What’s for Dinner? Same O’ Same O’

July 3, 2018 in Foodland Chronicles, Health by Joyce Bunderson

Have you ever noticed that meals sometimes become routine? I remember when my family was young and I was working fulltime. Then we had a pasta casserole, marinara sauce and browned burger, with grated cheese on top – one two many times. The fact is that I had that as a frequent standby, because it was something that everyone could/would eat. I know for a fact that it was frequent enough that, to this day, my daughter doesn’t enjoy pasta meals. Oooops!

One of the oldest issues taught to nutrition students is variety. The issue is taught not only so your children won’t hate a certain dish, but also the main reason is because the variety of foods increases the variety and range of nutrients. When we eat a wide variety of foods, we get a wide variety of nutrients – and that is just plain good nutrition, that supports good health.

Hints for getting out of the same o’ same o’ routine:

  • Probably the most important issue is planning. Thinking ahead of how to provide variety is so important. It doesn’t need to be complex, but do take some time before going to the market to come up with some varied, healthy, and appealing menus. You will be armed with a shopping list that includes the ingredients you need to make something different. Varied ingredients helps ensure you’ll actually make something different.
  • Consider batch cooking as one technique to support variety. For the meals that take a little more time, make enough for more than one meal. If you’re chopping vegetables and meat for a sheet pan dinner, for example; make enough for two meals. If it is good, one repetition is welcomed.
  • Make some staple cooked items ahead. Once a week, I cook brown rice and store it in the refrigerator and then just warm it in the microwave for a variety of recipes that I generally serve the rice with. I do the same thing with hard-boiled eggs. I have convenient cookers for both the rice and the eggs that make it quick and simple. The eggs are used on salads and in sandwich mix or cracker toppings. They’re also a ready standby for an unexpected rush out the door prior to lunch. In addition, you can cook some of the longer cooking vegetables ahead and heat them at mealtime.
  • Consider making a goal to try a new recipe or a new vegetable each week. This goal recently made a big impact on our eating. I discovered “no recipe sheet pan” instructions. It’s now a beloved and healthy meal. If you’re trying to expand the tastes and textures of children, you may want to consider investigating foods eaten in other countries. How exciting is that? One option may be to let the children get involved. If they help plan the menu, you’ve got buy in. They are far more likely to give it a try with an open mind.
  • A couple of weeks ago, we were eating with one of our children’s families. The mother was explaining how she had started using Hello Fresh (like Blue Apron), one of the new subscription meal kit providers. The food is ordered for the number of people the customer desires. Ultimately, it is cutting out the shopping time and recipe time. The box is delivered with everything that is needed for the recipe. The preparation is minimal. She showed me the absolutely beautiful recipe cards/with careful instructions. Her youngest child is in high school and the older children are in college. She is finding that the children are actually enjoying preparing the food. It’s making it easier for this working mom a couple days a week and is giving some cooking ideas and confidence to the children. It’s a bit expensive, but she feels it far better that resorting to fast food or some other take out option.

Setting yourself up for a variety of foods/menus is a great way to improve the number of nutrients in your intake. The pay off, of course, is the potential for improved health. A side benefit is protecting yourself and your family from enduring the same o’ same o’ complaint.