My Top 5 Rules for Stress-Free, Family Meals

In Blog by Frances Largeman Roth

Ahh…the holidays. It is a wonderful time of year, but it’s also an over scheduled, hectic, and often stress-inducing time. And guess what, even with all the extra social commitments, volunteering and gift procurement, you’re still expected to put a healthy meal on the table for your family! It’s not necessarily fair, but it’s life. Since I’d like to make your life just a little bit easier, here are my rules for a healthy modern family meal:

1. Keep it easy and real. You are not entertaining people–you are simply providing sustenance for people you’ve either given birth to, or who have seen you give birth.

2. Put at least one thing on the table you feel really good about. That can be broccoli florets with Parmesan sprinkled on top, or slices of fresh cucumber, or roasted chicken. You have all 3 tonight? Pour yourself a (5-oz) glass of wine and sit back and enjoy!

3. Turn the TV off. That goes for Kindles, iPhones, iPads and Pods, and any other electronic device. This is definitely my husband’s least favorite rule, especially during NBA playoffs. Look people, we’re talking about 30-40 minutes tops without your gadgets. You can’t expect your kids to engage with you if you’re scanning your inbox for updates from your boss every 10 seconds. Plus, it’s much harder to eat mindlessly when you’re focused on sharing the meal and not the screen.

4. You’ve got one family, so cook one meal. I believe there should be no distinction between kid food and adult food. True, kids protest various foods (and food groups) from time to time, but if you always offer a variety of food at each meal, your children will NOT go hungry. The second part of this rule is that mom and dad both need to set a good example by eating their fruits and veggies. This is my husband’s second least favorite rule.

5. Use the 1+1+1 rule. Make a meal from one frozen/packaged/purchased item, one fresh thing, and one leftover. That way you never feel like you’re just heating and eating, and you’ll also help avoid the sodium overload that can come from packaged and processed foods. An example might be rotisserie chicken + red cabbage slaw + brown rice = Crunchy Chicken Burritos.

I hope these tips help put a little bit more joy back into your weeknight meals. And remember folks–we’re doing the best we can!

Happy Holidays,