Family Dinner

We had a rough first year with P. By the time we got to introducing food, we were too worn out to care that much. We just did whatever was easy. Needless to say, this created some bad eating habits.

When M came along, we vowed that things would be different. M is a much better eater. However, I am not skilled at meal planning or cooking, so he ended up eating a lot of the same things that his brother was eating. Or, even worse, I would make 3 different things for each meal.

In the past few months, we have been trying to change the way meals go around here. We are still a long way from perfect, but we have been taking baby steps that have made a big difference!

I wanted to share the baby steps we have taken that have improved our boys’ eating habits. Let me stress, we are far from where I would like to be, but we are making progress.

1. Family Dinner

We used to wait until the boys were in bed to have dinner so that we could actually enjoy it. I have read over and over again how important it is to model good eating habits to your children so this was the first thing we changed. It started as one family dinner night a week. When we first told P we were having family dinner night, he would cry before we would even tell him what we were eating (he knew it wasn’t going to be chicken nuggets and french fries). Now, it’s usually 3 or more family dinner nights a week and the boys love it! P gets disappointed when we don’t eat with him. I think they like the undivided attention from mom and dad.

2.Finding easy/simpler recipes to make

I admire people who started good habits early and their kids are used to eating whatever the adults eat. This just isn’t a reality for us. However, we have had to strike a balance. We tried to make simpler dishes that we can add to or take away from to make them family friendly. We usually make one main dish and add a fruit and vegetable. One or two of those is a familiar/preferred food so that there is at least something on their plate that we know they will eat. Here are some meals that have become regulars around here. Adult beverages not included. 😉


*I think this is a picture of hamburgers, but you get the idea

  • Pasta- we can add more toppings/spices/etc to ours and the boys can have the basic.


  • Pizza– I make this no knead dough, which makes enough for 6 pizzas, and put it in the freezer so I can just defrost enough for 1 at a time. I do the same with the sauce. The boys LOVE to help make pizza- rolling, spreading the sauce, adding toppings.

Daddy’s chicken (Chicken Milanese)- My sister-in-law gave me the book, Dinner: A Love Story. I also read the blog. Some good practical suggestions. P loves this chicken (it must remind him of chicken nuggets).

3. Expectations

  • Try everything at least once. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to eat it. But, you can’t get more of anything unless you eat everything on your plate (i.e.- if you eat all of your grapes but none of the green beans, no more grapes). There have been many a meal where one of the boys only eats one thing on their plate and nothing else. The good news is, this used to be a battle. Now, they know the drill and will try a bite of everything and be done. It’s amazing that they aren’t starving!
  • No grazing! The boys would eat all day long if they could. This means a few bites here and there and never getting hungry. I read this about spacing meals and snacks 2.5-3 hours apart. This is hard because it seems like the boys start asking when they can eat 5 minutes after they finish eating! When we do follow this rule, the boys are actually hungry and willing to eat more variety.
  • When we go out to eat, anything goes. When we go out to eat, we are there to enjoy ourselves. This means avoiding battles. I am pretty laid back at restaurants. We don’t go out too often, so a meal of chips and pancakes every so often doesn’t worry me.
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