Making the Most of Family Mealtime
Coco Britz is a blogger, plant lover and mother. While working as a private chef, she developed a knack for creating dishes that taste great and are full of healthful goodness.
Residing in Kent, with her family of five, Coco spends a lot of time testing, cooking and creating nutritionally balanced, plant-based dishes that her kids will love. She also enjoys entertaining friends and family, most of whom ask for the recipe of any dish she serves.
Her blog, Coco’s Plant Kitchen, showcases her culinary craftsmanship. One look and you’ll be convinced to go veg.
As part of our ongoing Hack Squad blog series, Coco shares how she makes the most of family mealtimes…
I always look forward to our evening meal. It gives my family the opportunity to catch up and chat about our days. But it’s not always easy.
Let me explain…
There are five of us: myself, my husband, Adam, my daughters Posie, 13, and Sunny, 11, and Zeddy, who is one. Quite the age gap, I know, but our youngest was neither a surprise nor a mistake. He’s a gorgeous little boy who completes our family.
We eat a plant-based diet. We’re not preachy about our choices; we simply try to be mindful of the environment and the people around us. Our hope is that our small actions compound with the actions of others – and eventually affect the bigger picture.
Parenting – and feeding – teenagers and a baby can be quite challenging, having to switch from baby-mode to teenage-mode in an instant. But there are many behaviors that remain the same. The powers of bargaining, distraction and knowing when to pick my battles work well on both teenagers and one-year-old.
The same goes for withholding the details of what’s for dinner.
As an active family, the next meal always seems to be on everyone’s minds – adult, teenager and baby, alike. On the way out the door for school, one of the girls will always ask. And plant-based or otherwise, I, like most parents, face the age-old challenge of getting everyone to eat the same meal.
I have learned not to say too much. For one, I’m never sure myself #momlife. Beyond that, I have discovered that dinnertime success is all in the marketing. Here are my rules to live by:
- Never mention all the ingredients.
- Give the meal a proper title. “Gazpacho” or “tagine” always go over better than “cold soup” or “stew.”
- Make the eating method more fun.
I make mealtime more enticing for my girls by getting them involved. On its own, a bean and sweet potato chili would be met with long faces, but add guacamole, salsa and some taco shells, and suddenly it’s a go-to dinner. The girls are happy because they can get their hands dirty and build their own tacos. And I’m happy because I know they’ll wolf it down.
Plant-based eating has also made our family, especially the girls, far more adventurous. Posie, our oldest, will show me a recipe she has seen, mostly from her Instagram feed, and we will make it together. Everyone takes more ownership in meal prep, and we get more quality time together. While chopping, chatting, stirring and sautéing, the girls more openly share the issues they’re facing. Doing an activity seems to make it easier.
This is not to say that things always run smoothly. Often the girls are baking, Zeddy is pulling everything out of the cupboards, and tensions are running high. The mess and noise put me on edge, but I’m learning when to pick my battles. I try to remember that we are all in one room, listening and interacting with each other. Even if chaos and destruction surrounds us, I would far prefer the cleanup than everyone sitting in their rooms scrolling through their Instagram feeds.
The same goes for mealtime itself. While preparing a nutritious evening meal that my family enjoys is no small task, I always look forward to gathering around the dinner table. We all nibble away happily. And thanks to a no-devices-rule, we have each other’s undivided attention.
Everyone can sit, eat, relax, and most importantly, talk. It’s how we stay close and connected as a family, especially in the midst of turbulent teenage years. It’s not for everyone, but it works for us.
In case it’s also for you, I can recommend one of our favorite meals. We top black bean, hazelnut, and almond bean burgers with hummus, avocado and/or pesto. Everyone can pick their favorite toppings and build their own burgers.
Cheers to mealtime with your family!