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I Need Help! Family Favorites Besides Mac ‘N Cheese?

I Need Help! Family Favorites Besides Mac ‘N Cheese?

I may have to quit my job. Really the thought crossed my mind. Why, are you wondering? The reason is simple: I need to radically change what my family eats and in some weird way, figuring out how to do that seems like a full-time job in itself. Eat less fat, less calories, eat more protein, cut carbs, watch out for sugar – it’s the devil. Stay away from processed foods, yogurt is bad for you, yogurt is good for you. Eat more vegetables, wait… eat more vegetables grown locally. Only buy organic, although sometimes you don’t have to (just focus on the “dirty dozen”). It’s completely overwhelming!


Leading up to a recent holiday family gathering there was actually debate over serving Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. I admit, I actively engaged in the debate. My kids eat Kraft Macaroni and Cheese – and only Kraft. To the point where if we go to a restaurant and macaroni and cheese is on the menu, they ask the waitress if it’s Kraft. If it’s not, they refuse to order it. But serving macaroni and cheese on a night when there are SO many other delicious, made from scratch, healthy (and not so healthy) choices, is beyond comprehension. Every time I serve it, I feel like I’m contributing to my children’s poor eating habits. (For the record, it was served and it’s all they ate for dinner despite countless vegetables and meat offerings.)

The macaroni and cheese debate is just the tip of the iceberg on my mound of parenting guilt. Quick, easy dinners and snacks are a part of our daily lives. Sure it sounds great to layout a platter of cut-up vegetables or sliced fruit for when the kids get home from school, but what parent has time for that, let alone one who is juggling working full-time and having at least a few nights a week as a solo parent? My mother-in-law tells me I have to stop buying snacks, but she’s not the one who will ultimately be fighting with my kids that there “is nothing to eat!!”

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Determined to not be defeated, I am slowly letting the snacks in our house deplete with the goal of only having one choice. The hope is, with less choices my kids will consider and perhaps eat something healthier for variety. I’m ditching the goldfish crackers, baked lays, honey mustard pretzels, granola bars, butter crackers – anything processed. Knowing this could take some time I also hit the grocery store and bought a few additional kinds healthier snacks like clementines, blueberries & edamame so I could get the kids used to having alternate choices around. I bought spaghetti squash too which I will probably serve one night for dinner… and then dump it in the trash because it won’t get eaten. And I ordered a cooking device to help spiralize zucchini.  I’ve warned my kids of the upcoming snack reduction and the move to healthier eating. I don’t think they believe me and well, I barely believe myself.

As for dinner, I vow to cook more from scratch. I used to cook a lot more but that’s  when I enjoyed cooking, trying new recipes, finding something delicious. But once I began feeding opinionated kids, the constant “I HATE that” is quite discouraging. (For the record that normally comes before dinner actually starts which 8 out of 10 times gets eaten anyway. But the complaining starts 2-3 hours before we eat since that’s when they begin thinking about “the next meal”.) My husband, while the least critical of the group, does have some special requests like no onions or beans. Sometimes he wants his chicken cooked differently from everyone else or he likes his pork chop with Shake ‘n Bake or my meatballs aren’t quite like his moms. He also needs meat at every meal where I would gladly skip the meat and fill-up on veggies.

Laziness, the unwillingness to fight about one more thing or customize another meal has led to some poor eating habits that absolutely have to change! Unfortunately, as I start looking for some healthier recipes (I’ve probably looked at nearly 100 at this point), only a couple jump out as possibilities. I can actually hear a family member complaining, crying or throwing a fit within seconds of reading the recipe title.

Perhaps quitting my job to revamp what the family eats is a little extreme, but I’m definitely overwhelmed as we enter the New Year. While I’m not looking for advice on what else to cook or what else to eat, I would love any readers to share their favorite family endorsed recipes (even by name if not an ingredient play by play). One thing I know I want to do in 2016 is to cook more from scratch. Perhaps I’ll set a goal of finding one new “well received”, healthy, easy meal a week. Four a month. Fourty-eight in a year. That’s doable, right?


  1. Pat in Delaware January 8, 2016 at 7:52 pm

    Great resolution! One suggestion would be to start including the kids in food prep. Even a young child can take “baby” carrots out of a bag and place them on a serving plate; kids often have greater interest in eating something they have helped prepare.

    You could also outlaw negative comments before food has been served or eaten. This is just good manners anyway! Life skills are always something to encourage with all kids.

    My family usually enjoys that old standby, tuna casserole. Prepared with water-packed tuna, low-fat/low sodium cream of mushroom soup, and yolk-free noodles or whole grain pasta, it is a relatively quick main dish for weeknight dinners. You can even sprinkle panko crumbs with a spritz of canola or olive oil spray on top for a browned, slightly crispy finish!

  2. Organized Mom January 11, 2016 at 11:16 am

    I LOVE the outlawing of negative comments – what a great idea! I’m putting that one into practice immediately and definitely good manners. I might always try that casserole variation – sounds a little healthier than what I do today and it’s all about small changes.

    This weekend I actually went to the grocery store and brought my son (between work and a busy life I usually use grocery delivery). We came home with a bunch of fruit that we don’t normally purchase. I washed it all and put it out in bowls on the kitchen table (not the island where I used to put it. The kitchen table is at their level though. My son at least is helping himself. Instead of a second bowl of cereal today he grabbed a bowl of fruit!

    Thank you for your suggestions

  3. Bridget January 21, 2016 at 5:06 pm

    We cook dinner every night and these are the things that have helped me. My kids are not that picky but they don’t love everything either (who does?).
    **I would say say that I do stick to “this is what we’re having” and over time even things that they HATED they will eat now or at least eat around it.
    **There is a blog/cookbook that emphasizes the 3 out of 4 rule. If 3 people like it, it’s good enough and the other can eat around it or modify. You can’t please everyone and you shouldn’t have to be a short order cook.
    **I find that when I post the menus for the week and pick a few of the kids’ favorites, it limits the discussion around what we’re having.
    **I make things that the kids know I don’t like and eat it anyway (cooked salmon). But I emphasize to them that it’s not my favorite but it’s good for me. My older daughter doesn’t like salmon either so on those nights I might make it with rice pilaf (her fav) and a veg I know they both will eat no problem. That way when she can only muscle through one bite of salmon, I feel OK that she had rice and veggies (and milk!)
    ** When I used to write for the blog I did a “Real Simple” challenge and vowed to make all the recipes that they said were easy and kid-friendly. Two recipes are ones that still make all the time, one is pasta with roasted eggplant, tomatoes, mint and fresh mozzarella. It is my kid’s most requested dinner (crazy, I know!) and they had never tried eggplant before I started making it. The other one is fish so I won’t even mention it.
    ** We do omelettes or scrambled eggs with fruit and toast (if I’m feeling generous we’ll do nitrate free bacon)
    **We do snack night some nights and I make air popped popcorn, cut up apples with peanut butter, cheese, other veggies with lowfat dip.
    **if your kids like tacos, try chicken enchiladas (skinny taste has a good recipe)
    **On that note, I also make chicken with salsa in the crockpot (you’ll have to find a no-onion salsa) and then make burritos with the meat, rice and cheese. I can get my kids to eat spinach and beans so I usually throw those in too but you could do it without.
    ** I do a lot of chicken thighs in the crock pot – two my whole family likes are Rachael Ray’s no peeking peking chicken and one that is made with apricot preserves
    I know a lot of these are a stretch for picky kids but you never know….

    • Rachel February 4, 2016 at 10:37 am

      I love the idea of a snack night! And I know my kids would love that too. Thanks for the idea!

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