My kids love our Build-Your-Own-Taco-Bite nights. However, too often, they opt to eat only chips and cheese. So, the other night, I employed a simple technique that worked, which I think might help others, too:
When I placed all the ingredients out, I placed them on three mats – one for proteins, one for starches and one for vegetables. I asked the kids if they knew what was the same about the foods on each mat and we talked about how the foods on the first mat had protein in them, for building muscles. (We, of course, made “big muscle arms” at this point.) They knew the middle mat had carbs on it, because we are carb lovers and they have picked up that term. So, we talked about how those foods give us energy. Finally, was the mat they have the hardest time choosing from – the vegetable one. We talked about how the foods on it contained lots of vitamins to keep their bodies healthy, especially during this cold and snowy season. Then, we asked them which food (or foods) they wanted from each mat to put on their own plates. (They had to choose at least one from each.)
The kids made their choices willingly and, when they wanted seconds, we asked them to finish a few more bites of whatever their most neglected choice was before loading up on more of another choice –the carb chips, of course! It seems the brief discussion and the visual cue of the mats really worked to help them make healthier dinner choices.
And speaking of choices, I have noted that although planning dinner meals by the day has been a good practice for me, it has not been a practical one. I often find we switch meal nights around or substitute them. Thus, this week, I am going to return to a “Choices” menu for dinner to see if it will work better for our family’s needs. And, since I like themes, I am going to base these choices on Theme Nights. Of course, with Fat Tuesday, Ash Wednesday and Meat-Free Friday and Our Anniversary as special themes this week, some meals will, by default, be tied to specific days…
The Vacation Night Dinner (and by vacation night, I mean a meal that is poorly mixed as far as “food combining” guidelines go, but one that I know Hubby will enjoy) – Steak, Mashed Potatoes, Asparagus and Green Beans
Breakfast-for-Dinner- Night (for Fat Tuesday): Top-Your-Own-Pancake Night – Whole Wheat Zucchini Pancakes (a regular pancake recipe with the flour replaced by ½ whole wheat and ½ whole wheat pastry flour and the liquid replaced by ½ blended frozen zucchini and ½ milk or yogurt), organic Chocolate Sauce, Honey, Cinnamon, organic Powdered Sugar, homemade Apple Sauce (simply peel – if you wish – and chip apples and put them in the crock pot – with some cinnamon and sweetener if you like – for a few hours, until they reach the consistency you like; you can Magic Bullet them for smoother consistency once they are cooked, too), defrosted Boysenberries, etc. and maybe Potato Donuts as found on Arabian Knits.
Build-Your-Own-Night : Taco Bites (tortilla chips, chopped lettuce, tomato dipping sauce, sautéed tomatoes-baked beans-garlic-and-onions, shredded carrots, shredded cheddar cheese, black beans, tuna, etc.)
Pasta Night: Orzo with Peas and Nuts, plus an Olive-Oil-Butter-Herb Sauce and Parmesan
Soup Night: South Western Black Bean Soup, Tomato Soup and Zucchini Bread
Pierogis (b/c they were served as part of our wedding reception feast in honor of Mike’s heritage) and toppings, plus sides
Night Out: a 2-for-1 coupon meal out in honor of 5 years of being a family
OUR OTHER MEALS:
Breakfast 1 Choices: apple, slices, apple sauce, frozen banana-based shakes, defrosted boysenberries, defrosted raspberries, mandarin slices, fresh-squeeze mandarin juice, canned pineapple or pineapple juice
Breakfast 2 Choices: cereal, oatmeal and toppings, overnight oatmeal and toppings, squash waffles and toppings, zucchini pancakes and toppings or quick breads
Mike’s Main Dishes for At-Work Lunch Choices: spaghetti and meatballs, tuna-and-grain-salad, carrot sticks and hummus and celery sticks with peanut butter (for sustenance while fasting on Ash Wednesday), leftover steak and vegetables, ham roll ups or tuna-pasta salad
At-Home Main Lunch Choices: toasted pizza breads, chick peas and grains, nuts and grains, soup and muffins, roll ups (peanut butter, hummus, cheese, vegetable, etc.), yogurt and toppings, scrambled eggs or cottage cheese and toppings
Snacks, Sides and Treats (but not on fasting/abstinence days!): apple slices, blackberry ice cream, carrot sticks, celery sticks, cottage cheese, cracker-cookies, defrosted muffins, hummus, leftover bites from fridge, popcorn, raisins, zucchini quick bread/muffins, etc.
And, getting back to the Power Food of the Week: Nutritional Yeast is mentioned as a power food for pregnant women – especially vegetarian ones – in one of my cookbooks. So, we will be stirring it into eggs and cheese sauces, as well as experimenting with it on other foods.
For more menu ideas, see the links at I’m an Organizing Junkie.
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