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Driving it Home

July 21, 2011 by Joanna Drake, Registered Dietitian

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The following situation really happened to me.

I was driving out of a parkade with my three year old daughter in the back seat of our car. As I pulled up to the toll booth and rolled down my window to pay for parking, my daughter hollered, “I’ll have a cheeseburger, a fries, and a milk!”  My face went red, I melted into my seat, and I sped off the second after I paid. Why would she think she could order a hamburger at this toll booth?

The answer was obvious and painful: we’d been driving dinner home too often!What this experience made me realize was that I couldn’t wait until the drive home to decide what we’d have for dinner that night. I realized that I can’t make good decisions about what to eat when I’m tired and the kids are hungry and whiny. New plan: I looked at my schedule and found a time that I could plan ahead and cook without interruption. Once the kids are in bed, I can think about my recipe and ingredient choices and experiment with different ways of cooking. Instead of making one recipe, I make two or three at a time; and instead of making one batch of each recipe, I’ll double it. Then I freeze the meals in family-sized portions that I can pull out when needed. Now, when we roll in to our driveway, all we need to do is heat up our dinner and toss together a salad.

I’m proud of the fact that we are eating better. We eat a greater variety of foods, and we eat less sodium because I can control what ingredients I use. I also have more time to talk to my kids about their day over dinner and there’s a lot less whining (both the kids’ and mine). Having children is such a humbling experience. As a dietitian, I knew that picking up dinner on the run wasn’t the best choice. But as a working mother of two small children, there was the inner conflict between feeding my children healthful food and just getting dinner over with.

What I discovered is that it doesn’t have to be one or the other; I can have my cake and eat it too. (But that’s another story.) I’d love to hear readers’ ideas for managing that supper time challenge.

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