Sunday, January 26, 2014

My Top 5 Tips Dealing with the Finicky Family While Dieting

I can speak from experience here.....the Frustration of planning Family meals geared toward helping mom to lose weight with a picky husband, three children, and a slew of other responsibilities can be enough to derail a diet.  It can make you Feel defeated--like something is working against you.

It's definitely Frustrating for me, especially when dealing with the normality of mothering 3 children and all the bickering between them, the prodding them along in life lessons, the homework, the chores, the priorities, and on and on.

I'm, either Fortunately or unfortunately, a problem solver.  When people talk to me about their problems, I take their problems on and mull them over and over trying to Find a solution for them.  It compounds my stress, but it's something I can't help.  It's who I am.  When I'm surrounded by chaos, I strive to make things smooth. When they aren't, I'm pretty much done, and when that happens, there goes mom-as-a-priority.

I've grown a lot as a person, a mother, a wife, and human being.  I've learned a lot.  I also recognized that identifying my own problems (really what sets me back) meant it's time to Find a solution.  Most importantly, I've learned that we are all different in every way and we do the best we can, and what works for one doesn't always work for all.

I would love to attribute the struggles I had in this area to the mother's curse.  I have to admit that I sometimes believe in this curse.  You know what I'm talking about....the karmic curse where our mother's said, "I hope you have 10 just like you."  Yup.  I was one of those picky kids too who Fought like cats and dogs with her sisters, and it is probably payback for being so smug at what I thought was "winning" all those years I chose the opaque black coffee mug as my Favorite cup to have at the dinner table--the one I spit all the Fake-chewed-up green beans into that I emptied into the toilet when I asked to be dismissed to refill my cup with water, and then repeat.  I was amazed my mom never Figured out what I was up to.....Or did she and also choose her battles? 

Here is how I've dealt with meal planning and cooking meals for my Family over the years, even when dieting:

  1. Slow changes. Do not go overboard immediately into organic, clean, vegetarian-style cooking out of nowhere on them.  Just make healthier choices for the time being and work your family into eating healthier a little at a time, and this starts with making all of your Food yourself.  The more Flavor, the better.  Plain doesn't fly.  Don't suddenly choose to serve up nothing but plain chicken breasts and Fish.  Everyone I know who does this gives up on their "new, healthful ways" within months, if they last that long.  It won't work out for you if you do it either.  You will cave and give up because nobody will ever seem happy, you'll be miserable and become defeated.  
Learn to read the labels of the "better" choices you make so you can figure out what and how much of what everyone will eat that you can have while dieting.  The Weight Watchers system is great for learning about how much of what you should be eating, but you can also utilize a simple caloric intake system such as that at My Fitness Pal.  The labels themselves can shock you into a reality check when you discover what a true serving size is.  The key here is making the Food yourself and avoiding pre-packaged, processed items, i.e. convenience Foods.  You may also Find yourself surprised that you can eat many of the items you were already eating, but you are controlling what goes into the homemade dishes.

In time, you will learn how to make them more healthful and how to make healthful variations of your Favorite items.  Take, for example, this evening's dinner of homemade BBQ chicken pizza (I haven't found a good homemade pizza dough recipe yet, but I'm looking)--my pizza was Full of mushrooms, spinach, red onion, and some chicken breast with BBQ sauce instead of pizza sauce.  Anybody else in my house was welcome to try the pizza designated for me that wanted to. 
  1. Meal planning.  There are so many main-dish-type products to choose from.  I divide mine into fish, turkey, chicken, pork, and beef.  That is five main categories to choose from.  With five to cover each week, and always having leftovers, it covers the whole week and includes a buffet night.  I sit down and choose a recipe to cover each category and make a list of what is planned.  I keep that list handy on the fridge.  I'm not left wondering what on earth to fix.  I'm also not likely at all to give in to the Feeling of "I don't feel like cooking tonight, so let's go out tonight."
  1. A li'l something for everyone. I Fall into the category of trying to ensure there is at least one item on the table that each of the Five of us can eat, whether it's a salad or something as minimal as bread and butter, celery and peanut butter, or apples and peanut butter, etc.
Just make sure you have ready-prepped veggies and fruits available to put on the table, and pull 'em out every single meal if you need to. If they are dead set against all options, then they can wait until after dinner to make themselves a sandwich and clean up after themselves, but that's because they are old enough now to do so.

I've never let their preferences lead to a lack of offering up the healthy options.  I just decided this particular battle of wills was actually pointless and stressful, and that is what it is--a battle of wills.  They are learning how to make their own decisions and exert some sort of control over those decisions in the very Few areas they actually can, and then we take it away.  I ask them a couple of times each meal to give something a try and cover the bases of what food means to our bodies, it's Fuel, etc.  Every once in awhile, someone tries something new.  My husband and eldest now always do.  (My daughter likes to drive me crazy by coming home from a sleepover announcing she just LOVES something her Friend's mother made that she has refused to try for years at our house.)

I also do not have a problem with preparing a couple of options at once, but only of the same meat I'm working with at that moment.  For example, if we are having steak for dinner, I will chop up some of that meat to throw onto some tortillas and the picky can eat that as a steak quesadilla.  Another example is if I'm having an oven-roasted chicken that I know only the 3 out of the 5 of us will eat, again, a chicken quesadilla.  Yet another example is tonight I was making Fish, which not many kids like period (I know I certainly didn't as a kid.)  I pulled out some breaded Freezer Fish sandwich patties to bake while I grilled my unbreaded Fish. Not a big deal at all.  I'm already standing there, and all I had to do is preheat the oven and pop those in. No, not every single choice I make is a healthy one, but those nights are Few and Far between and I subscribe to the everything in moderation is okay school of thought.

You will see me Frequently share a recipe labeled with "Family-Friendly" before it. This means most of us, if not all of us eat what I'm sharing at the moment on the blog.
  1. Buffet or Pick Your Poison Night.  My Favorite night of the week is when it's leftover night, which is when I pull out the uneaten portions left over from previous meals.  I don't have to cook this night, and possibly two depending on how much is available.  I put them all on the table, and everyone can choose from those options.  We call this our buffet night. I did this tonight with the Fish options, and I will again offer up the extra options one more time before giving up on them for disposal.
We had two salads on the table.  One was a little bit of leftover cherry-spinach-almond salad that the kids won't eat, and the other a mini Caesar salad that they will.  This is only because I had some romaine lettuce that was about to turn, so I shredded up what I had left of that, and threw in some Parmesan cheese and croutons.  We also had the leftover yellow squash gratin, some twice-baked potatoes, some raw celery that needs to be used up, and some leftover ravioli.  Turned out that everyone ate the Fish patties, including me (at 4 points).  I threw some oven-baked French Fries in the oven on another baking sheet since they could bake with the fish at the same time (neither shown in picture).  One ate the Fish patty like a Fish stick dipped in ketchup, one decided to try the sandwich with lettuce and mustard, the other with tartar sauce and lettuce, etc.  I decided to try the sandwich myself at 6 points, including the avocado-lime sauce recipe on the back of the box and the bun.  The lettuce had been washed and stored in a tupperware container to be on the ready days earlier for me to grab whenever anyway, so I just pulled that out and plopped it on the table.  The grilled southwestern tilapia will even have to wait for me to eat it tomorrow.

Buffet night, scattered across the table as it is, with so many options, sort of makes it difficult for them to complain I guess because they never do.

  1. Find your inner child and what would appeal to you and creatively name your dishes. Of course, this really only works well on toddlers and youngsters probably up until the age of 7 or 8. For example, when serving up split pea soup, I named it Grinch stew, and we all got a little Grinchy with each and every bite. Another couple of examples, renaming our Italian wedding style soup Seaweed Stew and a yellow summer squash and green zucchini dish Florida Sunshine. There are also probably a lot of sites dedicated to helping you pull one over on the kiddos via slipping shredded carrots into their spaghetti sauce or cauliflower puree into another.  I've done that too.
At ages 8, 14, and 16, I find that dealing with the Finickiness is getting easier because they're becoming less so.  The older two always adhered to my rule of trying at least a bite before deciding they didn't like something, and the youngest is just now starting to give in to that a little.  The youngest really dug his heels in on that one, and he used to eat ANYTHING.

Hang in there! It does get easier.  Don't give up.  Get creative.  Approach the situation from a strategic Frame of mind moreso than a Frustrated one, and I'm sure you'll find what works best for you and your family!  More importantly, don't let what works for others make you feel inferior that it isn't working for you! My only regret is waiting for this reprieve to take care of myself. Don't let that happen to you.

I hope that something I've shared here helps you in some small way.  Do you have any tips you'd like to share? Or how 'bout that mother's curse?

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