table?