Today a reader asks for tips on how to avoid eating the holiday candy that will make its way into their home via their children. My answer in the video, plus extra tips from friends. Special shout-out to Winter Redd of the podcast, Hungry Squared—check it out!
Disclosure: I am participating in the Monsanto, #HeyLetsGrow campaign. Gardening materials, as well as $50 for additional gardening supplies, provided by Monsanto. All opinions within this post are my own.
Dear Misery Loves Cookery,
My kids hate vegetables. It’s frustrating. I hide them in their food, but they won’t touch them if they know they are there (and they sometimes won’t touch food if they even think they are there.)
I know that they won’t die if they skip a meal, I’m mainly writing because this is so irritating, it’s making cooking meals stressful and meal time no fun for me. Is it too much to ask for me to have an enjoyable meal everyone once in awhile?
No, it is not too much to expect to enjoy a meal every once in awhile, you just may need to change what is required for you to enjoy yourself.
- Your kids are healthy, and
- You manage to get nutrients into them by sneak attack (hiding vegetables in casseroles, smoothies, etc.), and
- You have vegetables on the table and model eating them, and
- You have a requirement, either each night or occasionally, that they take a bite or two of a vegetable, and/or try new foods when they come to the table, then…
…if they don’t eat all their vegetables—or even most of your vegetables—you are off the hook.
In order to be happier about this, please:
- Let go of the expectation that they enjoy their meals, and
- Accept that they might grouse about their requirement to take a few nibbles of things, and
- Stay calm, but have appropriate consequences when kids either refuse to try a few bites and/or have a table tantrum, and
- Take deep breaths and focus on your own plate, enjoying the bites you get to take, redirecting the table to different conversation topics, etc., then…
…even if the table descends into veggie-protest chaos, you will feel better.
Is it important that kids learn to value nutritional foods, and hopefully develop a taste for them? Absolutely.
Is it worth ruining your evening dinner every night to fight for this, day-in, day-out? No.
Even if you occasionally get the kids to choke down some broccoli, if you are miserable with your kids, routinely, you are winning the battle but losing the war.
My recipe for this week is a little different than my usual recommendation: I want you to take your kids to a nursery or home store, and I want them to pick out vegetable seeds to plant.
There is a considerable amount of chatter in the “how to help picky eaters get interested in vegetables” universe that if kids can help to grow their own food, they are more interested in consuming it. I’m not sure if this is always true—our daughter loved planting salad greens in our community garden when she was little, but still resists salad like it comes with a curse—but it won’t hurt!
Getting kids connected to how food is grown, plus giving them time to dig in the dirt and explore, offers you the opportunity as a family to enjoy time together that isn’t about hating vegetables, but rather, about taking care of them.
Our family will be growing vegetables right along with you! Thanks to the #HeyLetsGrow campaign at Monsanto, I received seeds, tools, a gardening bag, a starter tray, mugs, a little jar of honey, and some additional funds to get our vegetable garden off to a great start.
Because we live in Florida, I have to plant immediately—the heat of the summer is not our friend—so I will keep you posted, and hopefully provide some information for your own garden.
We take a lot of delight in all the things we grow here. We are finishing up the end of citrus season, as evidenced by our lemon tree (our orange tree looks about the same.)
My husband has two fig trees, a Black Mission (which doesn’t seem to want to fruit) and a Celeste (which is fruiting like crazy.)
(As you can see, even our dog likes the fig trees.)
I have an herb garden, which makes my daily cooking so much happier. Parsley is a big fan of Florida.
And all of us, our daughter included, enjoy raising milkweed. And no, that’s not a vegetable, but it helps us support monarchs, and we are pro-pollinator in this family. No pollinators, no food! Check out one of the latest caterpillars, as well as his/her punk cousin, who formed a chrysalis right above our front door.
I hope gardening together will be as fun for your family as it is for ours. Until then, keep hiding those pureed veggies in the chili, friend, and play some tunes and dance around while you are making the dinner that they may refuse. Let’s all do that. Solidarity!
I belong to a book club which meets monthly. All of us are asked to bring an appetizer or dessert to share each month. It seems that every lady in the group is on some kind of diet at each meeting. Aside from cut-up fruit, which I am tired of bringing, I am running out of ideas for dishes. Can you suggest some ideas for low-fat, low-sugar, low-salt, low-carb dishes to share?
No, I can’t.
Actually, no, I won’t is a better reply.
What kind of help am I, anyway?
Alright, I’ll suggest a few things, but only a few, and here’s why:
Someone at this club is always going to be on a specialty diet, you’ve made this clear. If you were accommodating a life-threatening allergy, or attempting to make sure a friend who never has any choices at these sorts of events has an option, that would be one thing.
Chasing the particular dietary needs of a group of regular dieters at a monthly event is another.
You can’t really win at this game, you know? Your best choice is really to:
- Make something you like, and won’t mind bringing home.
- Only make enough so that if it is barely touched, your fridge isn’t overwhelmed.
- Enjoy eating what you made.
- Talk about the book and don’t worry about your dish.
It’s a book club, not a nutrition club. Make healthy food that looks yummy to you when you want to do so; make ooey-gooey, delicious desserts that look tasty to you when you want to do that.
Off the top of my head, creating lettuce cups—sautéed veggies and/or lean meats with an asian-style sauce (soy, fish sauce, plum sauce, teriyaki, or even something bottled and sold at the store) placed inside crispy lettuce—could be a winner. Crunchy and lean, I imagine many people would consider those a treat, no matter their diet; that said, watch the sauces for sugar and salt content, and adjust accordingly.
I featured one of our favorite ultra-healthy recipes, Moroccan Harira Red Lentil Soup, as a recommendation for a book club on my very first website post. This isn’t as portable, but would be knock-out for you the month in which you are the hostess. I loved serving it for my book club, and it was always well-received.
There are many cookbooks and websites out there which focus on any one of the categories you mention (low-fat, low-sugar, low-salt, low-carb dishes.) There are even some which focus on all of those categories, at once—anyone who has gone on a modern cleanse has probably spent thirty days eating within all these restrictions, along with no-meat, no-dairy, no-gluten, no-alcohol, etc.
To that end, I’d love to encourage you to enter my current giveaway—one lucky winner will receive a mystery cookbook, hand-selected by me. Several of the titles I have available to send focus on very specialized diets, and include recipes that would certainly be appropriate for your health-conscious book club. Enter the giveaway here:
Learning new recipes, particularly ones which stretch your typical ingredient list or cooking techniques, is always a win. I would encourage you to take some time at your local bookstore and the internet to peruse some resources if you truly want to try lots of new and interesting recipes for your book club, but only if this is something fun for you, not in order to appease the tastes of others.
Good luck finding some fun new dishes to share. May your recipes be as juicy as the novels you are reading!
Dear Misery Loves Cookery,
I’m starting a new job next week. I know I can do it, but I feel very anxious. I’ve been applying for new positions for seven months. I thought that once the stress of being unemployed was over, I’d feel better, but now I am worried that somehow this won’t work out.
Any thoughts on how to make myself feel better?
Congratulations on your new job!
Nervousness around a new beginning like this is very normal. All sorts of thoughts and feelings could be floating around in your brain simply due to all the uncertainty you now face—your new job, your new colleagues, your new schedule, etc. The fear that “somehow this won’t work out” makes a lot of sense, particularly if you have been wanting/needing a job for awhile, and the sting of losing a job is still recent.
Give yourself permission to feel whatever you feel. Don’t judge the negative (or positive) thoughts. See if you can be a gentle observer of your thoughts and feelings as they happen. Things like, “Huh, I feel angry that I am unsure about my skills,” or “I feel sad that it took me longer than I thought to find a job,” may come up. Feel them, don’t judge them, then move on.
I know, I know, it sounds easy to let thoughts go, but it can be hard. Breathe. Be patient with yourself.
The feelings are just momentary; your actions, however, in response to your feelings, may have lasting consequences.
When you think about your new position and worries come up, after you have felt them, try to come up with exciting thoughts that compliment these worries. For example:
“I don’t know what I’ll be doing,” can live with, “It’s exciting to learn new things.”
“I’m worried I’ll mess up,” can live with, “I will learn a lot from my mistakes.”
“I don’t know anyone at this new job and I’m shy,” can live with, “I’ll make new work friends and stretch myself.”
NOTICE: One thought does not cancel out the other, and again, you don’t want to judge the first thought. Being nervous about not knowing what you are doing, messing up, or making friends MAKES SENSE. You are simply providing a counterpoint, another thought to exist alongside it, so you can offer your mind an alternative that boosts your confidence.
Once a day before your job, and then immediately before getting into the car/bus/train to head over to it on the first day, set a timer for one minute, grab a pen and paper, and write down every positive thing you can think of yourself for that minute. Anything from, “I’m smart,” or “I’ve always done well in my jobs,” to “I like the way my hair looks today,” or “I got my pizza out of the microwave without burning myself.” I know, it sounds silly, but trust me. Just do it. When you are done, throw the paper away. The list isn’t the important part; the act of thinking of all the things you put on the paper is.
I hope these tips are helpful to you. Every big transition, even a positive one, may have its fair share of worry. You are normal, like the rest of us, which I hope is reassuring.
As for a recipe, I’d like you to feel prepped and ready for a week of work, with healthy, delicious breakfasts all set to go. I love this steel-cut oatmeal recipe, an easy make-ahead recipe that can be portioned out into jars for a week of fast, nutritious morning meals.
Fruits, nuts, honey, jams, cinnamon and maple syrup are often added to oatmeal, and several combinations of sweet toppings are recommended with the recipe.
Personally, I love my steel-cut oats (or scottish cut oats, an even thicker version) with savory add-ins. Crumbled bacon, sprinkled parmesan cheese, leftover roasted vegetables, some ground flax seed—now we are talking.
Just like your thoughts and feelings about starting your new job, not every oatmeal variety need be sweet; with five days worth of breakfasts to make, give both sweet and savory versions of oatmeal a try.
Good luck on the new job. I’m sure you will be crushing it in not time.
Dear Misery Loves Cookery,
My spouse and I had a large number of relatives over for the Thanksgiving holiday. Hosting was fun, but we spent the day before prepping our house and meal. With Christmas coming, we’ll be doing the same thing again. Can you suggest something quick but still healthy and hearty that we can make for ourselves while prepping for a holiday? So we don’t have to eat take-out again?
‘Tis the season for making extravagant amounts of food for a holiday meal…and starving while preparing them.
I feel your pain, friend. We had the exact same situation this Thanksgiving, and will again this Christmas. As I mentioned in response to a reader looking for easy Christmas breakfast ideas, it isn’t unusual for everyone but the cook (who is tasting everything) to starve while awaiting a holiday meal.
The breakfast casserole I suggested may work well for you in this situation—it is certainly quick and hearty, and its healthiness is easily adjustable depending on which extras you put into it.
My usual go-to solution—when I actually think of it ahead of time—is to splurge on some good cold cuts, so family members can make a sandwich when they are hungry. Now, our family is not really a big sandwich-eating group, by nature, so this isn’t always welcomed.
My ugly confession: I am usually so focused and busy prepping holiday dishes, I bark something at them like, “Can you PLEASE just make a sandwich? I bought lunch meat…can’t you see how busy I am? I can’t cook a lunch and make this meal. Don’t you want [insert holiday meal?]” I then gripe that they are in my way while making the sandwiches they don’t really want but I guilted them into preparing.
Yeah, I’m not super proud of this behavior. Seems like I made need a better solution, too.
Here’s a brainstorm: how about crockpot chili? You could either make your favorite chili recipe the day before, then keep it warm throughout the holiday prep day in the slow cooker, or just dump all the ingredients in the slow cooker the night before your prep day, set it to low, and have chili ready (and simmering) by the morning.
Chili is quick, hearty, and healthy, especially if you load it with vegetables, and family members can serve themselves whenever they are feeling peckish without needing to get to the stove, fridge, etc.
As you do your holiday grocery shopping this week, think about picking up:
1 lb lean ground beef, turkey, or chicken
Chili seasonings (Whatever you like, whether pre-packed or your own mix; we always add extra cumin.)
Chopped veggies like onions, peppers, zucchini, yellow squash, corn, etc.
2 large cans crushed tomatoes
1 can diced tomatoes
2 cans kidney, pinto, or black beans
Throw everything but the beans into the crock pot in the order listed above (meat first, then seasonings, etc.), add 1-2 cups water or broth, and cook on high for 3-4 hours or low for 6-8. Add beans 1/2 hour before you’d like to serve.
If you want to be fancy, get accompaniments like cheese, sour cream, tortilla chips, oyster crackers, hot sauce, chopped jalapeño, etc. Be aware that your family retrieving these extras will mean they are likely to get in your cooking space. Try to be nicer than I am in this situation.
The slow cooker has its cooking foibles, but cooking chili (and keeping it warm for all day eating) is one of its strong suits. If you haven’t used your slow cooker in awhile, this is a great opportunity.
I hope this solution works for you. Heck, I hope this solution works for me, too! Family, if you are reading this, get ready for some Christmas chili.