Chopping board with fresh vegetable

How to hit your healthy food goals when you have a family to feed

Nutritionist and fit fanatic, Sally Mitchell, shares her advice on how to hit your food goals while cooking and feeding the whole family. 

Discovering meals that the whole family can enjoy whilst also meeting their nutritional requirements and taste preferences can be tricky. I am a small woman who is currently trying to lose some Christmas holiday padding while also training for a powerlifting competition, my husband is a larger man with an equally large appetite, we have a teenage son who is growing at the speed of light and eats like he may never see food again, our middle son is autistic and has issues with many food textures, and our youngest son is in all honesty just really (really!) fussy.

As a busy mum of three, with a husband who works Fly-In-Fly-Out, I have always been against the idea of preparing multiple meals and eating different food to our children. With after-school commitments to consider, homework to be completed and, more importantly, simply wanting to enjoy time together as a family, preparing separate meals is just not feasible in terms of time management.

In addition to issues relating to lack of time, a parent’s own behaviours in relation to food are one of the strongest influences we have on our kids’ diet. By sitting with our children, and modelling the eating of healthy and varied foods, rather than serving them a ‘kids meal’ and eating later ourselves, our children are more likely to eat well as children and into adulthood.

The challenge for me personally is finding interesting, tasty ways to prepare meals that allow me to manage my own portion size while remaining satisfied, allows the husband and teen to eat to their hearts’ content, and caters to the fussiness of our other kids.

With that in mind, here are my crowd-pleasing go-to meals:

  • I get back to basics and serve meat, potato and vegetables, all of which can be suitably portioned. Totally easy, and extremely healthy. Everyone get a bit of everything, even if they don’t like it, but they are not expected to eat it. If you’re bored with this, go online and search for ways to prepare your meat in sauce – I do chicken thighs in tomato sauce with rosemary and garlic, or chicken with balsamic vinegar, both of which the kids love on mashed potato.
  • Fajitas are your friend! I make them with pork (you can use another meat), and add capsicum, mushroom and zucchini to the pan. Are you gluten free or avoiding grains? No problem, eat your fajita mix on rice or from a bowl.
  • Stir-fries are also good. Again, these are easily portioned up so you can increase or decrease the serving of rice or noodles you give each family member, and pick and choose the veggies. Soy and tomato sauced based sauces seem to be well-liked in our house.
  • For hamburgers, buy wholemeal or wholegrain buns if you can, choose a high quality meat patty (I like K-Roo kangaroo patties and so do the kids), and cut up a whole bunch of salads and let the kids choose what to put on theirs. For the hungry ones? Add healthy fats and proteins like cheese, an egg, or some mayonnaise to keep them satisfied.

In short, dinners don’t have to be fancy. Get back to basics, portion up your meals, model the eating of vegetables, and watch your kids learn to love their dinner while you maintain your own nutrition goals.


Sally Mitchell has a Masters Degree in Human Nutrition and a background in science research. She practices nutrition in Brisbane and online under the business name Food to Fit, where she specialises in helping busy mums learn how to eat well, and helps budding endurance athletes perform at their best. She can be contacted at sally@foodtofit.com.au.

Words by Sally Mitchell // Photography by Katie Smith

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