Do you eat most of your meals standing up? Do you make multiple trips to the pantry and refrigerator during the course of a meal? Do you flop down in a chair, exhausted after a "simple" lunch? If so, you have likely become a short order cook in your own home. Despite how it may feel, you do not work in a diner and it's high time you threw off that apron and handed in your resignation letter. Reclaim your kitchen with these five easy steps.
1. Recognize how you got here. If you are an unhappy short order cook, you probably didn't set out for things to be this way. You simply started by providing food for your family. When your babies were little, it was by bottle or nursing. Then it moved to solids and finger foods. You had your meal and they had theirs. As your kids developed, however, you didn't. You got stuck in the mindset that a full belly at every meal is your primary goal and you must do whatever it takes to achieve it. You forgot that the reason kids hit that picky eater stage is because their caloric intake needs go down and they can afford to turn their noses up at food. You panicked and started jumping through hoops to get them to eat - even if that meant preparing multiple choices for every meal. "Come on, just one more bite" has become your mantra.
2. Enter the world of fine dining. Have you ever been to a fancy restaurant? I mean, a really fancy restaurant? These are the places where you are handed a menu with only three or four entrée choices. You turn it over, wondering, "Is that it?" We all like choices but we don't always need choices. You , too, can adopt the mindset of a gourmet chef - produce high quality food but with a limited selection.
3. Enlist the help of your little sous chefs. Most likely, your kids won't be very happy with this new scenario, so you are going to have to break them in easy. Tell them that breakfast and lunch are now their "choice meals." They can choose from among a few different selections at the outset of each meal but dinner is a family meal; a "one pot serves all" kind of situation. You don't have to become the dinner Nazi, however. On grocery shopping day, have each family member select one dinner of their choice. That way, everyone has at least one meal a week they like to eat.
4. Resist the urge to compromise. If your child doesn't like what is served, don't sweat it. Don't force the issue and definitely don't bribe. Take the power struggle away and there will be no struggle. We like to put out a plate of fresh raw veggies and dips as well as whole grain breads at most dinners. That way, even the pickiest eater is bound to get some nutrition. Anyone at the table can have one serving of all foods available as long as no one deprives anyone else of their portion.
5. Change the subject. If your dinner conversation is only food-oriented (who's eating or not eating what), you will find yourself becoming weary. Maybe even weary enough to pick that apron up off the floor and go back to your old ways. Don't do it. Just change the subject. Talk about your day. Talk about your ideal vacation spot. Talk about anything - just not the food on the table.
Unless, of course, someone wants to give compliments to the chef - now that would be just fine.