The Family Food Resolutions I’m Not Making for 2019
One mom's explanation may surprise you.
I'm the mom of four small kids, so you might think that my New Year's resolution would be similar to this: “This year we’re giving up sugar, for good!”
But that’s just not my style. You can keep your Keto, gluten-free, I-gave-up-potato-chips-and-LOOK-at-my-pores diets, Debbie. I’m not a big believer in deleting entire foods (or food groups) from our lives. Instead, my family basically sticks with the 80/20 rule all year long.
What does that mean?
Most of our food is fresh, nourishing and healthy for young (and — ahem — aging) bodies. I add spinach to scrambled eggs, I serve Whole-Wheat Apple Cookies for snacks and my new favorite mini meatloaf recipe is made with half grass-fed beef, half mushrooms. Every school lunch is packed with colorful fruit and veggies, and I don’t think twice about adding a whole bag of frozen cauliflower to my world-famous Slow-Cooker Baked Potato Soup (even more vitamins, with nary a detectable difference!). All of this is to say that we eat the good stuff 80 percent of the time, which leaves room for treats when we want them.
Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cake loaded with the best 2-Ingredient Chocolate Buttercream ever? Yes, please! (Especially since this cake is a one-bowl recipe that even my 9-year-old can whip up easily.) Martina McBride’s Peanut Butter Incredibles? Plan for it this weekend! In fact, we serve desserts on the weekends – Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays – for three reasons. The kids know when it’s coming so they don’t even have to beg for their favorite chocolate chip cookies on a Wednesday. I’m spared whipping up yet another dish every night of the week, and, yes, of course we end up eating less sugar than we would if we served Ina Garten’s Lemon Bars every night. But when we eat dessert, we really go for it—and end up eating less anyway. Case in point: homemade chocolate pudding is so rich and satisfying that a small cup is all you need. I say go full flavor and you’ll never regret it.
But our one big goal for the year is getting the kids in the kitchen themselves. We’ve declared 2019 the Year of Kid Cooks. Even my four-year-old is getting her miniature apron on because each week, one of them gets to be the Star Baker, the one who picks out one dinner menu and prepares it for everyone. (With help, of course. The idea is boosting the kids’ skills, not terrorizing everyone with half-cooked chicken breasts.)
Here’s how it works: The kids browse online and in books for recipes then pick their chosen meal. To start, my fourth-grader is making Shortcut Tomato Pie. Is it better in the summer when juicy tomatoes are in their full glory? I think so! But this ain’t my meal. She wants to pair it with Sauteed Kale with Bacon and Cranberries, and my first order of business as her meal mentor is saying: “Sounds awesome! I’ll pick up all the stuff.”
Rotating through, each of them will prepare a meal about once a month. But the results should multiply from there.
Less whining about what’s on the table. At least ONE person is going to be super excited about dinner. That’s just math. (Plus, my tiny cooks tend to pick crowd-pleasers like Veggie-Filled Mac & Cheese, which means all four rascals will be jazzed.)
More one-on-one time with each kid. My preschooler asked me to get all the fixin’s for baked potatoes when it’s her turn to cook. Now I get to teach her my fool-proof method for the best version I’ve ever tasted while everyone else runs around outside.
More help around the house. Yes, it’s initially harder to cook with kids, but in the long run, these guys will build a collection of recipes they can whip up on their own. Imagine reading a magazine (okay, folding laundry, but we were fantasizing, weren’t we?) while your third-grader makes homemade Chicken & Broccoli Stir Fry!
More gratitude. No one knows how tiring it can be to whip up a nutritious, yet tasty dinner at the end of a long day unless they’re actually doing it. Now our kids will. And an even harder lesson to learn? What to do when the Lentil Vegetable Soup you’ve just spent 30 minutes on doesn’t turn out. Tell the unlucky cook to summon Julia Child: “Never apologize. Never explain.” Just carry on. And no matter what was originally on the menu, there’s absolutely no shame in DIY Sandwich Night. Everyone will still have a meal, and that’s something to be truly grateful for.
It turns out that service is the best way to teach grace. Even more than a trimmer waistline, that’s something I hope to have more of next year. Much more.