Mastering Meals Step Four: Planning

Are you getting a taste, so to speak, of the adventure of mastering meals? You have reaped the rewards of step two or step three. Now you may want to experiment with meal-planning - or you may not. It is up to you. You have already accomplished a lot. If you choose to go ahead, consider some advance planning. Know in the morning what you will have for dinner. Figure out meals a day or a few days ahead of time. Give yourself full marks for having a meal whether it is cooked from scratch, defrosted in the microwave, delivered to your door, ordered at a fast-food restaurant, or pulled out of a bag.

An essential part of both eating competence and the division of responsibility in feeding is reassuring yourself and your family that you will be fed. After that, let yourself and other family members decide what and how much to eat from what is on the table.

Here are some family-friendly meal-planning tactics:

  • Include all the food groups: Meat or other protein; a couple of starchy foods, fruit or vegetable or both; butter, salad dressing or gravy; and milk.
  • Always offer plenty of ''bread'' or some other starch that family members like and can fill up on. That could be sliced bread, tortillas, pita, Indian flat bread, Asian pancakes or wraps, cornbread, biscuits, crackers, rice, potatoes, or pasta.
  • Remember, when you introduce new foods, also offer something familiar that everyone likes and can fill up on.
  • Include high- and low-fat food in meals and snacks. This satisfies both big and small appetites.
  • Make mealtimes pleasant. Make conversation. Don't scold or fight. Observe a division of responsibility in feeding.
  • Regularly offer forbidden food.

If you are ready, you might want to get more organized with cooking, planning and shopping. However, be careful not to be caught in food rules. Consider Step Five: Avoid Virtue. Is life getting too busy and step four too hard? Go back to step two or step three when you need to. Have the occasional cook's night off, and have popcorn and cocoa in front of the television. Remember, even the most ho-hum meal is better than no meal at all.

For more about making positive use of meals and snacks (and for research backing up this advice), see Ellyn Satter's Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family: How to Eat, How to Raise Good Eaters, How to Cook, Kelcy Press, 2008. Also see to purchase books and to review other resources.

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