Component cooking is a great strategy for feeding a table of varying dietary needs and preferences. It is possible to make only one meal!
I am not a restaurant, is a mantra I tell myself daily. With three kids who each have opinions (I mean, how dare they LOL) it’s hard to please everyone. And then throw in a variety of diet needs, the stress is high!
Different Diets at One Table
Now days it’s quite common to see an eclectic group at your dinner table. Whether it’s young kids you have picky palates, or a range of food issues, intolerances and allergies.
We often feel like we need to make multiple meals in order to feed everyone. The thing is you don’t.
Making multiple meals
While it sounds easiest to just make many meals so that everyone is taken care of, the long term effects of this aren’t good for us mentally.
It takes a lot of our energy to create one meal, let alone more than one. So it burns us out quickly. And the last thing we need is to reach burnout faster!
It also creates a bad habit with catering to each and every thing our family wants. Now allergies and other medical needs are one thing, but when it comes to preferences and tastes, creating the bad habit of always getting what you want isn’t good long term.
So how do we handle all the needs our families have? Is there a way we can make it work without going crazy?
Component meals are my new bestie. This is when you essentially make meal parts that can be put together to make one larger meal.
For example, you can make the following:
- Other proteins of choice
- Sautéed or roasted veggies
Then each person can build their own tacos, burritos, bowls, etc. This works for many different things like pizza, pasta, salads, etc.
How it helps
Not only does component cooking take less time (you only really need to prep a few days a week, then use the ingredients in different ways) but it also results in less complaining and allows different dietary needs to eat the same thing.
Meals and kids
The thing with kids, is that they want some control over things. When it comes to food, it’s the one area that they can choose to control by refusing to eat. We can’t force a child to eat, much like we can’t force them to sleep.
When you let go and put some control back into them, food becomes less of a power struggle.
Component meals are a great way to do that because essentially they can choose which of the components they want in their meal. Parents can still have parameters to make sure their kids are getting well rounded meals
I like to prep a variety of veggies and a mix of grains and proteins. We tell them kids they need one thing from each category to make it a whole some meal, but they can choose which one.
Because they feel like they are the ones choosing, it creates less of an issue. Now there will always be kids that still complain, but the key there is to make sure to have at least one thing your child likes in the bunch.
I also like to encourage the kids to try one new thing each time as well. This doesn’t always work, but I don’t push it and if you keep offering, one day they may take you up on it!
Meeting all diets
The great thing with component meals is that you can have something for everyone. Meat eater? Great, offer the meat in the protein group.
Plant eater only? No problem, plenty of plants. And this goes the same for gluten-free , dairy free, etc etc.
When you build your meals, it’s easy for each person to make sure they are following food guidelines for medical reasons, or just simply eating what they prefer.
How to prep component meals
The first thing you need to do is figure out what things you want to make. If it’s tacos, you will need to jot down all the different parts of that meal and prep those components.
If it’s pizzas, think about all you need to make that. Same goes for pasta meals, salads, bowls, etc.
You can prep the same components to use in different ways too. You can chop a bunch of different veggies for pizza night, then sauté the leftovers for burrito night.
You can also use leftover components to make a whole new meal. If you have leftovers from burritos, you can turn that into veggie and bean burgers or even make enchiladas out of them.
If you have different dietary needs, you will need to make two separate pans of those secondary meals, but it is still easy to do as you are using the leftover components and making the same general thing.
Overall, this is a great way to make life easier when it comes to food! To learn more about making food less stressful, make sure to watch my masterclass on meal systems!
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