To Mom, Family Dinner Represents Family Connections
Family dinners are important to moms as time for the family to connect, as we wrote about in Tuning into Mom. Mom is ideally looking for both children and adults to get a good ‘balanced’ meal, without spending the whole time fighting over food and eating vegetables.
Part of the ideal dinner experience is that Mom’s family spends time bonding and connecting. Often, breakfast and lunch cannot be eaten together due to school, extracurricular and work commitments. Another ideal is for the family to eat and share the same foods for dinner, perhaps with some individual customization. Mom wants to avoid becoming a short order cook who prepares different meals for each child, or a meal for adults separate from the children.
Mom’s desire to provide balance through fruits and vegetables, and perhaps even more interesting main meal options, must be weighed against young child preferences for traditional kid favorites like chicken nuggets, cheese pizza and macaroni and cheese. This is such a common issue that some moms resort to Stealth Vegetables (i.e., hiding vegetables in other foods without telling their kids). Often times, as kids grow older, their palates broaden and a broader range of foods are of interest (though veggies may still be an issue).
Sheila, a full time working mom of two boys ages 13 and 9 says,
“For my husband and I and for all of us, I’d like to see it be a good balanced dinner with chicken and steak and have some grilled vegetables or some fruits like watermelon. Something balanced, but I’d rather not be fighting over the food. I pick things we’ll all eat or some version. We try to do stuff everybody can eat. Sometimes, we do slightly different things that people can eat. We do have a number of things that we all we eat. A good example is tacos. My oldest (the picky eater, age 13) eats just beans, cheese, shell. If we grill chicken, he will eat it on the side. He doesn’t like things too much mixed in. For the rest of us, we add other fixings.”
The Impact of the Picky Eater
The family dinner situation becomes more complicated for Mom when one or more of her children is a picky eater. A recent Duke study estimated that about 20% of children ages 2-6 are picky eaters.
Certain picky eater situations may be directly or indirectly associated with medical issues, e.g., food allergies or autism. According to Autism Speaks, “Autism often goes hand in hand with food aversions.”
Nut allergies are on the rise and considered so common that some advise all parents and caregivers to carry an epi pen. Often, nut-free zones are created in classrooms and school cafeterias, sometimes extending to a nut ban on campus.
Similarly, and despite mixed scientific evidence on the reality of gluten intolerance (only 1% of Americans suffer from celiac disease), many moms perceive that their child should avoid gluten and take steps to make her child’s diet gluten free.
Her child’s picky eating issues span multiple occasions: family social gatherings, parties, school, breakfast and lunch. But, for Mom, the family dinner is one of the most frequent and emotionally important occasions.
How Apps and Tacos Help Mom Make the Family Dinner Possible
Theresa, mom of a 13-year-old boy who is a very picky eater and an 11-year-old girl who is not, finds that about 50% of the time she is able to come up with a family dinner to enjoy together. The rest of the time, she needs to prepare a separate meal for her son. Like Sheila, she finds tacos are a good solution.
“It’s about half and half. Sometimes, I make a meal everyone can eat, and sometimes I make his own meal, and that gets exhausting. Whenever I can, I make meals and put out a whole slew of food so that there is something he would want and also more things that we can enjoy. A good example is to put out the taco bar for assembly.”
Apps also provide help to busy moms with dinner solutions that work for their picky eaters. There are many meal service-related apps. Theresa is a fan of two of them: Door Dash and Munchery. Munchery is more for the busy family dinner night, while Door Dash is for last-minute scenarios.
“Munchery is an app I use and love. Munchery is a service where they make the food, and deliver premade meals by 5pm, and it’s an app. Everyone in the family can order their own different meal, including the picky eater. Everybody is happy. I come home from the office and throw it in the oven and it looks like I put a meal together.
“Door Dash is great, they can bring you any food in half an hour, it’s super quick. So if I get to a family get together, like this weekend, and there is nothing my picky eater likes. We went to my brother- in-law’s, and they were supposed to have hamburgers. We arrived, and they had something he won’t eat instead. With Door Dash, we could order grilled cheese from Johnny Rockets, which he likes. It’s great for the unexpected situations where the advance plan has failed.”
Being a mom of a picky eater is never easy, especially considering that even young children who aren’t picky eaters usually must try a new food a dozen or more times before enjoying it. But taco bars and apps can really bring the family together for dinnertime connections. Brands that can further innovate techniques for Mom with her picky eater will earn her loyalty and praise.