5 tips for stress free Family Meals even if you have a fussy eater

It’s been a really exciting week for Freddie’s food. We now have 4 contributors to the blog who will be posting monthly on a friday. You might have seen Anneke and Jackie‘s recent posts? If not make sure you check them out. We also had more likes than ever before, more followers and more views so welcome if you are a new reader I hope our posts help you feed your family healthy, tasty, wholesome food. If you aren’t already following Freddie’s Food make sure you do so you don’t miss out on any of our delicious recipes, meal ideas and hints and tips. You can also find us on twitter and facebook.

Right back to what I actually came online to write about. How to eat family meals? Well I’m sure you are all familiar with the research out there that supports eating family meals. It suggests that families that eat together have stronger bonds, better adjusted children, eat more nutritious meals, are less likely to be overweight and less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol. An all round winner in my books and you don’t need to eat together for every meal to have this impact on your family just more than 3 times a week. Probably one of the simplest, cheapest things you can do to improve the health and well-being of your family.

There are couple of caveats to this research however. Families who ate in front of the television didn’t have the same improved nutrition and health outcomes as they tended to eat faster and be less aware of when they were full. Neither did families who ate takeaways and fast food together.

Eating as a family can be so much fun but also a little stressful at times especially if you have a fussy eater in the family! If you feel like mealtimes are a battleground then I don’t blame you being put off eating as a family. Time can also be a constraint on eating as a family. We can’t eat together in the evenings in the week at the moment because unfortunately hubby doesn’t get back from work early enough.2013 12 24_9946

I always eat lunch and breakfast with the children and on the weekends we do try and share as many meals at the table together as we can. It’s a great way to catch up on the week, share funny stories and have quality time. I also find that both the children eat better because they are engaged in the ‘event’ of the meal rather than just focused, observed eating. There are a couple of mealtime ‘rules’ that we have in place to try and eliminate some of the stress that can come with mealtimes:

  • Tell me how much you’d like to eat -I vividly remember as a child sitting being given a huge portion of food and knowing that I wasn’t allowed to go out to play until I had finished it. I wanted to try and avoid doing that to our children! Alongside this I hate waste. So to try and counteract this I changed how we organise mealtimes. Freddie now serves himself or tells me how much he would like. After all he knows how hungry he is. Often he comes back for seconds if he’s asked for a small portion initially or will serve himself way more than I ever would have given him and gobbles it down. He loves being the server and quite often wants to serve everyone!2014 03 08_1536
  • You just have to try it you don’t have to eat it – My catch phrase is “just give it a try” quite often I’m told after the tinniest bite that said item isn’t liked and I follow it up with “that’s alright you don’t have to eat it” amazingly most of the time said item is then eaten during the course of the meal without any fuss. This rule stands for everything on the plate so sometimes I’m told by Freddie he doesn’t like ANYTHING again “that’s alright you don’t have to eat it but… we’re eating as a family so you have to stay at the table and chat to us”. Amazingly during the course of the meal some of what was ‘not liked’ gets eaten as everybody else at the table eats their meal AND there was no awful battle of wills. But mums and dads make sure you keep your promise don’t make them keep on trying it during the course of the meal. Instead praise the fact they tried it and then move on.
  • Be polite even if you don’t like something – a while ago Freddie got into the habit of telling me things were DISGUSTING when he didn’t like them. When ever he said it I found myself feeling really irritated, having just tried to cook him something he wouldn’t like to be greeted with “Ugh! That is DISGUSTING!” isn’t the best. Yes of course your little darlings aren’t going to love everything you produce from the kitchen but there are ways of saying things. I had visions of visits to the grandparents homes and Freddie telling Grandma her meal was “DISGUSTING!” so that word is now banned. He can still say he doesn’t like it he just has to say it nicely.
  • No toys at the table – that includes mobile phones mums and dads!
  • You have to ask to get down – it drives me bonkers when Freddie is up and down and not sitting in his seat for the duration of the meal. Of course he can get down to go to the loo but while we are eating as a family he has to stay at the table EVEN if he finishes before everyone else! The best part of this rule is that Freddie now says at the end of the meal “Thank you for my lovely meal. Please may I get down?” To go with this rule I make sure mealtimes are a realistic duration and that if we have guests the children can get down and play before dessert to give the adults a chance to chat!

I hope some of these tips are helpful and that you have happy, healthy mealtimes with your family this week. If you’re planning a family meal together here’s a recipe you might enjoy. I posted it on Freddie’s Food ages ago and stumble across it while I’ve been going through all the old posts tagging them and adding age suitability to all the recipes. A LONG job! I hope your family will enjoy sharing it together. I’d love to know your favourite meals to share as a family and how you make mealtimes stress free. If you found this post helpful you might also like to read 11 Ideas to help make mealtimes with your baby and toddler happy, sociable times.

Cheats Lasagne
Suitable from around 8 months
Freezes well


The mince bolognese that I use in this recipe is also great served with couscous or pasta. I quite often make a big batch and freeze it in individual portions for lazy days when I run out of time or don’t feel like cooking from scratch. This lasagne is super easy using crème fraiche instead of a white sauce – an idea I have adapted from a Jamie Oliver recipe or for a more budget friendly version you could use cottage cheese instead.

Makes: 4 adult portions and 2 preschooler portions
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 2 1/2 hours

Ingredients:
For the bolognese:
400g premium beef mince
1 can whole tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato paste (optional for younger babies if you want to keep it salt free)
1 tbsp tomato ketchup
200ml stock or water (I use homemade salt free stock)
1 tbsp plain flour
1 carrot chopped finely
1 courgette chopped finely
4 button mushrooms chopped finely
1/2 onion chopped finely
2 garlic cloves
2 tsp dried mixed herbs or 1 handful fresh herbs if you have them
2 tbsp oil

For the lasagne:
200g crème fraiche
100g mozzarella
50g parmesan
200g lasagne pasta (either fresh or dried. If you are using dried soften before cooking)

Heat 2 tbsps of olive oil in a heavy based casserole dish. Add onion, garlic, mixed herbs, carrots, courgette and mushrooms. Fry until the onion has softened.

Add the beef mince and brown.

Sprinkle flour over the mince and mix through.

Add tomatoes, tomato paste, ketchup and stock. Bring to the boil and transfer to the oven at 180 ‘C  for 2 hours (once it’s in the oven you can forget about it for a couple of hours – so a great dish to prepare while you baby has a nap). Once the bolognese is cooked increase oven temperature to 200 ‘C .

Grease an earthenware lasagne dish with olive oil. Create a layer of pasta on the bottom of the dish, spoon over bolognese followed by half the crème fraiche. Repeat. Finish with a layer of pasta topped with the grated cheese.

Cook at 200 ‘C  for 30 minutes until bubbling and golden on top. You may need to cover the dish with foil after 15-20 minutes to stop the cheese getting too crispy.

Serve with cooked vegetables or salad. Enjoy!

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One thought on “5 tips for stress free Family Meals even if you have a fussy eater

  1. Pingback: 11 Ideas to help make mealtimes with your baby and toddler happy, sociable times | Freddie's Food

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