changing the family diet

Changing the family diet – dinner

It has been a year since I decided to eliminate grains (bar rice), gluten, dairy and processed sugars from my diet. When I first made the change, I wanted to be able take time to see if it was the right decision for me and also needed to spend some time experimenting with what that meant for my daily meals before I even thought about introducing change to the family.

For the first three to four months, more often than not I would have something different to eat at the evening meal than what the rest of the family was having. Part of this was due to a challenge I undertook for a month with my gym and we had to weigh everything out, but part of it was so I could have time to determine how I could then introduce change to the family without resistance.

Dinner time rules

I have always tried to not have food as an issue in our house. I can remember as a young child having to eat everything that was on my plate. I was not (and still aren’t, but I am working it!) great veggie eater. This meant there was more than one occasion when I was the last child at the table and even a couple of occasions where I fell asleep at the table.

Our dinner time rules have been pretty simple:

  • Trying new things is encouraged. If you don’t like it you don’t have to eat it, but at least have a little nibble to see what you think.
  • As the parent, it is my role to serve all kids a decent meal. It is the child’s choice to eat it.
  • If the child chooses not to eat the served dinner, that’s okay. There is however no other options and the next meal will be breakfast.
  • We have dessert twice a week and everyone can have dessert, regardless of whether they have eaten their dinner or not.

I realised that I was breaking my own rules by having two meals; one for me and one for the rest of the family, so I explained the reasons to this for the kids and that it was a temporary situation. They were all fine with this.

Starting with dinner – tweaking family favourites

I decided to focus on changing one meal at a time for the rest of the family and started with dinner as it was the easiest. The family menu plans for a number of months were pretty basic and pretty repetitive as it took me some time to build up a repertoire of meals that worked for everyone.

The table below lists some of the meals that I tweaked with relevant links. Others I have tweaked but am yet to post the recipes like stir fries, chicken wraps, sang choy bow, zucchini slice and hamburgers.

Old versionNew VersionNotes:
Spaghetti bologneseZucchini bologneseI made some slight changes to the sauce which no one noticed!

The kids and their dad never took to zucchini noodles, so I have zucchini noodles and they still have pasta.
Homemade tacos (original recipe is towards the end)Homemade tacos plus homemade chilli sauceEveryone was fine with the new recipe. The kids and their dad still have tortillas and I just have lettuce wraps.
Slow cooker roast beefShredded roast beefAgain with the slight changes I made to the recipe, no one noticed and everyone is still very happy eating the new slow cooked roast beef.
Slow cooker satay Slow cooker satay (almond butter)Subbed peanut butter for almond butter and used homemade chilli sauce. The family noticed that it didn't taste as sweet as the old version but they still eat it.
Creamy chicken and tomato stew Creamy chicken and sweet potato stewLots of changes to the original recipe, but I think the new version was actually more popular than the old one!
Chicken schnitzel and veg or saladPan fried chicken and veg or saladThe kids would still prefer schnitzel, but they love pan fried chicken, so it is still a very popular meal.
Slow cooker beef casserole Slow cooker beef stewThe kids eat either version, but none of them would put either of these meals in their top 10.
SouvlakiSouvlakiI just have lettuce cups and no tzatziki. Kids adore this meal.
Potato gratinSweet potato gratinI love the sweet potato dish more and while the kids will eat this one, they still prefer the traditional scalloped potatoes.
Chicken meatballs Gluten free chicken meatballsThe new version are gobbled up just as quickly as the old version.

Of course there were plenty of meals that did not need tweaking like:

The biggest change for the family has been the reduction in pasta meals and rice based meals. No one has complained about this, nor have they complained about the decreased variety as we do eat lots more meat and veg type meals.

I have cut out bread with any of the meals eg garlic bread, with the exception of homemade hamburgers and that did take some getting used to. My kids love a sausage in bread and if their dad cooks a weekend meal of sausage and salad, the kids love it because he gives them bread!

What didn’t work

The kids have not taken to cauliflower rice or cauliflower mash¬†and as mentioned before they haven’t taken to zucchini noodles either. While I love a big mix of green veggies, the kids are not quite with me on this one yet. When I make this for myself as swap out for white potatoes for example, I just put a spoonful on their plates and keep trying them with it, without making a fuss.

As I have made the changes I have tried not to label foods as good or bad, but refer to the changes as better choices for us. It has opened up lots of discussion around nutrition and we regularly talk about the macro nutrient make up of the meal – what is the fat, what is the carb and what is the protein. I see the discussion as a good thing.

The rest of the family still has dessert, generally either chocolate or ice cream and I will have something else. Some nights I make something we all eat.

It is very much still a work in progress. I tackled breakfasts next which I will talk about in another post and I am just starting to make some headway in the lunch boxes.

Have you made changes to the way your family eats?