Jul 17, 2014

Food Challenges

Yesterday, I was catching up on reading some of my favorite blogs, and I came across an entry that really kinda slapped me across the face...in a good way.  Skinny Meg wrote an entry a couple days ago which basically outlined how we ALL have challenges.  We all have limited time, temptations, etc.  The bottom line is that if we want to get healthier, we have to pull up our big girl panties and commit and DO IT.  I just sat there and thought, "She is so right!"  It was just what I needed to see this week.

Then, I started thinking about my biggest challenge -- food.  It used to be exercise, but I have really managed to work it into my routine...whether it is during the school year when I am crazy busy with work or during the summer when I have a lot more spare time.  I have just come to the realization that no progress is going to be made without exercise, so I schedule it into my day as sort of a non-negotiable.  Are there days where I am exhausted and don't feel like it?  Yes! I have gotten to the point where I do it anyway though...because I have realized that I feel much worse when I don't.  Are there days where there are extenuating circumstances and I cannot exercise because I don't get home from work until 9:00?  Yes! But those days are few and far between.  So, I guess what I am taking a lot of words to say, is that I really feel like I have managed the exercise challenge (yay!).  The food part is harder.

Food is complicated.  There are several reasons why it is harder. One of the biggest is the temptations.  You could plan a healthy day, for example, and someone puts enough fresh donuts in the break room to feed a small village.  That is rough.  There are definitely days where I have eaten a donut.  I have just had to train myself to walk away.  I could list reasons that the food part is harder for days.  I wanted to focus on one in particular that I (and I am sure many of you) deal with daily...cooking dinner at home when I have a house full of picky eaters.

Let me give you the rundown of what I am dealing with (perhaps you will be able to relate):

Tim (the husband) - He is a picky eater.  As a matter of fact, he pretty much turns his nose up and the vast majority of fresh fruits and vegetables.  The only fresh fruits he will eat are bananas and watermelon.  The only fresh vegetables he will eat are corn, potatoes (both starches), and the occasional tomato.

Aidan (9 year old) - He has had food issues since being a toddler, but has gotten much better.  He has a mild form of autism (PDD-NOS), so he is really sensitive to things like smells and textures.  He also depends heavily on routine.  So, in order to make weekday eating less stressful, we pretty much have set menu. Then, he knows what to expect and eats better.  It is just one of those things...  If there are days where the menu may change, he has to have fair warning or meltdown mode begins.

Darcy (4 year old)-  She is the least picky of the group and will typically try most foods.  The only foods I cannot get her to eat are spaghetti and pizza (The funny thing is that when I was pregnant with her, I had an extreme aversion to these foods).

Because of the picky nature of the majority of the household, it is hard for me to eat the way I want because it is a huge pain to cook two separate meals.  I have, however, found a way to make things more manageable.

Here are some examples of how I make it work:

Monday night is taco night.  This one is simple.  I make the taco meat with extra lean ground beef.  Instead of using lots of toppings and shells, I make a taco salad with lots of lettuce and pico de gallo.  I just use a sprinkle of cheese and pass on things like sour cream.  I crumble up one taco shell  for some crunch.  On occasion (if I feel like I have the calories), I will add a small amount of refried beans to the salad.

Tuesday is chicken nugget and macaroni and cheese night.  I do not do either one of those, so I am making a separate meal.  It is EASY though.  While I am cooking the other foods, I prep some green giant broccoli with cheese sauce (very low calorie) and a bag of Steamfresh brown rice.  I have actually gotten my four year old to start eating the brown rice (yes!) instead of the macaroni.  I am still working on the broccoli. ANYWAY, I layer a serving of the brown rice with a serving of the broccoli and cheese.  Then, I open a can of chunk light tuna and add some of that to the top and season with pepper. It makes a kind of "tuna casserole."  It takes only about 10 minutes to prep and I can easily make it in the microwave while I am cooking for the rest of the family. 

Wednesday is spaghetti night!  I have decided to stay away from pasta (trigger food), so I have found an easy way around it.  I start out by making a meat sauce for the entire family.  I typically use extra lean ground beef and an organic jarred sauce.  I honestly like the Meijer Organics selections.  They are affordable and very good.  While the meat sauce is simmering, I julienne a zucchini in order to make "noodles."  I take the pile of little zucchini noodles and toss it with about a cup of the meat sauce and put it in a tiny casserole dish.  (I have a couple awesome individual serving size dishes.)  I then top with some mozzerella cheese and put it in a oven preheated to 350.  While the zucchini baked spaghetti is baking, I put water on to boil for the regular pasta that everyone else is going to eat.  By the time their pasta is finished cooking and plated up, mine is all ready to come out of the oven.  It is so good too!

I was a little heavy on the cheese for this one...but what can I say? PMS got the best of me.

Thursday night is pizza night.  I have found that during the work week, Thursday is the toughest night.  So, we typically eat out.  I have learned that I need to avoid pizza and breadsticks at all cost.  I simply cannot control myself.  So, I schedule my Thursday workout to take place while the rest of the family is chowing down on pizza.  Once the kids are in bed, I treat myself to a salad from Panera or Chipotle.  I have to say, it is nice to eat one meal a week where I can do so without any interruptions.  

Friday nights are a toss up (and Aidan knows this).  We will usually eat leftovers from the week or do something simple like grilling burgers or chicken.  

Saturdays usually mean dinner out.  I just know where we are going ahead of time and plan accordingly.  I usually tell my husband what I am going to order, so if I decide to try and change my mind to something less healthy, he knows.  He would never call me out on it, but I KNOW HE KNOWS.  

Sundays I make a bigger dinner, but it always includes meat and a vegetable side.  This one is easy for me to manage, because I have a lot more time to prep the meal.  I usually go for a crockpot option.

This has turned out to be a REALLY LONG blog entry.  I am sorry about that.  I just wanted to give some meal prep ideas for those of you who have limited time and a family who isn't exactly on your food plan.  I am gradually trying to work these foods into my kids' diet.  It just takes time.  I do know for sure, however, that seeing me eat this way is something they are noticing.  I mean, I consider it a victory that one of my daughter's favorite foods is salad.  

What about you?  How do you manage healthy eating with picky eaters at home?

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