I love food. I always have and I dare say I always will.
I’m by no means an adventurous eater – I was the fussiest child ever – but food brings me a huge amount of joy. I can (and usually do) get excited about dinner at breakfast time, and there are few things better than a cup of tea and a piece of chocolate for lifting my mood.
Lately, though, I’ve been feeling a little guilty about food…
I think it’s because there are so many things to keep in mind when it comes to choosing what we eat. I pride myself on never having been on a diet, and aside from my ill-fated first year at college (when I thought eating midnight bagels would have no effect on my weight, haha!) my weight has never been an issue. I know how lucky I am to be able to say that.
Last year I read this fabulous book – Dinner: The Playbook – that encourages planning meals ahead (at the beginning of the week) and having a set number of meals in rotation that the whole family loves. Yes please! There is nothing more deflating than getting to dinner, whipping up a homemade something and not loving the taste and/or having the toddler push it away because “it doesn’t taste good to me,” (which is a vast improvement on, “it’s disgusting” or “this is yuck!” but still not what I want to hear).
So we’ve had a steady two-week rotation of 10 meals all three of us (Mark, Arthur and I) love, which I’ve been making for most of the year. It’s only for weekdays, in totally random order, and obviously prone to change if something is on special or the week dictates otherwise, but it has taken SO much of the stress out of weeknight dinners. Now I feel it’s time to shake things up and come up with the winter version of the 10 meal rotation, so I’ve been experimenting a bit.
At the moment, though, it feels like there are so many parameters to deciding what we eat for dinner. Here are the biggest ones:
I feel like it should be low carb. Or at least low-ish carb. Because I’m diabetic and I understand that more carbs = more insulin, and less predictable blood sugar, and it’s in my long-term interest to have predictable blood sugar and not be taking large doses of insulin.
I’m feeding a toddler. A toddler who, until a couple of months ago, used to eat almost anything, but who is currently going through a phase of asserting independence through food, so is distinctly less enthusiastic about certain foods (and I’m not even talking vegetables here! Tonight he wouldn’t eat pasta because it had lemon zest and butter on it. It was delicious. He loves both lemons and butter.)
There need to be some vegetarian options. Despite us being the least vegetarian family ever, thanks to me despising pulses (of every description, with a passion) and Mark loving the ol’ meat-and-two-veg way of life. But, you know, I know, we all know, that meat is doing the environment no favours, so I try to stick a few vegetarian options in there.
It has to be healthy. One thing we do really well is real food. We never eat take-out and always eat vegetables and our meals are fresh and free range – that’s got to stay.
It has to be cost-effective. I don’t mind if we splurge on weekends, but if it’s going to tick the boxes of a meal that we can eat every two weeks for the next few months, it has to be affordable.
It has to be easy. Real easy. As in, I can make it with a baby on one hip, a toddler underfoot, and 20 minutes (with prep on the weekend if necessary), while mixing a gin and elderflower as soon as the clock hits 5pm.
It has to be delicious. This should obviously be the first one, because it’s the most important. It doesn’t have to be fancy – I’m pretty sure there will be an omelette of some description in our rotation – but it has to be delicious. Satisfying. A lovely end to the day.
Because life is so full-on at the moment that the daily ritual of us sitting down to eat a meal together – even if it’s only for 20 minutes or half an hour – is a really special one for me. So far there’s only one meal that all four of us (Ella included!) eat with absolutely no variation: Greek chicken noodle soup (yum). But no doubt we will discover more, and until then I’m happy to experiment with baby and toddler variations.
And of course, as I write this I realise that, for me, food is about more than just nutrition and flavour. It’s about that connection: that coming together at the end of the day. So while I know that a strict low carb diet would probably be great for my blood sugar, it’s unlikely I’ll do it right now because it won’t be great for me and my husband and my toddler and my baby all being able to share the same meal and relishing it.
So for now, I’m sticking to my mom’s motto: “Everything in moderation.” Delicious moderation.