Monday, February 3, 2020

What's for Dinner

I don't enjoy cooking.  I've never really liked cooking.  I like baking!  I like baking breads and desserts.  We don't really need me to be baking breads and desserts though and we do need to have balanced meals (ugh cooking).

We ate out a lot before N was diagnosed with diabetes.  We had dinners in sometimes but it was always so much effort.  Each person in the family has different preferences and I remember as a child being forced to eat and clean your plate.  I was a sneaky child about food.  I'd hide food in my pockets and flush it down the toilet.  I'd hide food on a ledge under the table.  I'd sneak food from my plate to the plates of those nearest me.  I would cry and carry on when forced to eat and there were several times when I actually would vomit.  I was HORRIBLE!  It isn't the flavor of food that is difficult for me; it is the way foods feel in your mouth that cause the gagging reaction.  I don't know if I had been raised by other parents that I would be any different now.  I have a very strong sense of smell and very easy gag reflex for textures in my mouth.  As a parent, I never wanted to make the food battles that had been part of my miserable dinner time experiences.  I made all new problems instead:)

I have two sons.  Pretty much whatever one likes to eat the other one doesn't much care for.  My older son doesn't like cheese but my younger son eats all kinds of cheese.  The older son likes several vegetables but the younger only eats fruits.  The types of fruit one brother likes the other brother doesn't care for.  They both like chicken strips but the kind of seasoning they like is very different.  One son likes spicy foods and the other thinks spices are too much.  Serving a meal that I think everyone will eat is not very likely at this point but you have to start somewhere.  I know that we didn't have a very healthy diet but that wasn't a big deal to me.  I figured that wasn't uncommon in families.  It is important to have a healthy diet but when the ramifications of eating the way we did were years and years off it was hard to make this a priority.  With type 1 diabetes in the family the ramifications of an unhealthy diet are NOW, right now in your blood glucose reading.  So we will all be switching to a healthier diet but how and where to start. 

Thankfully we have the help of a nutritionist and dietitian.  I know my goal right now is to get us on a regular schedule for meals and snacks and to make sure that healthy options are served and someone is modeling eating those foods.  It doesn't make the responsibility of cooking any more fun or easier.  The first couple weeks we were home I was so overwhelmed with the food.  I'd cook for an hour trying to make a healthy meal and in five minutes everyone would be "done" having eaten almost no food at all.  Little payout for a lot of effort.  As the time has gone on and we are six weeks post diagnosis I can see things starting to get easier.  So where to start?

First, I made a list of the foods that all of us eat.  Not what I thought would be best but do we actually all eat.  It was a short list: pizza, chicken strips/nuggets, waffles/pancakes, steak, french fries, crackers, chips, dinner rolls.  That was it.  Each individual person eats a lot more than these few items but these were the only things on everyone's list. I started there.  Chicken strip night, pizza night, steak night, breakfast night - four days of dinner options. 

Next, I started rounding those meals out.  I added a vegetable tray and fruit to every dinner.  There is always a veggie tray and some fruit on the table ALWAYS.  I also started making some substitutions to these meals.

For our chicken nuggets - I traded frozen chicken strips for trying some recipes for chicken strips using chicken breasts.  At first I would serve both the familiar and new but now I just serve the new chicken strips.  I found a recipe that we can all eat with varying levels of satisfaction and I make adjustments to it each week hoping that some day it will be about perfect.  The frozen french fries have been traded for home made fries & home made sweet potato fries (the kids are willing to eat one sweet potato fry each time I make them but they mostly eat the regular fries).  I borrowed an air fryer from a family member and cook this whole meal in it. 

Pizza night hasn't been adjusted much as we get it from a take n bake place.  We've switched to the thin crust and no longer get breadsticks or desserts.  Instead we have pizza, veggie tray, fruit, and a sugar free popsicle for dessert. 

Steak is like the chicken strips.  I keep trying variations of recipes looking for the best fit.  Everyone likes a seasoned steak from the grill so that is once a week now.  Since this one is easy it is usually the night we get more creative with vegetables.  We've tried sweet potato, acorn squash, steamed broccoli, steamed cauliflower, roasted carrots, roasted peppers & onions, corn, green beans, artichoke, and hummus.  None of those were big hits but we'll try them all again in a rotation until something sticks. 

I've also tried skillet and sheet pan cooking for steaks and with some teriyaki sauce we were able to add a meal.  Teriyaki steak (or chicken because everyone will eat either) with rice or noodles.  Again we try some veggies with this meal since the rest of the meal is pretty much working for everyone.  I've made the rice fried with onion, peas, and carrots.  N doesn't like fried rice because he doesn't like mixed foods.  We also tried zucchini with this without much success but I liked it.  Our whole family likes going out to a hibachi grill so I'm continuing to try recipes of this style.

Breakfast for dinner is hit or miss.  One child likes waffles and the other likes pancakes but neither is ideal.  I was hoping to use those to get more eggs introduced.  Both kids like bacon so that is easy for this meal.  I've adjusted the batter so it is a homemade with lower carbs than the mixes but otherwise this isn't my favorite meal to make and no one is really loving this for dinner.  As we find other things we'll probably take this out of rotation.

Crackers, chips, dinner rolls - that isn't really a meal and it isn't even the base for a meal.  Most of these things we are basically limiting.  Our teenager has access to chips but N is off chips and rolls for now.  He takes wheat thins in his lunch most days with meat and cheese for school so he gets his cracker fix.

What else have we tried: shepherd's pie, tacos, fajitas, pot roast, beef stew, chili, chicken casserole (several), pork chops and the list goes on.  The most difficult part for me is that there is so little that everyone will eat.  There is not a single meal I can put on the table and think "everyone will have some of everything on the table" NOPE.  But I can think "we all sit at the table" and "everyone has something on the table he/she will eat".  I can see that things will change if I keep at it.  My older son used to have a single bit of dinner then make himself peanut butter toast - now he just eats enough dinner to not need toast.  My younger son will try the main dishes for dinner but we are still allowing him the neutral alternate - wheat pita with cheese or pepperoni pita depending on how many times he has tried the main meal (first time we allow for the pizza since he never likes anything on a first try but once he has started to eat a dinner option we start fading out that pizza to pita with cheese and ultimately plan to fade the alternate entirely).  It is hard since we know he needs to eat and carbs are part of what he needs to have.  We know there are better carbs and not as great carbs but we just keep doing the best we can.

I'm looking forward to the day when I read back through these posts and realize that things are much different with foods.  Right now I'm tired of thinking about dinner and trying to figure out what to make. 

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