Eat Better by Deconstructing Your Family Meals

Eat Better by Deconstructing Your Family Meals

Try this one meal time strategy for more relaxed family meals.

Deconstruct your meals!

‘Deconstructed meals’ explained. Basically, deconstructed meals means:

  • serving meals family style, by serving foods which make up a meal in separate bowls or on a plate where the food is divided
  • always making sure there is something on the table that everyone will eat
  • everyone can pick and choose from what’s on offer and make up their own combination.

The benefits:

  • You only need to cook one meal for the whole family (no ‘short-order cooking’).
  • You can enjoy foods that your child might not have a taste for yet (for example salads, chilli, curries, etc).
  • Dietary needs (for example gluten free) can be catered for without needing to make a separate meal.
  • Less complaints because there is always something on the table that everyone will eat.
  • Children may feel less pressure to eat and may be more likely to try new foods as a result.
  • Less food waste as people put on their plate what they would like to eat.
  • Children who have sensory challenges with the texture of “mixed meals” can pick and choose the textures/flavours they want.
  • It helps parents and children do their role in feeding. Read more about feeding roles
  • It doesn’t have to mean more dishes.

When mealtimes are more enjoyable, everyone eats better.

Some ways to deconstruct without the extra dishes:

  • Use a large dinner plate to separate out small options (if your child doesn’t like food to ‘touch’ another food try to keep them separate on the plate if you can).
  • Put food on the table in reusable containers. Whatever doesn’t get eaten, just put the lid on and pop it back in the fridge for another day or add it straight to your child’s lunchbox for the next day. This cuts down on plastic wrap and washing up.
  • Use cooked or cut up food in another meal – for example. stir-fry or soup.

Practical examples of deconstructed meals:

  • Burger -  burger bun/wrap/lettuce (‘bun-less’ option) with meat/vegetable patties, lettuce, cheese, beetroot, pineapple, carrot, avocado, sauce.
  • Jacket potato - possible toppings include baked beans, grated cheese, cooked minced meat, sour cream/natural yogurt, leftovers, cooked veggies like broccoli or cauliflower, fresh herbs.
  • Mexican (tacos/burritos/fajitas/nachos) - including a hot dish (for example meat/chicken/bean mixture) with cold options – for example cheese, lettuce, tomato, sour cream/natural yogurt, fresh coriander. Serving tip: you can also make these into bowls
  • Roast dinner or BBQ chicken - potato (mashed, baked, steamed), gravy/sauce, roasted pumpkin, steamed broccoli or peas or raw vegetables*.
  • Salad -  lettuce, tomato, cucumber, avocado, olives, dressing, fresh herbs, meat/chicken/tuna/egg/nuts.
  • Spaghetti and sauce - separate pasta, meat sauce, cheese, fresh herbs, side of vegetables (raw or cooked).
  • Soup - broth, cooked chicken/tofu, bean shoots, cooked noodles, cooked carrot, cooked celery, chilli, fresh herbs.
  • Sushi bowl - rice, carrot, cucumber, avocado, nori sheet cut up, sesame seeds with fish/chicken/tofu/egg. Add any sauces you like for example, soy, sesame oil, chilli, fresh herbs.
  • Wraps: cooked beef/BBQ chicken/sliced ham/tinned tuna/grated cheese/falafel with mixed leaves, capsicum, hummus or other dip.

*make hard vegetables like carrot safe for under 3’s by grating and cooking

Read more about family meal times