It’s a new year and headlines tell us it’s time for a “new you,” too. That’s easier said than done, as any mom will tell you. The responsibilities of parenthood don’t magically disappear with the change of the calendar year.
After a month of eating on the run, lots of baking, and perhaps lots of snacking, it’s hard to find the motivation to break up with those bad habits. Throw in a few major personal curve balls and well I found myself really down on my ability to find my way out, so to speak. What I realized while making a simple recipe for muesli the other day is that I need to be as kind and gentle with myself as I am with others.
How does any of this apply to getting the three meals plus snacks ready we need for our families each day? For starters, don’t try to change everything at once in terms of how you cook. Just because you know whole-grain flours are better for you, doesn’t mean you have to start using it in every recipe immediately. Give yourself time to learn how it works in your favorite dishes, and time to find new recipes you like using it in. Take a cue from your kids here, and learn how to walk before you leap right in.
Making small changes over time and being consistent is another goal to keep at the top of your cooking resolutions list. This approach will more likely lead to better cooking and eating habits as the year progresses. Want to broaden your family’s veggie horizons? Try mixing some of their favorites in with a new one. Kids may push the new comer aside at first; don’t make a big deal about it, but do keep introducing new ones.
It’s also important to set goals based on your available time. One of the things I love about New York City’s frigid winters is the way they nudge me to make a pot of soup. Once all the ingredients are in the pot, the cooking process is pretty hands-off, and I’ll usually have leftovers for another meal and even lunch. This is a perfect weekend project and also a way to introduce new grains like couscous or whole-wheat pasta to your family.
Approach changing the way you eat, and cook, like you’re preparing for a marathon: You don’t want to start off fast and use all your energy at once. Start off small, and you’ll see your efforts blossom into big changes over the long haul for a continued happy and healthy year.
Some recipe ideas to get you started:
Slow-Cooker Chicken and Pasta Soup
New Year’s Update: Swap in a whole-grain pasta
Ina Garten’s Mac n’ Cheese
New Year’s Update: Swap in whole-grain pasta and try steamed spinach in place of the tomatoes.
Aida Mollenkamp’s Three Cheese Quesadillas
New Year’s Update: This is already a great way to introduce kids to a new type of cheese (and boost their calcium). Take it a step further and add some sautéed vegetables and use whole-grain flour tortillas.
Jennifer Perillo is a recipe developer and food writer living in Brooklyn, N.Y. Her recipes and tips for feeding families homemade meals are a regular feature in Working Mother magazine, where she’s the consulting food editor, as well Relish Magazine, Parenting, Kiwi and her blog, In Jennie’s Kitchen.