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On today’s episode Steph and Dr. Elana share key takeaways from interviewing the experts from Adventurous Eating and on the Family Dinner Project. They share how they personally navigate family dinners and how they aren’t always pretty or perfect. They highlight strategies and advice from these experts to make meals more fun, have families feel more connected and help kids that are picky!
Interested in trying Vital Farms new pasture-raised squeezable ghee? Look for Vital Farms ghee in a squeeze bottle exclusively at Whole Foods Market in Original and Himalayan Pink Salt and visit vitalfarms.com/ghee for a chance to win a year’s supply of Vital Farms ghee for FREE.
Elana Roumell 0:02
If there’s dessert, there’s dessert. It doesn’t really matter how they’ve behaved or not. You want to always remove that emotional connection. You don’t want to ever comment on how much they eat or how little they eat. You just you really want to keep relationship with eating neutral and non judgmental.
Welcome back to Whole Mama’s podcast. We’re here to give you tools, resources and evidence based information so you can make the best decisions for yourself and your family. Whether you’re trying to conceive or navigating life with a toddler or a teenager, we’ve got you covered. I’m Dr. Elana Roumell, Pediatric Naturopathic doctor and creator of Med School For Moms, an online resource where I teach moms how to safely be a doctor mom.
Stephanie Greunke 0:42
And I’m Stephanie Greunke, Registered Dietitian and program director for Whole Mama’s Club. I’m also the co-creator of Whole Mama’s Pregnancy Program where I teach mama’s how to navigate the endless decisions around pregnancy.
Elana Roumell 0:53
On today’s episode, Steph and I recap Episode 167 which is on adventurous eaters and Episode 168 on The Family Dinner Project. Both episodes discuss family meals and offered expert advice on how to make meals truly nourishing, which goes far beyond just the food we eat. Family meals may not look pretty or perfect, but by using the strategies and advice from these experts, meals can become more fun, families more connected, and kids much less picky.
And before we begin, I’d like to thank our podcast sponsor Vital Farms. You may know Vital Farms for their pasture raised eggs, but did you also know that they make incredible ghee too? I find in my practice that most kids that I see who are picky eaters, they will eat some of their veggies as long as they have a good amount of butter drenched on top. But what about the kids or adults who are dairy sensitive? This is why I love ghee and my go to brand is Vital Farms. Ghee is clarified butter which means the butter is cooked down to remove the water and the milk solids. This is the clarifying process. You end up with a food that is lactose and casein free but still delicious just like butter. This is a great alternative to the tasty butter we all love and enjoy without the exposure to dairy. I find kids in my practice do very well with ghee. They don’t have any negative reactions like they would with regular butter and they still enjoy the taste just the same. Now, in my house I love to cook with ghee too. Ghee remains stable at high temperatures so it’s a great healthy fat to cook with. I use it to cook anything from eggs to sauteeing veggies to fish. You name it, I use ghee. We also have mixed ghee into our oatmeal for added fat and flavor. Now we love their new squeeze bottle which makes it even easier and more convenient to consume ghee. Vital Farms made the first ever ghee in a squeeze bottle and we love how easy it is to squeeze into the oatmeal in the morning or directly onto steamed vegetables for added fat and flavor. You shouldn’t have to sacrifice quality for convenience in the kitchen. I recommend Vital Farms because their quality is top notch. Vital Farms pasture raising ensures their cows are free to roam and forage open pastures on the American family farms they call home This makes for content cows, better butter and greater ghee. And if you’re interested in trying Vital Farms new pasteurized, squeezable ghee, look for Vital Farms ghee in a squeeze bottle exclusively at Whole Foods Market in original and Himalayan Pink salt and visit vitalfarms.com/ghee for a chance to win a year supply of Vital Farms ghee for free.
Now let’s go on to our nourish yourself segment. And let’s start with Stephanie. Steph, what did you do today to nourish yourself?
Stephanie Greunke 3:31
Well, at the time of recording I am back to my normal routine after the holiday break and the kids were home for two weeks. It was really interesting because I’m used to having them in daycare where they only have off on holidays. And this year Otto being in more of like a kindergarten type classroom, he had off, like school aged kids, for two weeks and I know in California sometimes it’s as much as three weeks. So that kind of shook me out of my normal routine and I was trying to squeeze more work into fewer hours. And that was really tricky. So I’m so glad to be back at my co-working spot and able to put in more hours and to have a little bit of a break away from my kids.
Elana Roumell 4:14
Oh, good. I know you’ve been working so much. I’ve been selfishly wanting to get in touch with you and just hang out with you before you move to Wisconsin, so I can’t wait to do that. So, get your work done so we can start hanging out again. Oh, I know. Definitely. We will do that for sure because it might be as early as March. No, don’t say that. Every time I feel like I asked you when you’re moving, it’s like sooner and sooner. I’m gonna miss you so much.
Stephanie Greunke 4:35
Oh, my goodness. What about you? What did you do today to nourish yourself?
Elana Roumell 4:39
Well, ironically, today was Aviva’s first day of school. So funny how you were talking about how Otto’s now in Kindergarten, Aviva is totally still in preschool. She’s turning three this month. And it’s so interesting, I never had this urge or desire to send her to school so much. And then as she has been approaching three, I just feel more and more like, hey, it’s time. So I kind of took the risk. I called the school we were interested in and said, Hey, do you have any openings? It’s mid year, I’m taking my chance, but I’m just going to ask. And they surprisingly said there, there was an opening two days a week. So today was her official first day. I’m really excited. I know, it’s like, totally the time. And it actually gives me a little bit more time now to bond with Rafi. So, who is actually with us today on our podcast, so I just want to preface if he makes some noise or cries or whatnot, I apologize ahead of time. But Steph, I’m just so grateful and blessed to be able to do this kind of work and still have my baby my arms. He’s still only eight weeks old. So he’s still such a little young one and I’m not yet ready to leave him and go work. So this has been great to have him along. So thanks for that. Oh,
Stephanie Greunke 5:42
yeah, we totally understand, all of us understand that listen to the podcast and are hosting the podcast like me. It’s so interesting too like the excitement that you feel with Aviva going back to school because or going to school because I know sometimes when you’re a brand new mom, it can be hard to drop your child off at school, but sounds like it’s exhilarating for you.
Elana Roumell 6:02
Yeah, it wouldn’t have been that way if it was six months ago or three months ago even but there’s something just like clicked where I was like, no, this is what she needs now. It’s, it’s like I’m almost doing her a disservice if I didn’t, and I didn’t feel that way before. So I’m glad I waited. I listened to my gut. I kind of had a feeling it would be around three years of age and it literally was like, almost right on dot. So thanks. Yeah, I’m excited. I wasn’t nervous at all. If anything, I was more nervous about having Rafi on our podcast so lets see how we do. I loved these podcasts. I mean, I think I love all of our podcasts. But I just thought it was a really fun theme that we had on adventurous eating and then the Family Dinner Project. They were very similar but yet different. So let’s start with the Adventurous Eating podcast. I just love this concept. I think it’s so fun to get kids involved in the process of cooking and preparing foods. One of the first things you guys really started talking about in that podcast was just like what the idea of family meals really look like and how it doesn’t need to be anything perfect or elaborate. We put so much pressure on ourselves during mealtimes for everything to be so perfect. And I think oftentimes we don’t do it just because we’re so intimidated by that. And I think that that’s really important that we kind of talk about that it does not need to be perfect. So I’m kind of curious, Steph, if you can share some of your typical family meals. What a mealtime looks like, since you have two young boys. And I think it’s important that we really hone in on that it could be messy, it doesn’t have to be perfect, because I’m sure that you can answer that in a very authentic way. So please do
Stephanie Greunke 7:34
Yeah, yeah. And I just want to start by your opening topic of, “it doesn’t have to be pretty or perfect” and remind people if they haven’t already to go read the post that Misha wrote about not having a home but still having a family meal. It’s such a touching article and he talks about the fact that sometimes his meal was or the foods that he had at the meal was him going to a grocery store and having to steal that food and take it home. And his mom would encourage it, but that’s the only way they were able to eat because they just didn’t have any money. And so it could go to that extreme, or it could go to maybe the food quality that you’re choosing isn’t ideal, or the environment isn’t ideal. But really, the purpose of bringing everybody together is so powerful. And that’s what we want to promote, and not having to have these really high expectations for what your family meal looks like. And so for our family, it would probably feel very chaotic to some people, but it works for us right now. And when I say it works for us, it’s that we have lowered the bar so much from what we envision it to look like and what we want it to look like to the reality of the situation. And that’s how it works for us. So, for example, this last Friday, I didn’t have anything prepared. I usually go grocery shopping on the weekend, and we could have called for takeout or ordered a pizza, but I knew that I could wing it. I had things that I could put together and call an ingredient meal and call it good. And honestly, at the end of the day, that saves us a lot of money because ordering out is expensive, and we all feel better after we eat it. And it just doesn’t have to be as elaborate as what some people may think. So one of my friends, she’s Stephanie at Cook By Color, she calls this like a fridge and pantry forage. And basically you’re going through your fridge or going through your pantry, you’re pulling things out that could make up a healthy meal, and they may or may not make sense when you put them together. But at the end of the day, you have your protein, your produce, and your healthy fat. So for example, on Friday night, I went in our fridge I saw that we had some cauliflower that we hadn’t used, I saw that we had some frozen vegetables and I saw that we had leftover steak and so just threw that all together. A cauliflower mash, frozen veggies sauteed, and then that leftover protein. And that way we could use up what we have, we’re not wasting hundreds of dollars of groceries every month, and we can still enjoy that family meal together. So that’s really that’s not all of our meals. I usually am a little bit more prepared than that, but it can work. So for us like a typical example of Monday through Friday for breakfast, we do eggs or a non dairy yogurt with berries and granola, and I usually will sneak in some immune support. So whether that’s a powder or like elderberry, or their probiotic, something like that, and I do my smoothie and Brian does intermittent fasting. So we’re all doing different things for breakfast because that’s what we prefer, but it’s still so simple. And then for lunch, Leo is served lunch at school, Brian, Otto and I eat leftovers. So again, super simple. And then dinner right now is really interesting because I’m following more of like a fish and plant based diet, it just has been really working for me. I’ve gotten lab work done, and it’s shown so much improvement and with this approach, and Brian really likes meat and beef. So right now we’re actually offering two options, again, really easily prepared. So whether that’s a ground beef, or like a roast that were slow cooking, or fish, which only takes 10 or 15 minutes or something that’s even canned like sardines. That is what we’re doing right now. So we have those two offerings for the kids, and then we usually do two vegetable offerings as well, so that they can build their own plate, but we’re not having to cater to so many different recipes or so many different options.
Elana Roumell 11:41
Gosh, it sounds like you’re on it, even though you’re like it’s not perfect. It’s still well planned. Yeah, you know, and and you’re getting all the new nutrients in but it’s true, it’s simple. And I think we’re so similar in that way, so I love that you’re able just to share because it doesn’t need to be intimidating. That Friday night meal actually sounds really great and it doesn’t need to be anything fancy. So make Saturday more elaborate if you wanted to. So thanks for sharing about that. Really appreciate it. Yeah.
Stephanie Greunke 12:05
And that’s actually Brian is reading the book, The Four Hour Chef from Tim Ferriss. And so he has been doing that help. One meal during the weekend, he’ll make something fancier using the tools that he’s learned in that Four Hour Chef book. So that’s really fun. So we’ll have more of a mindfully prepared meal there, and I’ll take the kids out to the park and he’ll create something really beautiful in the kitchen. And then in the mornings, on the weekend, my kids and I do something like egg and banana pancakes or paleo muffins, or we’ll do a paleo wrap bar. So basically, we’ll do like a coconut based wrap, and then I’ll have yogurt and fresh fruit and some nuts, kind of like what I talked about the yogurt bar. We’ll do that and they get to play so we do have a little bit more creativity, but right now it’s it’s very simple and it’s working.
Elana Roumell 12:57
Great. I love it. I love how Brian is helping you. I think That’s great. Anthony’s been helping more, too. It’s been so awesome. Yeah. Awesome. Okay, well, I’ve got so many other things that I wanted to recap on, you just had such great points in these episodes. One of them is a little bit about picky eaters, okay. And I know a lot of moms probably listening may or may not have a picky eater as a child. So I just want to talk a little bit about this. You guys really talked a lot about how adventurous eating comes with giving permission to create, to have the kids create their own food. And this really helps with picky eaters. They found that involving the kid as much as possible, kind of triggers their own curiosity and leads them to much better outcomes as far as what they’re going to eat. And so the idea is that if you give them ownership with the food that they’re going to be more willing to eat it and so the examples they gave, which I just thought were so funny, is their son went grocery shopping with them found a Jerusalem artichoke and paired it with peanut butter and ate the whole thing and right no adult would think about that. They were making breakfast popsicles, or even that mash lavender salad that I remember them talking about just all these like fun, creative, adventurous meals which adults likely would not eat, that kids totally ate up because they really took it on themselves and they loved it and I just thought that was such a cool example and all those examples were great. So I’m just kind of curious if you’ve done this with your kids yet and if so what they have created because I just think this is so cute and I haven’t yet to do this with my kids.
Stephanie Greunke 14:25
Yeah, it’s not really something we’ve done yet because they aren’t in the kitchen with me a ton and in a past podcast I brought up that them being in the kitchen with me honestly gives me anxiety and I think it’s because our kitchen is really small right now. I call it like a Barbie size kitchen and so we don’t have a lot of room to move around. And, Leo is really wiggly and I try to put them up on the countertop and then he like literally will fall down and when I turned my back to go put something on the stove. So, right now it just feels too congested, and like too many cooks in the kitchen. When it’s just me and one kid like If it’s just me and Leo or me and Otto, we can play and we can create those pancakes together or make a new fun smoothie with whatever ingredients I want together. But just more than two people in the kitchen isn’t working for us. So I’m hoping that the layout of our Madison kitchen will help with that. And, you know, other than that, as far as our creativity, sometimes it’s really interesting to see what they’ll put on their plate and what they’ll dip and what they’ll mix in that type of thing because we let them scoop what they want to make, give them a bunch of options. So sometimes they’ll dip their green beans and guacamole and I’ll be like, never really thought to do that. You know, I thought to do that with tortilla chips or other things like cucumbers but not green beans. So it’ll be something like that. Or maybe you know, they will put five different things on there fork because I know some people like that they like like different flavors on one fork. Other people want one thing at a time. So it’s just kind of cool to observe, but we’re not actively doing a lot of that.
Elana Roumell 15:55
How about what do you take him grocery shopping because I know that they’ll come with you at times. Do you ever notice if they try to, like the artichoke and the peanut butter like that, or the Jerusalem artichoke and the peanut butter, like that’s such a random, like combo. Have they ever wanted something at a grocery store that you were like, why would you want that? But let’s try it anyway.
Stephanie Greunke 16:13
Yeah, I mean, they really love exotic looking fruits that they haven’t seen like dragon fruit we’ll get. And then, you know, sometimes they’ll pick a different kind of squash, like the ones that have that weird texture to and they’re like, Oh, yeah, that looks gross. But let’s get it you know, so I do. I do oblige. And I’ll put it in the cart. And I’ll just have to Google how to cook it or chop it or whatever,
to make it right.
Elana Roumell 16:36
Cool. I love that. And I just love kids curiosity. I think it really does help them get more curious about their food. And so I totally can relate to this now. I just feel like my kids aren’t necessarily old enough. I mean, Aviva now that she’s approaching three could be more curious. She’s been pretty good about eating, but I’m really excited to start this with them. So I just wanted to ask you since your kids are a little bit older,
Stephanie Greunke 16:57
yeah, yeah, absolutely. And it’s something where you know You just need to take one thing at a time when it comes to eating. Because if this feels like for me it feels way too, like too much to take on right now. And that’s okay, too. So one thing that we want to just make sure that everybody knows is we’re not saying like, this is what you should do and like do it today. But if you’re feeling up for it, or maybe you have a little bit more time on the weekend, it could be something to play with.
Elana Roumell 17:21
Great. I actually really wanted to bring up this point. So I’m just going to jump to it if you don’t mind is I was so inspired by this episode. And literally, I was like taking notes. I’m like, Oh, my God, I can’t wait to do this with my kids. And one of the biggest, like, obstacles that were coming up for me was the whole idea of like, a messier kitchen. Yeah. And like how long this is going to take me. I was like, oh, my goodness, like, hold on. What do you let them do? You know, I was like, thinking to myself, is this seriously going to work for me? And I just had to realize, like, you know, this doesn’t have to be every meal or every day. I think it’s great to have these ideas to do adventurous eating when you can create the space and the time to clean up and just the time to take long like, I would not do this when my my husband is starving. Yeah, like that is not the time to do it or even when I’m starving or the kids are starving. So I just think that these are such great tips. And I think we should all give ourselves some grace that like we both said, you know, it doesn’t have to be right now it could be in a few months from now, if you want to start it or it could be one meal a week. It could be every Sunday morning, and maybe you have a snack before you do it. Or maybe you just have to get prepared for a big mess and just have the time to clean it. So I think after I kind of got that, and I wrapped that around my brain, I was like, Okay, I could do this. I just need the time and space. And I think we can all make that work.
Stephanie Greunke 18:38
Yeah, you need the time and space. And also, you know, I think what we just brought up with other ways to go about adventurous eating, like let them pick something new in the grocery store or let them make their own plate and kind of scoop out what they want and see what they do with the combinations of food. Like that’s all adventurous eating to it doesn’t have to be creating recipes.
Elana Roumell 18:56
Absolutely. I totally agree. What other takeaways did you have, Steph, from from the episode with your interview?
Stephanie Greunke 19:02
Yeah, I think what really landed for me with this interview is that they talked about making it fun and really bringing back your inner child and playing with your kids in the kitchen. And so, as we just talked about, it’s going to be messy, things aren’t gonna work. You know, you might feel like it’s just overwhelming in the beginning. But I think if we can consider cooking with our kids as like a fun activity instead of a chore, and finding the right time to do that is a huge part of it. It could be such like a unique free activity for you. I think so many times we think we have to take our kids to Legoland, or we got to take them to Disney World, or we got to do all these really special adventures with them. And you can have that feeling that you get from those adventures at home and probably a lot less stress.
Elana Roumell 19:51
I love that. And on that note, I think they said something really profound to me that I kind of wrote down so I want to share this little point and it’s like, we’ve kind of taken the joy and the pleasure out of food because it’s almost like well, we do it three times a day so we’re just going to move on and get going. But what you were saying there exactly was like use it as an activity and use it as a time to explore. And they brought up how the French culture teaches kids how to savor food, they call it taste training, and how they say that they value it as much as math and reading. And I was like, my jaw dropped when I heard that, because here in the States, that is definitely not part of the curriculum at any preschool, daycare or kindergarten or whatnot. And I just find that to be so important, because I think kids could really enjoy the idea of food, when we really do bring more attention to it and really make it more playful. And so I just think that that’s important for us moms to really remember that in other cultures, they actually do do this. And even though we may lack that in our actual like, conventional curriculum, but we get to do that at home with our kids. And so I think that that was a really cool takeaway. And that’s something that I’m really going to take to heart. The other thing that I just remember them talking a lot about was, you don’t want to snack them out of hungry to try a new food. So I wrote that down I want to explain that a little bit more is, I think a lot of picky eaters or even just kids in general, they’re just there’s such big snackers that then they tend not to want to try a new food because they’re just full. And so they call it snacking them out of hungry. I thought that was really a cute way of talking about it is, you know, if you really want your kids to try new foods and be adventurous and explore new foods is to really give it to them when they’re hungry for it. You don’t want to just keep them snacking all day longer than they have no appetite to try new stuff. So I thought that that was really neat. And then the last point that I just cannot wait to do and I’ve actually never done this before. It sounds like you’ve done it Steph was take cream, put it in a jar and shake it up and make butter Yeah. And I was like oh my God, why did I do this like that is such an easy way to be adventurous in the kitchen. We all really enjoy butter or we could even go so far as clarify into ghee if we wanted to right? We were talking about that earlier in the episode. But they also talked about how butter could be a bridge to spices. And that was interesting to me, you know, a lot of us like butter or ghee, so why not ask your kids to choose a spice to add to the butter or the ghee. And then they’re like exploring their palates with the different spices by using butter as the bridge food. And so again, I just thought that was such a great idea. So your episode was just packed full of cool ideas. I think their book is so neat. It’s so beautifully laid out. I can’t wait, you know, for our listeners to grab a copy if they’re interested and so I just appreciate you bringing these guests onto our show.
Stephanie Greunke 22:38
Yeah, it was a really fun interview.
Elana Roumell 22:40
Yeah I bet. All right, well, let’s go ahead and move into the family dinner project unless you had anything lastly to say about your episode,
Stephanie Greunke 22:47
I have so much to say but let’s get into the second one.
Elana Roumell 22:48
I know Okay, good because I don’t want to run out of time we always do. Okay, so the Family Dinner Project was Episode 168. And I love of course we all love the idea of sitting down as a family to eat The title of the book that the authors wrote is not just about food. It’s also about having fun and conversation around the dinner table. And I think that that is so very important to the whole idea of family dinners. She brought up a lot about what family meals can look like, especially if not all the members of the family are present. And I thought a lot about you, Steph, when Brian is away on military duty, and you know, he’s not there, it’s just you and the two boys. I’m just curious how your family dinners change when Brian is home and when Brian’s not home, and how you still make sure to really nourish your family at family dinners even without him there.
Stephanie Greunke 23:38
Yeah, I mean, when we were talking about this, I just felt so much respect for the other military spouses that are out there or spouses that their partner is doing whatever kind of work and gone or single moms because it’s very difficult to raise children. But to raise children and try to do all these healthy things and not rely on take-out all the time because it’s so convenient. So, for me I really have to lower my expectations with cooking when he’s gone and I rely on a lot of shortcuts. If he’s gone just one or two nights a week I can usually pull something together without it being a problem. When he’s gone for a week or longer, that’s when I have to decide if I want to you know a) get super methodical and plan and prep meals way ahead of time. So before he goes, maybe I can freeze a bunch of meals, I can find some really great recipes that I can throw in the crock pot, I can have some eggs already prepared like a frittata type of thing. I can b) let good enough be good enough. I can use healthier processed options out there like cauliflower crusted chicken tenders, which my kids have been loving lately. Or, chicken sausages or just plain ground beef or do sandwiches on gluten free bread, things that I know they’re going to love and are really easy to clean up. So that’s like the second option or c) the third is a mix of planning a few things ahead of time, and then letting the rest be good enough with more convenience options. And I find myself gravitating more towards the latter, c, because healthier processed food can get really expensive. So yeah, those cauliflower crusted chicken tenders, and the chicken sausages are great options because my kids will eat them and they’re not messy, but it’s a lot more money than how I normally cook. And I know we all feel better when we have our more regular meals. So I think you just have to figure out what is going to make sense based on your budget, based on how long they’re going to be gone, based on what you know about yourself and what stresses you out the most, and then asking for help from other people. So you know, I’m familiar with the military community and if we know that the spouse down the street has a husband that’s deployed or a spouse that’s deployed, then we will rally together and do a meal train for that family. So I think it’s also not doing everything alone.
Elana Roumell 26:08
I love that. And again, just to emphasize, it’s still a family meal, right? Even just with you, Leo and Otto when Brian is gone, or even when the other military families get together, and maybe you have a friend whose husband is also deployed, I just think that I love how they highlighted in your episode, just how it really doesn’t matter. It’s almost as if we need to be family members. It could also be, she even said like college students coming together to join the cafeteria and eating You know, you’re still highlighting good nourishing food around a table, having good conversation and having a fun time and eating food. And I just think that you’ve been doing such a great job even in the absence of your husband at times. And I think it could be very inspiring to others who may be listening who may not have not only just if they’re on military duty, but for example, some husbands may work late or leave early and actually that’s very similar to my case. Anthony starts work really early in the morning, so we never have breakfast together ever. That’s not true. He just started taking some of the weekends off. So now we get like weekend breakfast, which is like such a treat. But during the week, Monday through Friday, we never have breakfast. So it’s kind of me, Aviva and Rafi and it’s still to me like a family dinner or family breakfast. So you know, it’s a family meal. And as long as we’re connecting, and we’re sitting down to breakfast, and we’re enjoying time together, I think that’s just so special and nice. So I think it’s just a good thing to highlight.
Stephanie Greunke 27:30
Yeah, absolutely. And I highlighted kind of how we go about it strategically with food but you’re completely correct in that it can still be a family meal. And you know, a lot of times we’re able to like as military spouse or you know, even with your your husband if he’s not there for breakfast, and share via text message, like, Oh, this is what happened during breakfast or this is kind of what we talked about. So they feel in the loop because I think a lot of great conversation can happen around the dinner table, and you just want to make sure sure that you know, even if they’re not physically there that they still feel that that presence.
Elana Roumell 28:05
That’s great. I love that.
Hey Mama, Dr. Elana here to quickly remind you that you can safely be a doctor mom. We all want the best for our children. And as a mom, you are automatically your child’s number one health advocate. I’ve created guidebooks and video courses to teach you how to feel calm when your child is sick, how to be competent using integrative medicine tools, and how to feel confident knowing when it’s time to visit your doctor. Or, when you can safely treat your child from home yourself. Head over to medschoolformoms.com/wholemamas and start watching my free mini course where I teach you the mindset, medicine and mastery of being a doctor mom. While you’re there, check out my favorite pediatric and mama approved medicines I use with my patients. I’m always updating my favorite products. Staying up to date is my job so you don’t have to do it. Join our village of supportive mamas visit medschoolformoms.com/wholemamas so you can make confident decisions about your family’s well being. We love helping moms become doctor moms. Now let’s get back to today’s episode.
I also wanted to add, you know, I think it’s also important that if you feel like you’re missing a family member frequently, to something maybe like a work schedule, just to see what you can do to try to work around it. Because, maybe you are missing breakfast and lunches and dinners just because of a schedule. See if there’s any way to even get in one or something maybe on the weekends and make it extra special, you know, and, and never miss those. I just think it’s important to just get creative, make some requests and see if it’s possible for the family to really gather around at some point during the week as a routine. I just think that’s so important for the kids and and all the family members if that’s possible.
Stephanie Greunke 29:58
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. You know, this is kind of the opposite of segmenting out the family. But I think it can be really fun too if you have multiple children to go on, like a dinner date with them. So for example, every Friday, I go on a dinner date with just Otto, and pick him up from school and we have a dinner date with me and him. And that allows him to get my full attention and he gets to really dictate where he wants to go on this dinner date. And he loves it, he asks me about it all the time, like, Oh, is it Friday yet? Are we going to do our dinner date like he is so pumped up about it. So I think you know, moms have multiples even not that it’s a family meal anymore in the sense of everybody’s together, but having that special time on on one with one member of the family, whether it’s a dinner date with your partner or your child.
Elana Roumell 30:47
I absolutely love it. This is the first I’ve ever heard that. And I actually think it has exactly the same point that the Family Dinner Project has. It’s not about that the whole family has to be together, it’s just about the connection during that time. It’s about having that fun interactive time around food. So I think you’re right on, I think that is so special Steph. I can’t wait to do that with my kids. It’s great. Well, I do want to kind of go back to another topic that you guys mentioned. And, it had to do with eliminating distractions while family meals are happening. I know in my house, we set rules, and it really has helped us connect more. And so some of the rules we’ve had that I wanted to share is that we don’t allow phones at the table. And if we have to check something, we just communicate about it. We almost like kind of get permission from one another as is like an exception to the rule if something’s urgent, but we’re really pretty good about no screen. So no phones, no TV, and it really helps us to connect at the table. It’s transformed a lot for us. So I’m curious Steph if you have any advice for some people who may still have their phones still on while eating and they really maybe their new year goal is to try to get rid of those and transform that in their house. I’m curious if you have any tips on how they can start that change?
Stephanie Greunke 32:01
Yeah, well, I’m definitely not the expert in this. I feel like this is still a pain point for us. But I know in the interview, she provided a lot of great tips that I really agree with, like using the the conversational games that are outlined in the Family Dinner Project book. So every week, they give you new conversation starter and that way, if you’re kind of like, oh, what do we do now that we don’t have the TV, you can have those questions and there are questions for younger kids and then more deep, intimate questions for older kids. And so that’s one thing. I think having a rule is really important like you and Anthony do and having the integrity to keep that rule of no phones at the table is important. But I like that she said, You know, you’re not using the phone for checking text messages or checking email. You can use that phone to answer questions. So if you’re having a conversation around the dinner table and your five year olds like, Mom, how fast can a cheetah run? Which is something that I’ve been asked before and I don’t know it off the top of my head. Then, I can Google it and Google tell me that Cheetas can run up to 75 miles per hour.
Elana Roumell 33:16
And you know that, thank you, Otto
Stephanie Greunke 33:19
Yeah. And the Peregrine Falcon can fly I think 185 miles per hour.
No, but, if you’re ever in jeopardy,
Elana Roumell 33:31
you can like do a whole podcast on like, the questions our kids ask and what the answers are. We sound smart. Exactly.
Stephanie Greunke 33:37
So yeah, so honestly, like at our house, we do use a TV and at first I’m like, I don’t know that I want to admit that but I also want to be real with what happens and at first, we were just letting it be whatever show they wanted, whether that was a Paw Patrol on the big TV or now they’re into Power Rangers, so Power Rangers on the TV. But we’ve steered away from those kind of shows and if we do have the TV on during meals, it’s something like the animal planet where there are teaching and talking and educated moments. So, you know, it’s having the TV on and technology at meals is definitely been a pain point between my husband and I because I would rather not have it on but he’s cool with it, because it really creates that conversation. It keeps things light, it keeps everybody at the table for more than two seconds. And right now we’re not navigating picky eaters and so they’re doing really well. So he’s kind of like it’s not broke, don’t fix it, because we are still all communicating. So ideally, I’d like to get to a point where we only do it maybe once a week or on a weekend or if the Packers are playing. But you know, having the TV on is not something we’re feeling totally guilty about at this point, because it’s fine.
Elana Roumell 34:55
Well, you also brought up your situation where you have wigglers, and you really do, it’s hard for them to sit there. And so if like, literally three minutes into the meal, you’re trying to get Otto and Leo to sit down, then it just actually creates a little bit more stress. And so we don’t want that that’s not fun, right? And then the conversation tends to be more like aggravating and impatient and stuff. So maybe for you guys, it the TV is used as a tool in this, it’s very intentional, so that the family stays. But then you guys actually have talking points on what’s going on. So you’re still connecting. I think when the TV is used, and like everyone’s just so disconnected or someone’s on their phone, and then someone’s watching TV, and then there’s just disconnection that’s then I would say that’s where the problems can occur. So again, I think it’s just a matter of how do we use these tools to benefit us. And again, it could be a season for you guys. But again, I think the whole focus is just how do we not get too distracted? And how do we connect? And I think for every family, it’s different. So for me, we have those rules. And then for you, you guys do it. But again, we’re getting the same outcome. So I think that that’s perfect. My Aviva is not wiggling. She just sits there and she eats, she could take her 20 minutes, and she’s still just sits there. So, you know, it’s just a very different dynamic at this point. Now, when Rafi gets older, I’ll probably turn on the TV, watch. He’ll probably be my wiggler. Who knows? So I just appreciate you being transparent sharing that with us Steph.
Stephanie Greunke 36:21
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And I love what you said. I mean, it really is looking at what are the pros and cons of making this decision and do you feel like it’s a problem? Or, are you wanting to stop it because you’re told that it’s a problem? So like so many other things in motherhood? It’s like, put your blinders on? Is it working for you? Cool. If it’s not working for you then change it.
Elana Roumell 36:42
Absolutely. You got it.
Stephanie Greunke 36:44
Alright, so, we talked about picky eaters and strategies to help them expand their variety of foods. And I love their idea of building your own meal. And I shared that I did a yogurt bar when I had family in town and it went really well. So I’m curious if you have any other fun ideas for building your own meals?
Elana Roumell 37:03
Yeah, I love this whole idea of building meals. I have so many different ideas, but I’ll share just like a few that we’ve done and I just think that there could be so many more. One of them is a mashed potato bar. I think this is also fun to do as a party, you kind of just make a big pot of good mashed potatoes with a bunch of good butter or ghee or you know, coconut milk if you’re non dairy, however you would like to do that. And you can serve it with sides like crumbled bacon or shredded chicken, green onions, if you do dairy, you could do shredded cheese, and I like to do some steamed broccoli for some added greens. Now you can also do this with like a whole baked potato so it’s like a baked potato bar or even some whole yams, but the whole concept around just kind of making it a build your own either mashed potato bar, just think it’s so cute. Another one you could do is a stuffed yam bar and you serve it with chili and so then you can kind of build it yourself. You can add chives, you can add sour cream, you can add cheese and so it’s kind of this stuffed yam with chili, which I think is a fun bar. And then the other one I think is so cute which you could do this either for breakfast you can do it for lunch is an avocado toast bar. So you can serve it with other gluten free toast. Or if you eat regular toast, we do it with gluten free toast, you can have a side of mashed avocados, you could do sprouts and sliced tomatoes and onions. We like to do the fried eggs for protein. And again, just like make it as a bar then the kids and adults can all make it themselves. I just think that these are really fun. You could do it again at the family dinner table. Or you could do these for parties as well, which is really fun to share with other people.
Stephanie Greunke 38:35
Yeah, I love that. I love that idea. Because you are also allowing people who may have food allergies or intolerances, or maybe they’re following a specific diet plan. It allows them to be able to enjoy without feeling awkward or guilty about it.
Elana Roumell 38:49
I mean, really, it just goes back to also with these kids giving them ownership over creating their meals. You know, they don’t get a lot of control in many other aspects. You know we’re telling them when to go to sleep, you know when to turn on the TV when not to or when to play, when to go to school. And so when it comes to food, you know, we’re still doing the shopping and the cooking and such, but for them to get to play with it and to, you know, put however many berries on their yogurt they want or however many mashed avocados they want on their toast, yes, it can get messy and sometimes wasteful. However, again, if you can look at it as that adventurous eating purpose, and you know, and to really help connect and make family dinners fun. I just think it’s such a great way to do that. Okay, anyway, I did want to go on to another topic if you don’t mind. We still have a little bit of time. I loved how they really highlighted the fun part of family dinners. And you kind of mentioned this a little bit with one of your answers prior is about creating games and like using games as part of the family dinners or breakfast or lunch. And I just have never thought about this before for some reason. I guess I so often think of the standard question. How was your day? What did you learn today? You know, it’s like the standard question right at every table. And I just find that this book is fascinating. It has over 50 games and it also helps tell you which age range this game would be appropriate for. So, I’m personally excited to try them out. They have, you know, games as young as Aviva’s age so I could start them now tomorrow. I’m curious Steph if you’ve now started some of these games. You said you do some but can you go into detail with like, what it’s been like and and how Leo and Otto have taken to that?
Stephanie Greunke 40:28
Yeah, so Leo is three, and he doesn’t really have the attention span for many games. Again, he’s my wiggler, and he’ll talk about anything and everything that’s on his mind. So we’ve really just started to allow him to figure out what feels best for him. So he’ll talk and he’ll share about his day, just naturally sometimes. And so we just let that happen. But what we do like to do, it’s not really a game but it’s just like an engaging activity that seems to work for us right now is, before we have our meal before we start eating, sometimes they start before we do this because they’re antsy, but we always ask them to say one thing that they’re grateful for. And they didn’t really get the concept of grateful. So we would say like, what’s one thing that made you smile today? Or what’s one thing that made you really happy today? And then we’ll ask Otto, what’s one thing you learned at school today that was really interesting. And sometimes they’ll give like a, um, I don’t know. And then they move on and they’re not interested. But other times, it leads to really interesting conversations about maybe interactions with friends at school, or what they did during the day and lets us get a glimpse into their world. So we’re not trying to force communication at the table right now or force specific games. We’re just really trying to keep things light. And I would love to do more of these games, but I know that we’re just going to get there when we get there.
Elana Roumell 41:53
Great. I love it. I think that’s a great attitude. And I do think you guys are going to get there sooner than later. It could just end up clicking one day. Just having the tools and knowing that they’re there, I just think it’s a great resource. So now that we have them, it’s something that both of us get to try. And some of our listeners may already have kids who are ready for that, who can really pick it up and start it tomorrow.
Stephanie Greunke 42:12
So what were your takeaways from this episode? What did you really enjoy learning about?
Elana Roumell 42:16
Okay, so I took so many notes. Honestly, it’s so funny. I think some interviews called me to like write something down while others like I just like to listen and take a walk and enjoy. This one just had so many cool tips. So I really loved that they gave permission to very busy families who just truly don’t have the capacity to sit down for a family dinner to say, you know what, it’s okay. You could a family snack instead. Like none of this is like, like a book says this and you have to do this and that’s the right and perfect thing. So a snack and literally look like taking one of your kids and sitting down at the table, connecting with them not being distracted. You know, having something playful and just like eating like an apple together and with almond butter, you know, who cares. It’s just a matter of just like having that time over food to connect and have fun. So I just thought that was really nice. That kind of gave us some grace there. They also gave some examples that it doesn’t necessarily have to be a sit down dinner. It could also be two friends coming together and meal prepping together. And I just thought this was so cool, because you know, I’m such a big meal prepper. And at this point, I’m just doing it all by myself. But like the idea of just having another friend in the kitchen and we’re just like, connecting during the time while we’re prepping. I just think is so neat. And that’s the time for us to bond and have conversation over food. I think that’s neat or even doing meal swaps. And I think you mentioned this in the podcast with like a CrossFit gym, you are a member of they would do that, you know, someone would choose Tuesday and they would make so many leftovers that they would swap it out with so many other families and then the other days they would receive foods from families. That’s another way of having kind of family dinner with your community. So again, there’s just so many different ways to really make this work. I think like any family dynamic, it’s still find their way with any type of season that they’re experiencing. And then just the last thing that I had in my notes that I wanted to remind our listeners about, and it’s something that I have to remind myself to do often is never to tie food to behavior. So for example, we never want to say to our kids, you know, if you don’t behave, you don’t get dessert. If there’s dessert, there’s desert, it doesn’t really matter how they’ve behaved or not. You want to always remove that emotional connection. You don’t want to ever comment on how much they eat or how little they eat. You just you really want to keep relationship with eating neutral and non judgmental, and I mean, Steph, I’m still working on this all the time. Just to be transparent, we had one of our neighbors over she’s a four year old girl who Aviva just adores and so she was over and she was just having like a really rough time at some point. So I said, Hey, do you want a cookie before we have dinner? Maybe that’ll help you like, calm down. And I thought to myself, like, why did I do that? Like, why did I totally use food to try to change her behavior? And I almost apologized to her mom about it. And her mom was so cool. She’s like, Look, it’s fine. I know, this isn’t the norm. If it’s here once in a while, it’s fine. But I was like, no, I’m like, really practicing not attaching food to any kind of behavior change. And so I just think it’s okay even if we do it, just be mindful about it. You know, it just takes practice. I think a lot of us grew up with, you know, if you don’t behave at the dinner table, if you don’t eat all your food, you don’t get dessert and all of this stuff where it’s just like, just let’s try to drop this it’s because it gets too messy. You know, you don’t want these emotional attachments connected with food. And so I just liked that they were reminding us that again on this episode. And so I wanted to remind you guys again on our recap. Steph, do you have anything to say about that or any other takeaways you had with this episode,
Stephanie Greunke 45:55
yeah, no, I totally get what you mean and full transparency we have a hard time, my husband and I, remembering this when things get heated and we’re being reactive, we’re not really thinking about what we’re saying or the outcome, and we’re just like, well, you didn’t eat any of your eggs so why would you have that Larabar? You know, and, and so yeah, we’re totally working on it, too. It’s definitely not something that I think we will ever fully remove from our vocabulary, but just being mindful about it as much as we can. And, you know, reminding each other. So for example, my husband tends to do this more than I do. And I have to you know, just kind of whisper in his ear, like, hey sweetie, could we find another way to encourage that behavior? He’s like, Oh, yeah, totally, because it just is a impulsive thing. So it’s not that you’re doing anything wrong. It’s just something that we’ve kind of been trained to do and it’s an easy reaction.
Elana Roumell 46:43
And yes, thank you for sharing. I think it’s good our listeners know, we’re totally in this journey together. We’re all here. We’re not perfect. And I think just that mindfulness is just another step moving us in that direction. So maybe by the time our kids are 10, we got it down. Yes. You know, that’s okay. It’s still good to be there to practice. Yes.
Stephanie Greunke 47:03
And then I think the other thing was just when you are looking at conversations or games at the dinner table, I love her tip of keeping questions open ended. So instead of saying how was your day, and they may just say good, and conversation is over. Asking something where it requires more than a yes or no answer, and they have to really think through what their answer is going to be or share more about that question. So I thought that was really helpful. And I think the final thing is just not sweating it if your little doesn’t stay at the table for a full meal. I know that just made me feel like a ton of weight off my shoulders. When she said to you, it’s cool that you have a little wiggler like, they’ll get through it that you will eventually sit at the table. And right now you just have to figure out what approach you want to take, whether that’s letting them stand by the table for a little bit and then sit down or having like a boxed area around the table. So that made me feel more normal.
Elana Roumell 48:02
I love it. I was actually like envisioning this little X, on your floor to like, try to keep one of your kids. I was like, I don’t know if this is gonna work for you, but you might as well try it and see you know, it could be a fun game for like a week. And then they’re like, I’m over this this X thing. Yeah, but I get it, you know, it just depends on the kid and how they’re gonna react to these. And again, just to end I feel, like every family dynamic is so different, that there’s no wrong or right way. We’re hoping that all this information just can inspire some change. If you’re even looking for change and more connection, or maybe you’re looking for less distraction or more fun or who knows, whatever you’re looking for in these. We just hope that we’re inspiring you with any of this information, the resources that these experts provide, because they’ve done so much research and put in so much time. They have such passion for this. It’s just so neat to get some of their ideas and share them with you. So thanks, Steph again for bringing them on.
Stephanie Greunke 48:52
Oh, yeah, absolutely. And thank you to all of you for listening to this episode and the episodes about raising adventurous eaters and the Family Dinner Project. Elana and I cannot thank you enough for your support and for listening to our podcast and we would like to ask you a quick favor. If you’ve been enjoying the podcast, we’d love your help sharing the podcast with your community. The two best ways that you can do that are taking a screenshot of this episode and sharing on social media and tagging us @wholemamasclub, or leaving a quick review on iTunes. This won’t take you more than a few minutes and we read and appreciate every single share and review. It fires us up to create more episodes and resources to support you on your journey. Thank you so much in advance. And as always, please remember that the views and ideas presented on this podcast are for informational purposes only. All information presented on this podcast is not intended to serve as a substitute for the consultation, diagnosis and/or medical treatment of a qualified health care provider. Consult your provider before starting any diet supplement regimen or to determine the appropriateness of information shared on this podcast or if you have any questions regarding your treatment plan. Now go on, have a great day and nourish and nurture yourself and your family.
- Steph and Dr. Elana share what family meals look like in their homes
- How to get kids more involved in meal planning and food prep
- How to support picky eaters at mealtime
- How community can transform what a family meal looks like
- How to approach screentime at meals from a place of compassion, not shame
- Episode #167: Raising Adventurous Eaters with Misha and Vicki Collins
- Episode #168: Making Family Meals Fun with The Family Dinner Project
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This episode's guest
The Whole Mamas podcast is led by Stephanie Greunke, a registered dietitian, and Dr. Elana Roumell, a naturopathic doctor, both trained in functional medicine and passionate about pregnancy, postpartum, and pediatrics. They invite experts on the show, answer burning questions, highlight key points, and make sure you feel empowered to take action. Find Whole Mamas and the Whole Mamas hosts on Instagram @wholemamasclub, @stephgreunke, @drelanaroumell, and at www.wholemamasclub.com.