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  • Writer's pictureBrittany Shapiro

Tired of Making Separate Meals for Each Family Member? Here’s the Secret to Serving One Family Meal!

The title of “parent” is often synonymous with “short order cook.” Of course, you would prefer to make one single meal the whole family can enjoy together. But picky eaters often force us to come up with individual meals for each member of the family. To preserve your energy—and sanity—you usually have to sacrifice nutrition in favor of whatever is quickest and easiest. Chicken nuggets for one child perhaps, and peanut butter and jelly for the other.

Let’s take a moment to recall Ellyn’s Satter’s “division of responsibility,” which says the parent is responsible for the what, when, and where of eating. If we get to decide what is on the menu, why are we bending over backwards to accommodate our child’s preferences? Okay, I get that if you served your child some fancy lemon chicken recipe they might outright refuse and throw a tantrum. But there is always something in between fancy chicken and chicken nuggets. We can always find a middle ground.

Are you ready for the secret ingredient to a successful family dinner? Always include a preferred food alongside a less preferred food!

Let’s take that lemon chicken recipe and see how this could play out in a real-life family dinner:

Lemon chicken (non-preferred) + white rice (preferred) + broccoli (hit or miss)

This concept could look very different depending on your child’s preferred and non-preferred foods, but the general idea is the same. The goal is to try to meet your child somewhere in the middle so that everyone can enjoy the same family dinner with only slight accommodations to keep the peace.

Also, please keep in mind that if dinner is a complete bust and your child only eats a few spoonfuls of white rice, you can always offer a bedtime snack that packs a punch, such as a PB&J! And then you can try again the next night.

Happy eating!

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