Friday, April 15, 2011

Eating Healthy and Feeding the Family Without Becoming a Short-Order Cook

As I’ve lost weight, I’ve gotten a lot of questions about what I eat and what I feed my family.  People want to know if my kids eat the healthy stuff I eat or if I eat the things I fix them for lunch or fix something different for myself.

I think what most people want to know is how I lose weight and keep everyone happily fed without becoming a short-order cook, so I thought I’d offer a few tips on how I achieve that.

1. I do sometimes fix myself separate lunches. Since there are three of them and only one of me, I decided to let lunch be the time when the kids could continue to get their old favorites. To save time during the week, I try to have my salad prep done ahead of time.

Our lunchtime routine is pretty consistent. For me, it’s usually:

Monday: Salad topped with grilled chicken

Tuesday: Pizza (one slice) with a salad

Wednesday: Our beloved Chick-Fil-A. I usually have a Char-gilled sandwich with a side salad.

Thursday: Usually sandwiches (the girls and I prefer tuna – mine is usually open-faced on whole wheat with a slice of Swiss cheese, broiled long enough to get the cheese melted), quesadillas with Spanish rice (the kids prefer the Lipton brand, but I make mine homemade – usually ahead of time – with brown rice) and beans (refried for the kids, black for me, again usually made ahead of time), or leftovers.

Friday: One of my favorites – a turkey burger with avocado and lettuce.  Yum!

2. We keep some old favorites.  I generally include one meal a week that’s a full-fat, full-calorie favorite.  In order to keep from sabotaging my weight-loss efforts, I’ll either watch my calorie count more carefully at lunch and breakfast, leaving more available for dinner, or I’ll modify my serving a bit.

One example of such a modification is when I make chicken quesadilla, which involve grilled chicken, along with lots of cheese and tortillas fried in butter.  When I make those for the family, I usually just have the grilled chicken, with no tortilla or cheese, topped with Pico de Gallo and homemade guacamole.  It’s just as good to me and guilt-free.  I’ll sometimes have mine on a whole wheat tortilla, minus the butter, but really I like it just as well without it.

3. I serve sauces and toppings on the side.  I know that doesn’t sound all that different, but usually when I serve something on the side, it’s for the kids!  Some of my favorite recipes from Gina’s Skinny Taste have healthy sauces, such like the mushroom sauce that’s supposed to be served over these pork chops.  I love the sauce, but the younger kids don’t.  However, they love the pork chops, so I just make the sauce and put it in a bowl on the table.  Whoever wants to use it can, but nobody has to have it.

4. Everybody has to try it.  Since I’ve started cooking healthier meals, we’ve tried a lot of new things.  My rule is that everyone has to at least try the new dish.  If they don’t like it, they don’t have to eat it, but often the kids – and the husband – have been surprised at the new foods they discover that the like.

5. I modify old favorites.  When I fix spaghetti now, I eat my sauce on top of spaghetti squash – which, incidentally, Josh likes better than pasta – while I fix pasta for everyone else (except Josh).

I use lower-fat alternatives like low-fat sour cream or 1/3-less-fat cream cheese. 

I use butter-flavored cooking spray instead of butter. 

I make scrambled eggs with just 2 or 3 whole eggs and several eggs’ worth of egg whites (from a carton).

I use brown rice instead of white.

Most of these changes have been simple to implement and either no one notices or they like the healthier options better.

6. We roast lots of vegetables. Since moving to a healthier lifestyle, we have discovered that just about any vegetable is better roasted.  Our favorites are: asparagus, broccoli (with or without red pepper), cauliflower, and squash (yellow and zucchini with onions and mushrooms).

Oh, and steamed green beans fixed with Gina’s recipe have become a family favorite for almost everyone (there’s always that one hold-out on nearly every meal).

7. I’ll let the kids fix themselves something else. If I fix something that somebody just really doesn’t like – and this is true even if it’s not a new, healthy dish – they are welcome to fix themselves something else. Some popular, easy-to-fix alternatives are: tuna and crackers, a sandwich, scrambled eggs or leftovers.

8. I fix a variety of sides. There are times when I fix one main dish for everyone and a pretty wide variety of side dishes.  Everyone else tends to eat the less-healthy (like the Lipton Spanish rice and the refried beans versus the homemade Spanish (brown) rice and black beans), so there are plenty of healthier choices for me to have for leftovers for lunches or other meals during the week.

This helps me stay within my calorie budget and makes meal prep later on a little easier since I have leftovers.

This weight-loss journey, for me, is not a temporary means to an end, but a lifestyle change.  It’s about getting healthier, not just fitting into smaller jeans.  In order to truly be successful, I know I’m not going to spend the rest of my life eating different foods than the rest of my family or making two separate meals every time we sit down to eat.

The modifications I’ve made have helped to to stay sane, keep everyone happy, and move us all toward healthier meals choices.

Do you have any tips to add that have worked well for you and your family?

3 comments:

  1. I do it a lot like you do it sounds like. I enjoy preparing food so it isn't a big deal to me to make separate meals.
    One thing I think is how lucky your kids are, and any kids are whose parents undertake this goal of health, to be witness to such a powerful lesson day in and day out. Maybe the kids won't eat salad with chicken now (and really, how many kids would?) but every time you make that choice you are sending a message. Pretty cool.

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  2. This sounds very similar to my modifications. I provide a lot of variety, and they are required to choose 3 out of 5 or whatever and TRY. If they hate it, there's oatmeal, peanut butter, etc. Have at it.

    A good example is last night -- spaghetti and meatballs with steamed vegetables. I had a serving of the sauce and meatballs with just enough pasta to manage the sauce. I love steamed vegetables, so probably half of my plate was taken up by those. I didn't feel as if I was missing a thing by having less pasta. I'm also trying to make my people aware of what a serving actually IS. Most of the time we are served far more than an actual serving.

    I do my salad prep early too, then it's just a matter of bringing it all out. I also keep boiled eggs handy because I think they're a good snack.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I do it a lot like you do it sounds like. I enjoy preparing food so it isn't a big deal to me to make separate meals.
    One thing I think is how lucky your kids are, and any kids are whose parents undertake this goal of health, to be witness to such a powerful lesson day in and day out. Maybe the kids won't eat salad with chicken now (and really, how many kids would?) but every time you make that choice you are sending a message. Pretty cool.

    ReplyDelete

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