What are some of your favorite meals that you can cook for the whole family?
Let's be honest - it can be hard to please everyone at the dinner table! Every family member has different tastes, preferences, and schedules. It can be hard to find a meal that everyone happens to enjoy on any given night. That's why I personally love and also encourage my clients to serve meals family-style.
The Benefits of Family Meals
The cornerstone of family nutrition is family meals - family members sitting together at the table for a meal. Family meals promote healthy eating and support health and wellness in children.
According to a large body of research, family meals are important for children's health. They may lead to less fussiness and emotional eating, and more enjoyment of food, which can result in better nutrient intake!
Serving Meals Family-Style
Many parents plate food for their children, choosing what and how much their children will eat. Unfortunately, this can be problematic. While some kids are okay with their food being plated for them, others are not. Plating may feel controlling or restrictive to kids and they may react in unhealthful ways, such as overeating or favoring unhealthful foods over healthful foods. Parents who plate for their kids may also overestimate appropriate portion sizes.
If parents do plate food, children can still be given some autonomy by allowing them to decide what and how much is on their plate.
If you currently plate your children’s meals, try switching to family-style meals and see how your kids react. Many families find that family-style meals allow mealtime to be more relaxed and their kids eat better. Giving the child more autonomy over what and how much they eat can reduce the drama at the dinner table.
When switching to family-style meals, kids may get carried away with their food choices at first, but this passes as the child gets used to the style and tunes into his or her own hunger.
Family-Style Chicken Fajitas Plates
These chicken fajitas are a weekly go-to in my home that everyone enjoys! You can substitute chicken with your favorite meat, seafood, or meat alternative, and customize it with your favorite sides and add-ons.
Recipes like these Chicken Fajita Plates work well for families with picky eater(s) because it can easily be deconstructed. Deconstructed food means that the meal is broken down into individual components so that each family member chooses which foods, preferred combinations, and how much they want to eat.
Recipe for Family-Style Chicken Fajita Plates
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium red onion, sliced thinly
2 large bell peppers, seeded and sliced thinly
2-3 garlic cloves, crushed
2-4 Tablespoons (per your taste preferences) of Family Style Fajita Seasoning (We love Simply Organic) or I love making a batch of this and storing it to have on hand (and this is a great Low FODMAP recipe)
1 cup chicken broth
1 1/2 lbs. chicken breast, boneless and skinless, trimmed, and thinly sliced
½ lime, juiced
Salt and pepper to taste (optional)
In a medium sized skillet or pan, heat oil over medium high heat.
Add onions, peppers, and garlic. Stir to coat with oil. Cover and reduce heat to medium and cook until tender and lightly browned, approximately 5-10 minutes.
Mix Fajita Seasoning with broth and set aside.
Add chicken pieces to the pan with the vegetables and turn stove to medium-high heat. Saute to coat chicken with oil and vegetables. Once chicken is browned, reduce heat to medium-low, and pour broth mixture over chicken. Stir to combine. Cook for 5 to 6 min., stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low, squeeze in the lime juice and simmer another 10 to 15 min., stirring occasionally.
Plate each food/side in its own serving dish.
Serve fajitas over rice, quinoa, or a warm tortilla! Top with your favorite add-ons like salsa, cheese, guacamole, and cilantro.
The vegetables, meat/meat alternative, and add-ons easily make this a balanced that contains 3-5 food groups. Remember Ellyn Satter's Division of Responsibility: The parent is responsible for what, when, and where children eat. The child is responsible for how much and whether they eat.
Serve over white or brown rice, quinoa, or a warm tortilla
Side/topping suggestions: salsa, guacamole, sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese or Mexican blend cheese, shredded lettuce, cilantro
Tips for serving family style:
Ask everyone to sit down at the table
Plate foods onto various serving dishes & place at the center of the table
Set out age-appropriate plates, cutlery, and napkins for each person
Have everyone serve themselves or tell you what they would like on their plates; this will help them learn how much they need to eat and what foods they like best (it might even encourage hesitant eaters to try something new, or at-least, any sensory exposure will help them become more adventurous over time!)
Encourage conversation by asking questions about people's day or current events during dinner time (you can start these conversations by discussing what you did today)
If you try this recipe and some of the strategies for serving to the whole family let me know how it went! Share on social media and use the hashtag #fromthestartnutrition
Thanks for Visiting My Blog!
Hi! I’m Beth Conlon, PhD, MS, RDN
I’m a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with a PhD in Clinical Investigation, Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, and Mom of 3 little ones. As a pediatric and family dietitian, I use a gentle approach to help children, adolescents, and adults overcome feeding disorders, disordered eating, and eating disorders. Through individualized care, I help clients optimize their health and improve mealtime enjoyment, while healing their relationship with food and body. Get in touch! Contact | Welcome to FTSN!
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