Do you ever find yourself struggling to keep everyone happy and meet everyone’s dietary needs at the dinner table, especially when you’re trying to please children, partners and parents alike?
I plan meals, workouts and “quiet time” each week, because I am a planner and a “to-do list” kind of girl; but also because it provides the structure I need to keep things moving forward. To remove some of the emotion from the day to day, the kind of emotion that can throw off weeks or months of work, and can be the guiding compass of what to do when I’m too overwhelmed to think too hard.
I’ve had my struggles with food over the years, and I am constantly working on my relationship with food, fitness and self-care. During quarantine, I was inspired after coming across a new chef (to me) on Instagram, What’s Gaby Cooking, and I was drawn to her approach to food preparation, flavor combinations and the focus on enjoying what you make and sharing food with those you love. I found peace and happiness in the focus on mindful eating, and how to incorporate that to help repair some of the challenges I have with what to eat, how to eat it, etc. when there is so much noise about what is right/wrong to eat, etc. in society.
I didn’t grow up in a house that we had a specific type of cooking or food preparation that we all followed, we did mainly ate homecooked meals my mom generally prepared (except grilling and Sunday breakfast – that was all my dad). Our meals were balanced, with protein, carbs and vegetables. I, like many, thought I would be so different about how and what I ate once I lived in my first apartment and could cook/eat/order whatever I wanted. And, I did test the limits – but I also always came back to preparing and eating meals for myself/family/friends at home, just like I grew up around.
Fast-forward 16 years, I now look at food for nutrition, enjoyment, and balance. But, some habits die hard. Just this weekend, I made a huge dinner salad for one of the hot nights we had while I had family staying with me, to which someone commented “this is a nice light meal for a change”. It was meant truly as a compliment due to the overwhelming heat, variety of ingredients, but nothing too heavy while we all enjoyed the A/C blasting around us, but I was transported back a few years and it was hard to finish eating what I had on my plate.
Having grown up around some family members who passively-aggressively commented at every family gathering about their workout that day which allowed them to have an extra potato, and critiquing a salad choice for nutritional value, etc., I felt judged, even as a child, for my food choices, and it was always in the back of my mind.
For me, our dinner salad was just what sounded like a good dinner when it was 90 degrees at 8:00pm. But, it was suddenly a time machine that transported me back to those formative years, and my unhealthy relationship with food all those years ago. No one else would know that a simple statement would be such a trigger, it was a kind acknowledgement.
And so, I had a small step backward, but instead of sliding further and further back, this time I took it all in and then woke up the next day to push forward again. It’s not seamless or easy, but it’s better than feeling that everything was derailed and I’d have to start all over again. Progress. Which I credit not only to the work I’ve put in, but also that I have these solid plans that I put together on a weekly basis and follow them. Trusting that I am doing what is best for me, and not what is best for everyone else.
With so many family and friends in and out of this house and backyard every weekend, I am constantly coming up with different ways to create meals that will satisfy everyone’s dietary preferences and taste profiles. Many times it’s a creative challenge that actually come together perfectly and become part of our permanent rotation. What do you consider staples of your family dinners? How do you satisfy everyone’s preferences and dietary needs?
There is an unspoken rule in my house (based on my earlier food relationship struggles) that everyone is here to enjoy time together and a relaxing meal. I don’t want to feel the pressure of causing someone a “splurge” when it’s what I planned to serve and let everyone know ahead of time. I don’t want to feel the let down of putting time, energy and care into making a family meal that is met with nutritional content critique, etc. Because I do put time and energy into creating balanced meals every day – and yes, sometimes we have pizza with no vegetables and other times we have grilled chicken with potato chips. But, it’s not a decision that is made lightly or without every consideration and thought.
Who else out there has had a long-standing work in progress relationship with food? Who is reading this, with a positive relationship with food, and how do you manage it? I want to be the person who doesn’t always think about food, and who doesn’t constantly have that voice of those more discerning family members in my head when I prepare and enjoy something that isn’t the epitome of perfect nutritional content, but I want to learn from those who have already found the way.
Long story short, meal planning and family dinners can sometimes not go hand-in-hand; but if you keep putting time into planning meals and keeping everyone aware of what will be served so they can quietly plan accordingly, progress can happen, and I look forward to continuing to share the progress we make, while also hearing about yours!
You know my offer continues to stand – if you want or need help with planning meals, using what you have at home, saving money at the grocery store and finding new inspiration when you’re preparing meals, email me, comment below and follow me on Instagram – I look forward to connecting with everyone however I can help!