Thursday, April 15, 2010

when you didn't grow up with family meals

I recently talked with nutritionist, mom and blogger Maryann Jacobsen from raise healthy eaters blog.

I'm impressed with her menu plans, and her thorough posts with practical advice on-raising healthy eaters. Many of my clients were not raised with family meals and feel overwhelmed and intimidated by planning meals and structure. (I was raised with family meals and still often feel intimidated with planning and cooking sometimes.) Maryann did not grow up eating family meals. I asked her a few questions.

What is most challenging about family meals?
I think it's the lack of confidence. For people like me who never learned how to cook, making meals for a family can be very intimidating. When new meals are complete failures it's tempting to throw in the towel and admit I'm just not good at this. But I know it takes time and failures are part of that process. I think the slow cooker is key for any new cook. Not only are the meals easy to prepare buy they usually end up tasting pretty good. It's a great place to start.

What is most fun/surprising about family meals?
How much fun I have with my kids at mealtimes. I complained a lot when my daughter started on finger foods and felt like I was spending my whole day feeding her. But then I realized that this is where we have the most fun. Now that I have two kids the kitchen table is definitely where we laugh and connect the most. It's such a great way to bring the family together. I realize now it's not about making perfect meals, it's about the connection. And since my kids are young (11months and 3 years) I plan to get really good at it by the time they are older and eating more.
I'm also surprised how much easier it gets with time. As I collect recipes that work for our family the whole process runs smoother.

Thanks Maryann! I was thinking about this on the way home with my bone-in pork chops the other day. I finally have it down, but I have overcooked, burned, under-cooked and had to reheat-even microwave food while we were waiting with full plates! Learning to cook is a process, and mistakes are inevitable. Enjoy the process, celebrate and repeat success, start slowly!

Start with what you are eating now. Get the structure down, the fun part of connecting with your family, then branch out and add more when you feel ready!


  1. I grew up with family meals but I can't get my husband and son to sit down with me at the table at night to eat dinner. My husband didn't, and he really really doesn't like to sit down at the table to eat because it feels so formal and pressured to make conversation. It feels fake to him. Any suggestions?

  2. Wow, that is so interesting! I bet you do have some family meals. Do you ever eat out together at a restaurant? Ever have take-out? Do you ever sit down to breakfast together? If yes to any of those, then you are having family meals! You don't mention how old your son is, but eating with a loving adult is important for learning manners, learning to like new foods, and because it's fun!
    We might have an idea that a family meal has to be with china and cloth napkins, but it doesn't. Family meals are shown to be a better predictor of a child's overall success than socioeconomic status, after-school activities and parental education.
    Can you and your son start doing it? Start with what you are eating now, but do it together. Maybe your husband will see that you guys are having a good time and join you. Talk to your husband a little more. What specifically are his objections? Maybe start with weekend breakfasts, go out to eat, eat on paper plates if the clean-up feels overwhelming. At our home, we sometimes go around the table and ask what the best and worst part of the day was. Almost every night the answer for my husband and I for the best part I is "dinner, " and increasingly for my daughter too! There is something special about that reliable time to connect. Dinner might be done in 15 minutes, you don't have to sit forever, but it's a place where so much fun and silliness can go down and it's the best way to help kids learn to be competent eaters. Maybe check out "Secrets to Feeding a Healthy Family" which is a how-to and so much more on family meals! Keep me posted!

  3. I grew up with family meals and we have a family breakfast and dinner virtually every night. We wouldn't want it any other way!

    I also have a slow cooker and would love to use it more, but the only cookbooks I can find are from the US. As we now live in Switzerland, most of them contain ingredients we do not have access to (i.e. cream of anything soup and most of the convenience foods found in the US) Are there any slow cooker cookbooks that contain ordinary, basic ingredients and fresh produce only? I've tried looking on, but the descriptions and reviews aren't specific enough.

  4. Ah Switzerland! Lucky you! I am picturing a giant fondue, mountains and wild flowers... Anyway, I have found some success with "Not Your Mother's Slowcooker Cookbook" by Hensperger. I find I have to modify the recipes somewhat (I think that is typical with different slow-cookers. We have a metal one so I can brown meats directly on the range and then slowcook, but it tends to scorch foods. We also have a giant ceramic one that also runs hot...) You might also have some luck just trolling around various websites. etc! If you find any good ones, let me know! I have gotten to the point that I mostly do roasts, pork butt especially.

  5. Thanks for the interview Ratja. I'm planning a slow cooker and cookbook giveaway. I like "Make it Fast, Cook it Slow" because the author has non-stew like recipes. Great for summer!

  6. A few years ago I acquired "12-Hour Slow Cooker Recipes" by CQ Products. It's a small low-budget spiral bound cookbook, but most if not all of the recipes do NOT use cream of whatever soup-or any other processed foods. There are even recipes that use eggplant! I just saw it on Amazon, so it's available. All others that I have seen are pretty much dependent on processed foods.