Weight Loss Support - Cooking for family and sticking to plan

10-24-2012, 08:03 PM
A friend with a non-dieting husband and three young teenagers wants to lose weight but is struggling with fixing two different meals. The rest of the family has no interest in changing their eating habits.

This forum has so many people with such great ideas - I've put mine below, but what would YOU suggest to my friend?

My kids were older when I started eating healthy, and I'm divorced, so there's no hubby to worry about. I usually either 1) made them dinner and made myself something different that was simple but on plan, or 2) made them something reasonably healthy and made myself a slightly healthier and/or lower calorie version of the same.

I started putting fruit or fruit salad in cool glass bowls, and would even get a "wow" out of the kids. Snuck more veggies into things when I could, and cut back on grease and sugar whenever possible to s-l-o-w-l-y get them used to healthier food. Stopped baking except on rare occasion, and told them it was because I love them. Tried not to be extreme, and in the end, they were old enough to eat what they wanted by getting it when they were out.

I like to make and freeze portions of lean chicken, fish and beef (as well as whole grains) so I can make myself something decent in a few minutes. I also keep things like frozen onion/pepper mixes and frozen artichokes on hand to help with that. I keep lots of salads fixings on hand, and use a lot of spice combos too so I can make something satisfying without spending too much time.

10-24-2012, 09:41 PM
One of the easiest ways is just to eat a smaller portion of the same exact foods that are always cooked. Like you mentioned, it's a process, especially when not everyone is on board. Small changes at a time.

Only Me
10-24-2012, 09:54 PM
Without knowing what sort of diet her family eats or what sort of changes she wants to make, it's somewhat difficult to make suggestions.

There are small changes that can be made to make things healthier/lower calorie without leaving your friend feeling deprived. Smaller portions of high calorie foods is a big one. Adding a salad or steamed veggies or cut up raw veggies or low calorie soup to a meal make it more filling without leaving you feeling deprived for having a small portion of the higher calorie food.

Eg. Tonight I made beef and pinto soft tacos for supper. I had ONE tortilla, 1/2 cup pintos, some guacamole, and lots of salsa and lettuce on it. I had a salad on the side. Dh and the kids loaded theirs up with beef and cheese and sour cream as well, and had tortilla chips on the side. I didn't feel deprived (I don't eat meat anyway), and I didn't make a separate meal.

10-24-2012, 10:03 PM
All great ideas from the above posters!

I tend to eat a low carb diet so I find it fairly easy to simply make one meal and then eliminate the carb portion from my plate.

Tonight it was more complicated to do so (but not really :))but I made two lasagna rolls for the hubby & son. I set aside some of the cheese, sauce and meat for myself. I then made portabella pizzas for myself by stacking what I had set aside for myself on the mushroom caps. They were delish, and two large 'pizzas' came in at 308 calories.

It doesn't take a lot of extra work to tweak one meal into two, in my experience. It would help a lot if we had a good idea of the kinds of food her family likes to eat and also what kind of eating plan she is on. WW? South Beach? Ideal Protein? Low Carb?

10-24-2012, 10:08 PM
This was a very long transition for me. At first, only I changed the way I ate, and didn't cook really at all. It was just too overwhelming. Hubby helped out tremendously. We never ate very badly, but at the beginning of my weight loss, it was near impossible for me to cook and not want to eat it. I didn't have enough self control at that time to just have a small portion. I was used to eating as much, or more!, as my husband.

After a couple of months, I slowly worked in making dinner for the family again. I went through my recipe book and threw away the ones that were really just crap in a casserole dish...lol. Others I tweaked in small ways to make them healthy. I experimented a lot, and wrote down what I changed each time, in case it was a hit. About six months in, I was comfortably buying and cooking all meals again, except sticking to our healthier recipes and newly found favorites.

I now cook about five nights a week, and I eat most of what I serve the kids and husband. I take a much smaller portion, and supplement my meal with additional servings of veggies, salad, etc. The other two nights of the week, the family either eats leftovers, or we do "breakfast for dinner" or even just sandwiches. On these "easy nights" I usually have a Lean Cuisine, or something healthy that I already have pre made and pre-portioned.

I also used to bake either everyday or every other day. That is just so unnecessary. I felt I was giving my love with food. I now love them to pieces with healthy foods, trying new things and taking time to love MYSELF and just say no to junk!

Eventually, we eliminated trans fat and HFCS from our house entirely. This way another slooooooow process of finding alternatives to old favorites, new great foods, etc. Occasionally my kids ask for something on our "no" list and I just say that that food is not healthy for us, and we don't buy that. However, I don't mind if they were to eat something like that at a friends house or at school. I don't want to over-regulate and make them weird....lol. I did find it funny when a mom called to ask if my son was allowed to eat Fruit Loops. ;)

10-25-2012, 12:06 PM
Lol, I love these threads. I do. Because when I see them I think of my grandmother, and I really loved her. :)

She had a lot of phrases she used to say, like 'if you dont listen you have to feel..' gems like that, lol. One of her things she would say about dinner was 'you can go a house further..' as in, if you didn't like what SHE had picked out, and made from scratch, you could go next door. But I can always say that what you go there would not have been as good.

This is the same approach I take with my family. (Which is what my mom did too.) If DH doesn't like what I made for dinner (and shopped and paid for, lol) he can go without, or fix his own. He's 33. He knows where the stove is.

When we have kids (and when I was a kid) they can eat what is provided for them - unless they have a dietary restriction, or an allergy. Other than that? They should be thankful that Mom has time (and cares enough!) to make them dinner. DH's bff has a daugheter that can have no dairy, and is gluten free. Her mom makes her her own food, obv, but the other 2 kids don't (and the parents dont) have to eat that way, and they choose not to. THAT is the only way I would ever "make two dinners"... Not after working a full time job, doing chores, planning for and shopping for the meals, AND then making them... lol.

Just my 2 cents, lol. It's not generally a popular opinion.. but it makes me all warm inside to think of my grandma, lol.

:D GL to your friend. I grew up eating fairly healthy, just WAY too much of it, LOL. Sigh. ;)

10-25-2012, 01:20 PM
Kate: I :heart: your grandma as well. She sounds a lot like mine and my mom too.

I agree with everyone who says there should be a way of mostly modifying what she makes for her family for herself by having a smaller portion bulked up with veggies etc. If what her family eats is sooooo bad that there is no way to salvage something out of it even a tiny portion, then they really shouldn't be eating that way themselves at all.

But life isn't that perfect and straightforward, I know. Simple meals are a great options for eating with people not on your plan. No one can be offended by some nicely marinated chicken or steak broiled in the oven and oven fries or cheat's mashed potatoes (which uses half and half instead of cream and only 1 TBS of butter and substitutes half of the potatoes with parsnips, and no one can taste the difference) or even oven sweet potato fries. Roast meats and fish are easy ideas or pasta with tomato sauce with shrimp or sliced chicken in it. Or healthier chicken tenders (with raw chicken breast) which she can coat with seasoned crushed cornflakes or bran flakes or panko and even cook it in the oven instead of deep frying. She can do pasta bakes with reduced fat cheese and ricotta and canned diced tomatoes and lower fat ground beef or chicken or turkey and it comes out really rich.

I guess the point I'm trying to make is that it may not have to be a huge transition making recipes healthier for her family depending on what they currently eat. Even if it's a steady diet of fast food, possibly she might be able to make good choices from the chosen restaurant (chicken caesar salad without the dressing or a chicken wing appetizer as a main meal with a garden salad etc) OR she can stick some meat/fish and veggies in a pan, season and chuck them into the oven which won't take more than a couple of minutes for her own separate meal.

Let your friend know that it is possible and continue to encourage her as much as you can.

10-25-2012, 02:07 PM
The motto in my house is "if I cooked it, you're going to eat it". Because there are many (most) nights I come home from work and the last thing I feel like doing is cooking. Therefore, if I made the effort, so will they. They do have a choice, however. If they don't eat it, they are more than welcome to go hungry until breakfast the next morning. This policy includes my husband. If he's suddenly too full to finish his dinner, and then eating sandwiches or snacking an hour later, I go on strike and I don't cook for a week or two. Yes, I am petty that way.

I always fix something I can eat. I will tweak when necessary, as others have. I might have spaghetti squash while they eat pasta, and things like that. I love the portabella mushroom idea! I typically don't do anything special, though. My husband doesn't cook often, and when he does it's one of a few staples that he always cooks. It makes it easy to plan for. I also cook extra to freeze for myself to eat for lunch at work or to use on those nights we end up getting take out, or whatever.

My other motto is "if I like it, and I want it, and you leave it out, I will throw it away". I won't deny my family the things they want. Just because I'm on a diet doesn't mean they have to be. I do ask for their consideration, though. I asked my husband to bring home snacks that I don't want (there are so many for them to choose from, and only a few that I really want), and I asked the whole family to keep their goodies lower or higher than eye level in the pantry, and don't leave things lying around. I have had to follow through on my threat a few times. And I don't mean, just toss it in the trash. I mean, empty the contents of the bag in to the trash or wash it down the garbage disposal.

It's really not all that hard to keep the family on board with eating healthier.

10-25-2012, 02:10 PM
Lots of great ideas - thank you!

Part of the issue (well, I think a big part :):)) is that she tends to be a perfectionist and on the controlling side too. Forcing everyone else from one extreme to the other wouldn't work at my house. ("Hey, let's have plain baked tilapia and steamed veggies instead of that loaded pizza, chips and Coke we've had every other Friday night since you could chew.") I'm exaggerating a little, but not much. I wonder sometimes if she's looking for reasons she "can't" do this.

But again, my kids were a little older, and I don't have a husband to consider. It's great to get all of your perspectives and different approaches! :carrot:

10-25-2012, 02:23 PM
I've got six kids, and I've had to figure out a way to manage my eating while still cooking for them. I, too, follow the rules of some of the above posters that you eat what's cooked for you, or you're free to make a PB&J. (I always tell them that our home is not an all-day buffet). My kids, thank G-d, are not picky eaters; we're pescatarians, and they love healthy foods. Even though I cook healthy foods for them, I still chose to eat something else myself most evenings. I made lentil barley crock pot soup yesterday, but had a large salad with salmon for myself. It's easier for me to keep track of my calorie count that way (I still calorie count and log all my food).

I also will use prepared meals by Amy's Kitchen; there are lots of other options available like Lean Cuisine. This would take away the need to cook 2 different meals, while keeping mom on plan and still satisfying kids and husband.

Another option is to always eat the same few things for dinner. I eat virtually the same breakfast everyday (oatmeal), and it makes it easier as far as planning. She could chose a couple of quick and easy meals, make a few batches, freeze, then microwave for herself ( vegetarian burritos are popular in my house).

Another idea is to teach them how to cook their own meals; they certainly are old enough. Even if it's something simple like an omelette for dinner, let them handle it themselves.

Also, make large batches of things like quinoa, beans, brown rice, and whole wheat pasta and couscous to use throughout the week in different recipes. Mom can portion out what she needs, then use the rest in meals for the family.

I also found that continually talking to my family about my needs and the benefit of their support in helping me reach my goals to stay fit and healthy helped. They came to understand that they stood to gain from my lifestyle changes too.

10-25-2012, 06:41 PM
One option that no one has mentioned is IF. Your friend could try that and stick to a more liberal family dinner.

10-25-2012, 08:12 PM
I agree with eating a smaller portion of what everyone else is eating & or eliminating the grains/statches. Like if I made chicken, veggies with rice. I'll just have 4-6oz of chicken with a cup of veggies and not have the rice. (To save calories & cut back on carbs).

10-25-2012, 08:13 PM
One option that no one has mentioned is IF. Your friend could try that and stick to a more liberal family dinner.

I agree, this is actually what I am doing right now :-) I love it!

10-25-2012, 09:35 PM
I'm voting for low cal/fat versions of the same meal. I started substituting things in our diet and my husband didn't even notice.

We eat what we crave (lasagna, pizza, burgers) but we just make healthy choices in the ingredients we choose and control our portions.

My husband is like a child, it was hard for me to do in the beginning too.

I don't make 2 meals, I make 1 meal that everyone enjoys.

Good luck to your friend!

10-25-2012, 10:20 PM
I cook for 6 every night and most nights its relatively healthy. I always make a salad or veggie and if its more of a lasagna or spaghetti night I make my self a tiny portion and a huge salad with a ton of variety. A lot of people seem to be doing this type of thing.
I love the mushroom cap idea. BTW.....

She can make it work if she wants to......slow healthy changes for the family and yourself are the way to make positive lasting habits. One meal for everyone!

10-26-2012, 12:08 AM
tell her to check out skinnytaste.com. The blogger, Gina, has some great recipes that are healthy and family approved. Every time i make one of her dishes, NO one believes they are healthy or low fat. Plus, my cooking challenged girlfriend can even make her recipes.

From there, she could always take it slow (if her personality allows). Maybe she cooks healthy Monday-Thursday, with Friday-Sunday being "normal" days. If she only had to construct her own meals 3 days a week, it might be easier...and there is a lot of potential for leftovers on those nights

10-26-2012, 05:52 PM
the great thing about sticking to a healthy diet is that it will give you some faith to convince your family, friends etc to change their ways as well. If they see the results in you, that's great!

10-26-2012, 06:26 PM
She can make it work if she wants to......slow healthy changes for the family and yourself are the way to make positive lasting habits. One meal for everyone!

Very good point about the slow healthy changes. It's been at least two years, with a few attempts at extreme change, all failed. If she'd slowly started healthy changes, they'd be used to much different food right now. We talked about that at the beginning, but I guess she has to see the need herself.

10-26-2012, 06:29 PM
Healthy meals are good for everyone...regardless of age or weight. Tell your friend to make healthy food that everyone can enjoy together. There are lots of websites that have "healthier" versions of all sorts of food...everything from pasta to asian to mexican...you name it. Even comfort food can be defatted and have veggies added in.

FWIW-one of the things I pride myself on is that i refuse to eat food that doesn't taste good. I als o insist on eating food that is good for me. They are not mutually exclusive and my non-dieting friends rave about the "diet" food I always cook when they come over for dinner. They can't tel the difference. There is a great cookbook by Devcin Alexander who is (or was) oje of the chefs for TBL-she really demonstrates how to make food healthier. I think it's called "the most decadent diet book ever" or something like that. It would be a great place for your frined to start to learn about cooking one meal that everyone can eat intewad of having to work twice as hard. Proll can buy it used on amazon or ebay for cheap, too. It has my all time favorite marinara and then spaghetti sauce recipe. Better than anything I've ever tried. Honest.


Miss Health
10-27-2012, 01:48 AM
You could try bulking up food with lentils. Use Hummus as a sauce etc.

It also may not be the ideal solution, but adding small amounts of cheese can make a salad tastier. It's not the ideal healthy eating idea, but it's a start.

10-27-2012, 02:03 AM
I don't have kids, but when I was a kid, my grandparents lived with us. My dad and brother stayed thin (in fact my brother had difficulty putting weight on) despite large appetites. My grandmother needed a special diet for her diabetes and low-thryoid (she actually gained weight on a hospital weight loss diet when she was hospitalized for bronchitis - and no one brought her food in. This is how they actually diagnosed her low-thryoid), and my mother and I were frequently dieting (I was put on my first diet in kindergarten).

Mom didn't make different meals for everyone, she made one meal. The brother (who was underweight) was encouraged to add fats and to take second helpings. The men ate what they wanted. My grandmother ate small portions and counted her food "exchanges" she was given. My mother and I were WW members, which at the time was also an exchange plan.

Exchange plans and other forms of calorie-counting make dieting easy with a family, because you can eat whatever fits into your plan. Mom usually made a simple meat without added fat (roasted beef, pork, or chicken or baked fish or chicken). Pot roasts were common because you could take large, tough (and cheap) pieces of beef, pork, or chicken and cook them low and slow (along with onions, carrots, celery, potatoes, turnips, kohlrabi, parsnips....) in one pot, and either served in the pot at the table, or poured onto a serving platter.

A salad was always served in a big bowl, either with my mom's homemade italian dressing (about 60 calories per tablespoon) or dry with all the salad dressings and croutons on the side.

We'd measure out our starchy veggies with a measuring cup (and then when we bought one, a food scale) and we'd measure out our portion of meat, and we'd eat as much salad and nonstarchy veggies as we wanted (because they weren't limited on our plan, at that time).

The nondieters would serve themselves second (and in some cases third) helpings and would eat more starch. There was always bread and butter on the table (but Mom and I rarely wasted the starch servings on bread).

There were only a few times that my mom made separate meals for the dieters. The only exceptions I remember was when Weight Watchers required a certain number of fish and liver meals (I think liver was once a week, and fish was two or three times). When Mom made liver, she'd fry it in bacon and onion for the non-dieters, and steam it with onions for the dieters (I LOVE liver to this day, but I prefer it the way I wasn't usually allowed to have it - fried with bacon and onion).

10-27-2012, 09:30 AM
I always seem to make some sort of "starch" to go with whatever I'm cooking... along with some lean protein and non starchy veggies and I just skip the "starchy" stuff like potatoes or rice, etc... I usually always make a nice big salad as well... So there's a little something for everyone... and no one feels deprived...

10-27-2012, 02:45 PM
tell her to check out skinnytaste.com. The blogger, Gina, has some great recipes that are healthy and family approved. =

Thanks for this link. I'm love healthy food/recipe sites and cookbooks for meal ideas and I've been trawling this one since you mentioned. It's pretty excellent!