I am chief cook and shopper in our house. For the most part, I enjoy it. While the world conspires daily to throw newer and more complex demands into life, there is something simple and lovely about getting your family around the table and giving them something nice to eat.
But – how does that work if you are on a diet and the rest of them aren’t?
Much as I like cooking I don’t want to be making two or three different dinners each night. My husband is a 6’ 5” regular runner, he really doesn’t need to be on a diet and neither do my kids. I also don’t want my girls wondering why mummy is eating a different meal to them and start them off down the road of worrying about their own weight and every single thing they eat. I want them to grow up understanding healthy eating but able to enjoy food too. It’s an ever harder balance.
All that means making sure we have meals that are both weight watchers friendly and provide enough energy for everyone else. It’s not always easy, but I’m two and half weeks in now and I’ve developed a few family diet hacks:
1- Alter the portion numbers
I have one large husband and three smallish kids so I find that making meals designed to feed four adults works pretty well. It’s fairly easy to judge a quarter of something by eye so I serve up my correct portion first, then give the kids what looks right for them. My husband gets what’s left, which is usually almost two weight watchers portions.
2- Bulk up on 0 points veg
If all else fails; carrots. I’m making a lot of casserole type meals at the moment and bulking them out with extra 0 points veg. If a recipe says two carrots, I stick in four and perhaps some mushrooms too. My kids can be a bit fussy but carrots are always acceptable (so far), so they are my go-to veg for this. But any 0 points veg in the main or as a side makes for a bigger dinner and of course there is the advantage of the vitamins too. Some of them can be smuggled in unnoticed if cut up small enough.
3- Prep Ahead
All my babies have suffered from the 4pm witching hour. The time when, however great they have been in the day, no matter what has gone on with naps, they just turn into cross, screaming, clinging little grumps. 4 pm is also exactly when I need to start on the dinner for my other two who will be starving by 5pm. It’s my least favourite bit of the day. So wherever possible I try to avoid it.
My slow cooker is the hero here. I can chuck all the ingredients in whenever the baby decides to take a decent nap or play in her bouncer for a bit, then just spoon it out when the screaming begins. Stuff does come out quite watery so, if I have time, I transfer it to a casserole dish and finish the cooking on the hob. If the slow cooker isn’t an option I at least try to do as much prep as I can before the afternoon school run. I even get out all the pans I will need to make it as easy as possible to cook while holding a cross baby and sorting out whatever homework/instrument practice/fights are going on with the other two.
If you look at this weeks meal plan you’ll notice a couple of ready meals on there. Much as I love to cook there are days when I just can’t be arsed. Two nights this week my husband will be working late and eating out, leaving me to do the witching hour and bedtime solo. But the older girls get cooked lunches at school so I’m going to give myself a break. They can have bagels and fruit for tea (I’ll fill the bagels before they get home), Baby MissA can have pre-made baby food and I’ll bung something in the microwave once they are all in bed. It’s not the family meal time I prefer but sometimes you just have to get through the day.
5- Mess with the recipe
Baby MissA has the least weight watchers friendly diet of them all. She is only eight months old so low-fat alternatives are out. She needs full fat, high-calorie food to make sure that the little she can eat is enough to fuel her growing brain and ever wriggling limbs. She also isn’t supposed to have much salt and a lot of the Weight Watchers recipes I’ve been using call for salty stock cubes. To get around the latter problem I’m using a low salt vege stock powder (marigold) and only adding a tiny bit when cooking. I then scoop out a portion for MissA a few minutes early and add the rest of the stock for the last bit of cooking. Salt itself is only added to food on the table, as is Tabasco for the grown-ups if I’ve left out a spicy ingredient to keep the kids happy. To bulk up the fat content, MissA often gets full-fat yogurt added to meals that have been pureed or sticks of cheese if she is feeding herself.
6- Get the kids to help
Thankfully my kids aren’t hugely fussy at the moment but they can be anxious about new things and decide they don’t like them before they’ve even tried. If I can bear the mess it helps to get them involved in the cooking. Eight year old MissE is very keen on this at the moment. MissM (5) is only really interested in breaking/smashing eggs but if it means she eats something new it’s probably worth it.
7- Get online inspiration
I’m not a huge Instagram person but I’m now following a few fellow weight watchers and yes, pictures of peoples food is a cliche, but it’s actually provided a lot of inspiration. Who knew you could make a cake in a mug with just a banana, an egg, and some oats? Well, someone on Instagram did and now I do too. It doesn’t look very appealing to be honest, but it takes about 3 minutes and one of them split in half with a dollop of yogurt makes a great and very filling pudding for the girls.
8- Make a meal plan
My name is SouthwarkBelle and I am a geek. There is no beautiful chalkboard meal plan in our house. I have a spreadsheet. That might sound OTT but it really works. I can fill it in with details of who’s out, home late or visiting at meal times then work out the menu accordingly. If the recipe I’m using is online I add a link. The sheet is on a cloud so I can just go to it and open the link on whatever device I have to hand. I also share it with my husband for days that he is in charge of cooking.
9- Make a list of Dinner Winners
I’ve been surprised by how many of the weight watchers recipes have gone down well with the kids. So I’m keeping a list of the dinner winners for later. More on that next week.
Anyone else have some top tips for following Weight watchers without forcing the rest of the family on to it, or spending every waking hour in the kitchen? Please do share!
Weigh in time…
Not such a big change this week, but it’s still a bit more than the 1lb a week that I was expecting and I have to confess that I fell off the diet wagon entirely one day last week. We had a funeral to attend, a much loved member of my husband’s family and we took all the kids along so I was kept very busy with them. I’d decided in advance not to try and stick to the diet so I ate the sandwiches and cakes on offer and wrote off all my weekly points so I wasn’t having to try and count things up as well. This is where those weekly points come in so handy and gave me motivation not to dip into them for the rest of the week.
This weeks meal plan ( the pretty version not the spreadsheet)