How to Eat Together When Diets and Cravings Differ Use these 5 simple tips to sit down together as a family when every plate feels like a custom order. BY MIA MORAN
Mealtime is an important time for families to connect and communicate.
“ The long and the short is that there are many moments in a day that you don’t have to agree.”
No mom wants to become a short order chef, especially when the complaining eater isn’t a kid, but a husband.
If you relate, you are not alone.
Very often it is one partner who wants to get healthier, while another likes meat and potatoes; or one partner who has a food allergy, while one can eat anything; or one partner hates vegetables while the other is a vegetarian.
When two adults have very different food cravings or food upbringings, and kids are involved, it makes mealtime even more complicated; and it makes it much harder to raise kids who will eat everything.
Here are some ways to shift mealtime, so you can agree on what to eat.
Be clear on the purpose of each meal. Dinner is a great meal to come together, and when there is one meal, dinner tends to go more smoothly; however, breakfast and lunch are a bit different. Generally, each person in a family is on their own for lunch, so lunch is a great time to eat exactly what you need. If meat and potatoes are your jam, do that at lunch (actually it is a much better time for a heavy meal than evening). Breakfast is another one where there can be some choice. I start each day with a green smoothie and make one other breakfast, like oatmeal. The kids can choose from either thing, but if anyone decides to make their own smoothie or grab fruit, it does not affect the vibe. The long and the short is that there are many moments in a day that you don’t have to agree.
Make flexible meals. One of my favorite dinners is grain bowls. I put out five serving bowls—one gluten-free grain, one protein, three veggies. Everyone creates their own bowl. Mine includes everything that is plant-based and has a drizzle of hot sauce. My husband usually leaves out the grain. All three kids have their own variations, but we all get a great meal that feels like one. Bowls can be Italian, Asian, Mexican—the possibilities are endless!
Take advantage of date night. Making home-cooked meals is really the best way to stay healthy, but a regular date night when there are kids in your midst can be just as important. We need to get out and experience the world as an adult. Pick a place on date night that can serve both of your food preferences. Date night is super important on so many levels, so make sure you have a few scheduled in your calendar this month.
Create a meal plan each week that supports both of you. Sometimes it is more efficient for one partner to make the meal plan, especially if food is cause for arguments. Also, make sure you are taking in what your partner has told you about his preferences, and review it with your spouse before your children see it that way you can make any shifts before setting expectations for your kids. Knowing the purpose of each meal and building that into your plan is really helpful. You may not want to plan your spouse’s lunch, but show your spouse what you are doing when you pack a child a different lunch than you.
Lead by example. The best thing we can do as moms or parents is lead by example. Food preferences are deeply embedded in each one of us, from before we were even a couple, and food brings strong memories and feelings. When you want your spouse to eat better, you are doing that because you love them and want them to live a long healthy life with you, but they may not be able to see that yet. The best thing you can do is do your best to eat the food that serves you, enjoy making it, and reap the benefits of energy and health. Your whole household will want that too, but may need their own path to get there.
Food is our tool to optimal health, but when it becomes stressful, it is a weaker tool. See if you can start to agree on food with your spouse, so you can pass on healthy habits to your kids.
Mia Moran is a gluten-free mom of three, bestselling author, and speaker, who makes time to eat right—and shows time-strapped families how they can too. She is creating a movement of moms who bypass busy and embrace healthy through small, doable changes. Visit plansimplemeals.com for up-to-date offerings and FREE resources to move forward on your healthy journey.