The fam embarked on a better eating journey last week.    We have three teenagers, and our meals have over time sunk to the lowest common food denominator.

“What’s for dinner?” asks teenager.

“[insert any non-junk food answer here],” says parent.

“Ah man, can I just make some [pizza, macaroni and cheese, chocolate chip waffles, etc]?”

When only two of  the five of us (MOM and DAD) ate the good stuff, we quit making it. But that didn’t solve our problems.  Kids need nutrition for their brains and bodies, and all three of ours participate in athletics.  That means more not less nutritional needs.   We all have pill holders to encourage vitamins, but even when the kids take them — and they rarely do without two live witnesses and a cattle prod — that’s not the same as eating the right food.

Eric and I consider ourselves mediocre middle-aged endurance athletes.   We suffer if we eat bad.  Every mile the road of life puts on our bodies hurts worse if we do not eat well.  Eric has high cholesterol and blood pressure.  Migraines plague us both.  Gluten and sugar make my stomach and body hurt (I am a devotee of Dr. Hotze and bioidentical hormones).

So, we picked up a copy of Cooking Light: The Essential Dinner Tonight Cookbook.  The cookbook contains 350 healthy meals.  The instructions  are easy enough even for my ADHD son to follow, as they tell you exactly what to be doing on each dish and in what order.  “While the pasta boils, prepare the sauce.  As the sauce chills, cook the…”

Each family member picks a menu at the beginning of the week.  With five of us, that means two free nights are left over for junk.  Having junk nights is key to our success with the kids.  Everyone must honor the selections of other family members.

Our first few trips to the grocery store entailed buying things we didn’t stock in the past.  I’m in love with spicy black sesame oil and rice vinegar as a result.  We have to double each recipe; they feed four normal people, but that only equals three from our household.  Bonus: there are enough leftovers to feed the parents lunch the next day.

We’ve been on the plan for two weeks.  Noticeably absent is any kvetching about food.  The excitement level about picking and trying something new is still high, even for the child that previously ate only chicken, french fries, and waffles.  All the recipes have been easy and yummy.

A few faves so far:

  • Spicy Chicken Cakes with Horseradish Aioli
  • Swedish Meatballs
  • Jambalaya with Shrimp and Andouille Sausage (but thumbs down on the Green beans remoulade that went with it)
  • Chicken and Noodles with Peanut Sauce (HUGE fan of the Asian slaw)

We had a little trouble making the Croque Monsier; it called for french bread which we found to be too thick to prepare as called for in the recipe.  It tasted great, so we’ll just try it with thinner bread (or smash the french bread) next time. 

Certainly we plan in advance more than before, and we combine careful grocery shopping with scheduled meal prep time.  Our workout schedules conflict and are quite heavy, so that is a challenge, but none of the meals take longer than 45 minutes to prepare.  And of course we improvise a bit to meet our health needs.

Now when we get the text asking, “What’s for dinner?” it’s followed by “Whose night is it to pick?  Are we having the [insert Cooking Light meal menu here] that I picked?”

Success.  So far.  I’ll keep you posted.


p.s. You can follow Cooking Light on Twitter at @cooking_light.

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