What in the name of sanity are we going to eat tonight??? It’s a forlorn refrain echoing around the land from about 4pm onwards, the unrelenting tyranny of dinner time! I’ve blogged already about the absolute game-changer that are weekly meal plans, I cannot recommend highly enough that you do this (see my post from DAY 13) but read on for more practical tips for lightening the daily food load.
But first, and this won't be news to any of you, feeding a family is quite a tricky business. Just because I am supposed to know about healthy eating doesn't mean my kids are kale-munching, green juice lovers - far from it, they are as seduced by the processed crap lining the aisles as anyone else. So I’d like to state for the record that I resent the judgement that is heaped on us poor mothers about what we feed our kids (sorry to any dads reading who are in charge of the food in their house but you are in a very small minority even when both parents work!). Sorry, got a bit ranty there.
A bit of personal history …
When my kids were small I did try and do everything 'right': Annabel Karmel, organic purées, lots of exposure to all manner of foods (we lived in Bali for 5 years!) etc. but I have to say that the evolution of their palates is something I genuinely feel I have had a limited ability to affect. Despite having grown up in the same environment I have one child who is a potato and fizzy-drink hating pescatarian and another who would eat steak and chips washed down with Sprite for every meal if he could.
So, the first thing to say is ditch any mum guilt right now – we are all doing our best. Secondly, some people just get lucky, they have kids who are adventurous eaters - maybe it's in the genes or they can tolerate strong tastes and textures, but please don’t think it’s just down to stellar parenting! My kids would eat everything as toddlers (I have the photo evidence!) but then began to develop aversions to things they previously liked and eventually stopped eating them. I’m happy to say as they are getting older this process is reversing, so it all comes out in the wash eventually.
Another judgy criticism leveled at modern parents is that 'back in the day' kids just had to get on and eat what was put in front of them, no negotiation. Yes I remember it well, I'd describe it as a low level form of torture! One of my strongest childhood memories is me sitting for hours at the dining table with tears streaming down my face as my Dad insisted I finish my plate of, now cold, fish in mustard sauce which literally made me retch. I’m not sure that was great for my relationship with food. That’s not a criticism of my Dad, it’s just how it was back then.
So, given we have a range of different tastes within our families to cater for, how do we do it without going bonkers? That nice roast veg salad with lentils and feta is not going to go down too well with the meat-lovin’ teen! Again, it comes down to planning – first thing to do is sit down and write a list of all the foods that everyone agrees on, these are your building blocks. From this you can begin to assemble easy family meal options and once you have a roster of 10-15 meals you can have these on repeat and just add something new in from time to time.
For example, all four of us like fish and seafood, here are a list of things we eat regularly for dinner:
Baked salmon (various marinades – teriyaki, lemon and herbs, peri peri etc.) with turmeric rice and garlic greens
Homemade salmon fishcakes with corn on the cob and snowpeas
Salmon miso soup with soba noodles and pak choy
Prawn and pea korma with wholewheat chapatis
Green thai prawn curry with brown rice
Quick brown rice prawn paella
Fish tacos (I use either wholemeal pitas or wraps) with all the trimmings (everyone can pick'n'mix)
Crispy Trout with Asian Salsa (mackerel also works really well) - if you have The Midlife Kitchen this recipe is in there (fresh salsas are great to have alongside fish to take your meals up a notch and then the kids can choose to have it or not, my other favourites from the book are Zehug and Sambal Matah)
Indian Spiced Fish with Sabji (also in the book), I serve it with homemade flatbreads (these are so easy and totes delish - will share at some stage!)
I’m probably not telling you much you don’t already know but it hopefully gives you a few new ideas and a bit of encouragement to ring the dinnertime changes.
If you have any cracking family favourites you'd like to share you can either pop them in the comments below or email me on firstname.lastname@example.org and who knows, they may well make a future appearance here on the blog.
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