Family Meals Aren’t Always Pretty

September 9, 2020
| Created by Melanie Taylor, MS, RDN, CD

Your Harmons dietitians are huge advocates of sharing meals together. We hope you can feel our excitement about Family Meals Month through our posts and tips. We talk a lot about the benefits of enjoying more meals with people you care about, but we are also realistic that there are mealtime barriers like busy schedules, picky eaters, food allergies, or even lack of cooking enjoyment. I’m here today to get real about family meals. They may not always be pretty or worthy of a social media post, and that’s okay.

With a blended family including five kids, weekday mealtime can be chaotic at my house. Soccer, dance, school, friends, and jobs make it necessary for us to sometimes eat in “shifts,” but we try to eat as many dinners together as possible or at least overlap so we get to connect for a minute as a family of seven. I menu plan based on our weekly schedule: some days we have time for more complex meals, some days we eat frozen foods or take-out, but I keep pantry staples and quick-fix meals on hand for when the “plan” falls apart.

One trick I’ve used for years is making a crudités plate (that’s cut veggies for us less fancy folks) before starting dinner. Instead of whining about being starved or asking about dinner 500 times, everyone is welcome to an appetizer of fresh veggies and dip while they wait. On less busy weeks I cut fresh veggies or have my older kids help with this task. Preparing several days’ worth at once is a great time saver. I also use these same veggies to throw into lunches for the next day. Chef-prepared produce is a staple too; it just depends on which direction everyone is going on any particular night. I have found that my younger kids are more willing to try new things with a familiar dip. Some of our favorites are Harmons salsa, guacamole, flavored hummus, or Dilly Dip.

I also ask everyone to help with the prep work as much as possible. The older kids can help cut, cook, or plate food and the younger kids can pull ingredients out, set tables, or round up anyone who has hidden out in their room to avoid helping … haha! Since I do most of the cooking, my husband is the clean-up guy. I usually use that time to pack lunches for the next day using any leftovers or fresh ingredients if necessary. It’s a nice time for he and I to debrief each other about our days since the kids usually scatter to avoid cleaning up!

Weekends are quite different. We love breakfast and take advantage of the slower pace to make foods from scratch like breakfast burritos or pancakes. One hack I’ve been doing the last few years is to make a veggie scramble with any leftover odds and ends of vegetables like onions, mushrooms, or leafy greens. We spend more time visiting and connecting during leisurely weekend meals. They are my very favorite time to be together!

Feeding a big family is time consuming and can be hectic. Added to that is my dietitian mom guilt that I want my family to be healthy and well nourished. Keeping things real and balancing kid favorites like grilled cheese or quesadillas are the keys to my family meals sanity. Our meals are rarely social media post worthy, but enjoying food with the people I love is good enough for me! What do your family meals look like?

Check out a few more top Family Meals Month blogs from your Harmons dietitians: