Avoid the Meal-Time Drama!

May 07, 2020

Are you one of the many moms who cooks 4 different meals for dinner every night? Something low-carb for your Diabetes but different things for everyone else because they “don’t have Diabetes” or “don’t like that healthy stuff” or whatever other reason might cause dinner-time drama? 

STOP IT! You are not a short order cook!!!

We all want to avoid Dinner-Time Drama. But the whole family can and SHOULD eat healthy food. Everyone in the family can eat the same food. Sure, compromises may need to be made on many sides, but the compromise should never be the nutritional quality of the food. For anyone. Including food that’s appropriate for your Diabetes.

I won’t sugarcoat it: if you’ve been giving in to demands from your family around mealtime, making the changes is going to be hard. But it will be worth it in the long run. Very few things that are truly worthwhile are easy. This is one of them.

For some reason, when it comes to mealtime, we often seem to forget that we're still the grownups. If it were up to kids, every meal would be ice cream and pizza. From a nutritional standpoint, macaroni and cheese and apple sauce isn't much better. As adults, we make daily decisions for our children's wellbeing that are final. Time for school? Check. Clean underwear? Bath before bed? Reasonable bedtime? Buckled into the carseat before driving away? Check, check, check, check. So why do we let the kids dictate what they'll eat?

No guilt here. Really. This is a guilt-free zone. By the time dinner time rolls around, it's often easier to just give in than to face one more argument. And meals can be so fraught with emotion under the BEST of circumstances. It's understandable that we want to make it as easy as we can to get through it. But is that really serving anyone well in the long run?

Changing habits is hard. Putting your foot down is hard. I know this. I’m not minimizing this. The only way to fix the problem is to set some serious boundaries and expectations about dinner. Over the years, I’ve talked with my clients about this A LOT! Here are a few tips I’ve come away with. Every situation is different but, as a general rule, some variation of each of these tips can apply in most situations: 

  • The adult responsible for cooking dinner only cooks one meal. It will be healthy, Diabetes-appropriate, and take into consideration the reasonable preferences of those who will be present for the meal.
  • Anyone may choose not to eat but they must try it first and they must politely decline if they choose not to eat. (Adults should take preferences into consideration when choosing meals.) If they decline to eat the meal that is provided there are a few options
  • There will not be different food available later.

or

  • Children who are old enough may make their own meal from healthy food that is available. They must be able to do this without assistance from an adult and must completely clean up after themselves, so no impact of this decision is felt by other family members. For young children, there can be a healthy option of veggie sticks and hummus (or something similar) available if you choose this as an option for your family.
  • Unhealthy food will not be purchased with grocery funds. When our child was a teenager, if they wanted ice cream or another “treat,” they had to purchase it with their own money. Often the decision was made that sweets weren’t worth parting with precious dollars.

A few additional tips to remember:

Involve kids in meal planning/prep. When kids are involved in the planning and cooking process, they’re much more likely to eat without fuss. Also, they learn valuable skills around nutrition, cooking, shopping, planning. Extra bonus is that they get to spend extra time with the adult that they’re cooking with. If you’ve got multiple kids, each kid can be responsible for one meal and one clean up night per week. As they grow in age and responsibility, eventually you can hand over the entire process to them!

With few exceptions, children will not refuse food to the point of causing harm to their health. Generally, the exception to this is for non-neurotypical children. Parents often tell me “my child would never eat if I didn’t feed them mac and cheese at every meal.” The first question I always ask is “do they have a spectrum disorder diagnosis or suspected diagnosis?” The answer is almost always “No.” “In that case,” I tell them, “they will eventually eat. It will be a painful few hours, and maybe even a painful few days, but eventually they will get hungry enough to eat.” Note: please talk to your medical professional if you think your child is at a health risk due to extremely picky eating. 

On the flip side of this, children should never be forced to eat food they despise. Food aversions can be very strong and are sometimes tied to underlying physical reactions that we can’t see. The rule in our house was that everyone has to try one bite of a new food and then could choose not to eat it. We noted food preferences and made sure there were always other options available. This does not mean that the child refuse to eat everything except peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and apple sauce. If peanut butter and jelly and apple sauce are not available as options, it will quickly become apparent that the child actually will eat other food.

This I hard stuff. I know it is. But I KNOW you can do it! We’ve got each other’s back on this, right? The only way to dinner-time peace, is through to the other side of dinner-time drama. You can do it.

If you need help, you know where to find me (facebook or email). And you can grab some planning help with my kid-friendly low-carb meal plan.

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