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Switching to one meal for the whole family? (ie no separate food)?

post #1 of 56
Thread Starter 
I am sick to death of making one meal for 3.5yo DS and a different one for everyone else. Half the time he doesn't eat the separate thing I make for him anyway. He likes to graze and snack, and seems to subsist mostly on crackers and fruit. It's been a real struggle for our family. Lately I feel like I pour so much time and energy into thinking of meals he'll eat that I have nothing left for cooking for DH and I. And of course our 1yo will eat just about anything, which was true for DS when he was that age too.

I've been thinking about just cooking for DH and I, and DS can eat it or not eat it, and that's dinner. Is that crazy? I don't make anything very weird, it all seems to me like food that should be edible for a 3yo. The other night I made this yummy pineapple chicken bake (chicken breasts, pineapple chunks, some spices) and it felt so absurd to me to make frozen chicken nuggets for DS.

Anyone try switching to "one family meal" for all? If so, how did you do it- gradually, or cold turkey? Do you offer a simple alternative (such as PB&J) if one of your kids truly won't eat what you've made?

Or is this something that I just need to wait out, and it'll happen on its own in time? I can't figure it out.
post #2 of 56
It's what I've always done. Although I will say that I don't intentionally make food people hate.

Of late, with the finances the way they are, I've been pretty firm in terms of take it or leave it. When they leave it, they usually come back later in the day or evening.

I spend too much time cooking and cleaning up dishes to do something separate. My head would fall off if the kid didn't eat the separate meal.

Liz
post #3 of 56
Sort of. My 3 year old is allergic to dairy and sometimes I want a super cheesy, dairy filled soup.

I mostly cook one meal, but with variations. Like quesadillas, or sandwiches so we can all have what we like. The rest of the time, it's the same for everyone. I meal plan, so I take everyone's likes and dislikes into account. Every night is something one of us likes, even if the rest aren't as fond of it. I also make sure there is at least one side that everyone does like.

Example: tonight is panini's. My 7 year, dh and I love these and can make them with whatever we'd like. My 3 year old does not like them, so as a side, we're having roasted potatoes. So he can eat as many potatoes as he likes and a little bit of his sandwich. We're all, basically, happy and can all eat together. And I don't have to do as much cooking.
post #4 of 56
My daughter is now 4 (as of late October). I cannot remember when, if ever, I cooked separately for her. I accommodate her requests for something specific from leftovers, other than that, I'm not a short order cook. Plus, I WOH full-time, so, it's just not feasible for me. I also don't serve her what I've learned she's not fond of. For example, if I make a beef noodle casserole, I put mainly just noodles on her plate. She's not a fan of the beef. Unless it's steak. Naturally. She's pretty big on veggies (requested more spinach salad after I gave the leftovers to our neighbor to take home when she and her family left after joining us for dinner on Saturday . . . "and don't give it away!" she told me.) so, I can't really complain a whole lot about her eating habits.

And the baby is now 9 mos. He obviously can't eat everything we do, but, I've not purchased 1 jar of baby food. He eats the beef noodle casserole, too - put through a hand food grinder.
post #5 of 56
I generally do this. That said, I won't make a meal that has ZERO options for one of the kids. For instance, DSS 9 hates potatoes. I mean HATES them. The other day, DSS 14 requested a cheesy potato soup. I know DSS 9 won't eat it. So I had chicken noodle soup as an option. Alternatively, DSD 10 hates beans with a similar passion. So when I make chili, I usually have chicken noodle soup as an option. But what I make for a meal is what I make and you can eat or not. Usually there are at least two parts of the meal that everyone likes. They don't go hungry. But I'm not going to be a short order cook.
post #6 of 56
I think I would go insane if I tried to accommodate everyone in my house for every meal! I make one dinner for us each night. My boys have to at least try it. If they don't like it I'll give them a backup, like crackers and cheese or yogurt, etc. Usually they will eat it. And more often than not they will eat something they didn't like the week before. Their tastes change so frequently that I just make what DH and I like and more often than not they will eat it.
post #7 of 56
Toddler I'll sometimes do seperates for because there still learning to eat and I often fed her earlier than DH and I ate (cause of his work schedule) however once we were all together I make ONE meal each can choose to eat all or part or none I'm NOT a short order cook the kitchen is NOT open to rummage through cause one dislikes the choices presented.... saying that I
1) I consider indivdual tastes not I can't cater to my picky 7 years old EVERY whim on what shes likes or doesn;t but I do mentally note obvious likes dislikes
2) I consider favorites and try to imcorporate them into menus as appropiate
3) I don't mind seperating certain things like say keeping a sauce seperate or diving the veggies so more table choices can be made
4) involve others Soo honey should we have peas or corn tonight?ect

In the end shes honestly likely eats just as much or little as if I made seperate meals Shes now a 7 years actually opening her self up to trying more but for years it really didn't matter.It was jsut easier on me.


Deanna
post #8 of 56
I serve my picky eater the same thing as the rest of us then usually plunk one thing I KNOW he will eat on his plate. (Yogurt, crackers, a chicken nugget or two.) I try to keep all of the plates on the table the same so that no one is getting a "Special meal."
post #9 of 56
I cook one meal. If DD doesn't like it - which can happen 2x a week, she is welcome to get HERSELF cereal or yogurt and she knows that. If I'm REALLy nice and I remember, I MIGHT save a portion of the pasta with no veggies or sauce on it, but that's not a guarantee either. Otherwise she can pick out what she doesn't like or have cereal or yogurt. My daughter is 6.
post #10 of 56
Well, I never cooked separate meals for our kids - they ate what we ate. I do make sure that there's at least one thing that each child will eat. I also tend not to mix foods because of some food issues that dh has. So, veggies are cooked separately from meat and I'll mix them with the sauce at the table for those who want it. We don't do many casseroles or other mixed dishes.

So, ds doesn't like spaghetti sauce or meatballs. So, when we have spaghetti and meatballs, he eats noodles with Parmesan cheese. Dh, dd and I add the tomato sauce and meatballs to our noodles.

I don't expect young children to eat everything at the table, but rather use the mealtime to get into the eating together routine and to have social time together. If they don't like what we eat, too bad. They'll get a snack before they go to bed.
post #11 of 56
I did this once mine were physically able to pour their own bowl of feral or make their own peanut butter sandwich. I was not going to be a short order cook forever. So, I guess they were 6 or so. Funny how my food gets very tasty after you've told them to get up and make their own.
post #12 of 56
We have kids similar ages. My 3.5 yo is extremely picky and 1.5 yo has food sensitivities that cause eczema flare ups. I make three different meals and I am sick to death of it.

I am bumping this up for you (and me) I think what you seem to need mostly is advice from BTDT moms who made the switch. A lot of the pp have always done it and have older children and that doesn't seem to be what you're looking for.

I'll be lurking...
post #13 of 56
I just cook things I know we all like. Tonight dh and I really wanted spanokopita, and I knew there was NO way dd would eat it (she doesn't like feta at all, and usually won't eat spinach) so I heated some leftover rice and a lone hot dog that needed to get eaten sooner than later so there would be other options for dd. Sometimes I know I'm really making some other thing for dd's benefit, but I don't make that obvious. I'll just have it for all of us along with the main dish. I don't want her to even start thinking I'll routinely make her something different.
post #14 of 56
I am like dachshundqueen--I've always made one meal. But I don't intentionally make things DS (or DH) dislikes or anything that is too spicy for kids. On the rare occasion DS refuses dinner, he can have cheese/apples/crackers or some variation of that. Or leftovers from a previous meal.

I make a pineapple chicken bake (from the Cook's Illustrated Family Cookbook?) and DS really likes it. I'd be surprised if your kids don't like it, especially with rice. I would just "run out" of the substitutes like chicken nuggets and see if you could get your 3 yo to eat your same meal. I know if DS knew he had the option for nuggets he'd want them, too. Maybe offering the same, boring alternative every night will eventually get him to branch out and try new foods?
post #15 of 56
I have never catered to the kids for meals (like chicken nuggets, mac n cheese, or other "kid" type of foods) and I make once meal for the whole family. So, I don't have any BTDT advice for switching one your LO is used to having whatever they want to eat... but, I would say to make meals with several items. A main entree, and a few side dishes - hopefully your DS will like at least one thing served. I'm not opposed to my kids making a sandwich if they really preferred that, but I guess they just aren't too picky, b/c they like things like steak, potatoes, veggies, and salad (a typical dinner here). It might help that I don't know how to make super fancy or spicy things with strong tastes.

Personally, I just don't buy the junkier type of foods. I could see a couple of my kids asking for say, pizza rolls or ramen, if it were an option. But, I just don't have it in the house, so their choices are limited to healthier options, yk? (and by choice, I mean I do ask for their input before starting dinner, or for lunch).

It's good that you are switching/stopping this now before he's much older and your DD follows suit (or you have more kids - we have four, and I can't imagine making several different meals - 3 a day is pleny enough!).
post #16 of 56
What we found useful is not to combine the foods.

It can be harder than it sounds, but it makes for easy meal time. Tonight we have green curry and rice. I cooked the chicken separately because I know DD doesn't like it out of the curry. I added 1/2 the veggies to the curry sauce and 1/2 the veggies were served raw.

So, instead of just choosing between curry and rice, where I know DD would have only wanted rice. She could have rice, chicken and some raw veggies with dip from the fridge. DH and I combined the curry and chicken over the rice and then has some raw veggies too.

Once I started really trying to do this, it because surprising at how much stuff I could spilt out and serve on it's own. Luckily she likes chilli and stew, because those ones would be harder.
post #17 of 56
I don't make a separate meal. I sometimes just give her a part of the meal, like I'll take pieces out before I combine stuff or something. Or she can make herself one of a few healthy things we have. At 3.5 though, I'd just let him have the stuff he grazes on if he doesn't like the meal. I wouldn't make him something separate. He can have it or he can have some more fruit. For one thing, as you found, they dont' always eat it anyway and don't appreciate it, and for the other if the alternative is better than the main meal they'll never want to eat the main meal.
post #18 of 56
I never have made a special meal for a member of the family, but I used to add some foods to the table that I knew dd would eat at each meal. For instance, if I made pineapple chicken bake, I'd also have a small plate of tomato and cucumber slices, and maybe a small plate of cheese cubes or chickpeas (from the can). I served them as "sides" for everyone, so it didn't seem like special food for her. SHe would usually start with a "safe" food, and then branch out into the novel food (or maybe it would take a few exposures....but she always tried it eventually with no pressure at all).

Everything is always served family style, and the kids serve themselves or ask for foods on the table--not just plopped on their plate. If the don't want something, I never force. For instance, today we had bean soup, left over cold ham, cranberry sauce, and garlicky spinach. Dd (8) had soup, ham, and sauce. Ds (3) had 4(!) huge piles of spinach and some ham. Good enough.
post #19 of 56
I don't really ever do separate meals here, but I will sometimes do minor substitutions to accommodate the kids. Like chucking a few carrot sticks on their plates when I know they probably won't touch whatever veg we're having, or cutting a few chunks of cheese if they've tried but didn't care for the meat. To be fair, we (ok, mostly dh since I'm not the main cook of the house) cook with quite a lot of spice so sometimes the kids do find it too spicy. I encourage them to try a bit, but if it's something like that then I understand if they aren't up to eating it.
post #20 of 56
I do find myself doing quite a bit of short order cooking and am trying to change that. My dd is 3 1/2. Something that is helping is getting her more involved in food prep (you can cut quite a lot of veggies with a butter knife!) and also choosing things in the grocery store. She has already realized she can do a lot more impluse buying in the produce department than anywhere else! Mind you, she is also hearing: no because 1. they cost too much money 2. they aren't nice/good enough 3. they come from too far away (I am not buying $5 nasty blackberries from Peru that cost the environment gallons of fossil fuels when nice oranges are in season. Many lessons there!

Anyway, kids need more exposures to food before they will try it nd just you eating it in front of them isn't always enough (although it sure helps). Getting them to touch it and think about it makes it more likely that they will eat it.
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