Feeding the Whole Family

by Corinne Nash

5 Minute Read

Feeding the Whole Family

An enquiry from a mum about what she can make, especially for lunches, that will both fill and satisfy her growing, hollow-legged kids and also provide a nutrient dense meal for herself led me to put my thinking cap on.

In one sense, I should know because I have been there, done that. I did have the blessing of good genes though- my metabolism is reasonably fast and until I hit 50, I didn’t really have to worry about how many kilojoules were in my food, I was more focussed on how healthy the overall package was. However, now I have three boys all in their teens/early twenties with big appetites and my waistline is beginning to show that a little restraint is necessary!

So, how to cater for everyone, because who has time to be making several different meals?

Let’s start by stating my number one goal, which is to feed the whole family healthy, nutrient rich food. Therefore, even though they might be forever complaining that they are hungry, I try not to give in to high fat, high salt, high sugar snacks. Which is not to say that they are never served, just not regularly.  We all need all the food groups every day, and we all need to ‘go for 2 and 5’ (fruit and vegetables).

Often, I wonder with kids whether they’re not actually just looking for your attention or feeling bored. I ponder on my own childhood- we rarely ate anything between meals, and if we said we were hungry mum would advise “eat a piece of bread and butter or an apple”. If we screwed our noses up her response was: “Well you’re not really hungry then!” It does make me wonder whether we are creating a generation of compulsive over eaters when we constantly offer food and snacks and drinks other than water between meals.

So, the big difference between food for growing, active children and food for fully grown, less active (probably) adults is the amount of fat and carbohydrates which we need.

Everyone should be watching their saturated and trans fats but healthy fats such as those in extra virgin olive oil, avocado, nuts, a certain amount of dairy foods and fish are fantastic for their anti-inflammatory action, and they do keep you feeling full longer. So, more healthy fats for the kids.

Secondly, carbohydrates should be unrefined as far as possible because we don’t as a nation eat enough fibre. Wholegrains, legumes and vegetables are a great source of fibre. So, start sneaking them in wherever you can! An obvious way to reduce your carbs whilst still filling the children up is to reduce your portion size.

Lastly, you might leave out some aspects of the meal for yourself, whilst offering it to them.

Specifically, the question was around weekend lunches. I will give some suggestions for that, but also more generally for meals.


Homemade soup – pumpkin, minestrone, tomato and lentil…Dish up your minestrone before you add the pasta to theirs. Add some cream or coconut milk to the pumpkin soup after you have put yours aside. Serve yours with a slice of plain wholemeal toast, serve theirs with toasted cheese sandwiches.

Focaccia/Turkish bread – split and toast. Fill yours with lots of salad, hummus and maybe cottage cheese or smoked salmon.  Top their halves with tomato, ham, cheese, capsicum and mushrooms and grill like quick pizzas. Or, top your halves with tomato and avocado.

Baked beans and poached eggs on wholemeal toast – they get two eggs, you get one. They get 2 toasts, you get one.  They get more beans than you! Add some grilled tomatoes and mushrooms, or even wilted spinach if you like, I do all mine in the same pan.

Burrito bowls – brown rice at the base. On top add a tomatoey, spicy, beany mixture. Theirs get sour cream and grated cheese and a handful of corn chips. Everyone gets sweet corn, avocado and shredded lettuce.

Homemade chicken burgers – marinate and grill/oven bake flattened chicken breast. Serve on wholemeal buns with lots of salad. To theirs add chutney or sweet chilli sauce, a slice of cheese and avocado. Eat yours with all the salad on the side, and no bun, or half a bun.

Add extras to the kids’ meals – sides of corn on the cob, a hard-boiled egg, a tub of yoghurt, maybe sprinkled with granola, a homemade banana muffin, oat cookies, a banana, a pear, toast with peanut butter, rice or corn cakes with nut butter or sliced banana and ricotta or ricotta and strawberries. A glass of milk, or small homemade smoothie with fruit, milk, yoghurt, oats.


For dinner I am a strong believer in no ‘kid’s meals. Kids eat whatever the adults eat. They can leave things, but they must try everything. I’d cut down the size of the carb servings for the adults and increase the servings of vegetables on the side. Half the plate should be veggies. Things like seeds or nuts sprinkled into salads can add energy and healthy fats for kids, and you can be careful how many you put on your plate! Likewise, I’d let an active child put butter on their corn or in their baked potato, but I wouldn’t have any myself. Encourage children to enjoy salads with all kinds of meals and make a yummy dressing of extra virgin olive oil, white wine vinegar and wholegrain mustard, shaken in a jar. (I make a batch and it keeps in a dressing bottle, out of the fridge, for weeks). I’d add some sparingly, but they can have a liberal amount.

Remember that highly refined carbs such as white flour in cakes and biscuits, sugary lollies and drinks, even 100% juice, is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream and so your blood sugar rises steeply, then drops again leaving you looking for something else to eat! More slowly absorbed carbohydrates and protein filled meals keep you fuller longer. Oats, wholemeal bread, starchy vegetables, fish, chicken, eggs, nuts and seeds…are all good inclusions to fill bellies.

Lastly, I would like to highly recommend sticking to your guns. Children often have periods of ‘picky’ eating. Bending to every whim will only make it longer until they start to increase the range of what they will eat again. Toddler are notorious for eating like birds yet somehow growing perfectly adequately! So, my advice for family meals and inclusion of all the vegetables, protein foods etc is ‘just keep on dishing it up’! No forcing to eat it, but you must try it. And model good eating behaviour yourself! Families that eat together and who encourage their children to help cook are more likely to have children who grow into healthy eating adults.

Even if the teenage years bring some rebellion and ‘junk’ eating just to fit in with their peers, good eating habits will prevail in the end.

Most of us seem to hark back to what we ate at home as our favourite meals, so make those memories happy, healthy ones!



Corinne Nash has a Masters of  Human Nutrition from Deakin University and has worked in her own private nutrition consultancy for many years. Corinne also has a background in catering and hotel management. She teams her nutritional knowledge with simple recipes and down to earth tips to make small changes in your diet which will bring large changes in long term health risks.



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