Feeding a Family: Q + A with Annie of Annie’s Eats

Annie's Eats

As part of our Healthy & Whole series, we’ve been getting questions about how to “make it happen” — just how to find the time and energy to cook up healthy and delicious meals each week, especially for working parents. For some advice, we’ve looked to the queen of making it happen, our friend Annie of the blog Annie’s Eats. Annie is a mom, resident physician, and author of a fabulous renowned blog, and she still manages to put nutritious food on the table for her family. We caught up with her here to share some of her secrets on just how she does it! And don’t skip this if you’re not a parent – she has some great tips for everyone, no matter your season of life. Thank you so much, Annie! 

You’re a full-time resident physician, part-time blogger, and full-time mother of two, yet you manage to cook wholesome and delicious meals for your family. How do you do it?

For me, it’s all about planning, planning, planning.  I think one of the biggest obstacles to weeknight meal preparation is figuring out what to make.  If you already have a game plan, it’s much easier to get into the kitchen and start cooking.  No time wasted standing in front of the fridge scratching your head.

Every weekend, I take an hour or so after the kids go to bed and plan our meals for the following week (see more about my menu planning strategies).  I do any prep that I can in advance.  Finally, I utilize my freezer a lot so I can pull things from the freezer as needed (see my tips for stocking the freezer).

We’ve talked a bit on our blog of embracing new things, and not fearing failure. However, what happens if you have a failure in the kitchen and have several hungry mouths to feed? PB&J?

Thankfully, because of my meal planning efforts and keeping the fridge and pantry well stocked, even when plans for a meal go awry, we can throw together some semblance of a meal.  We may not all end up eating the same thing on those nights…it’s usually a bit of a hodge podge.  My husband really loves cereal, and embraces this as an opportunity to eat it :)  But we do try to make sure the meals are somewhat balanced with fruit(s) and/or veggies.  It’s okay if every meal isn’t perfect and if some are complete flops.  At least you’re making the effort and moving in the right direction.

What are the three top things you’d recommend to a working mom or dad (or anyone, really) who are just starting out cooking?

First, start out with quick, simple meals.  If you are new to cooking in general or just don’t do it often, starting with easy meals makes it more likely that you will follow through.  If you plan something overly complicated or time consuming, it’s more likely you will opt for take out or a pre-packaged option.  Second, choose recipes you are almost certain to enjoy.  If you choose a recipe with ingredients you are unsure of to start, you may be unhappy with the results and less likely to try again.  Finally, when you find a recipe you like, consider making double batches to freeze some for later.  Homemade freezer meals are so convenient to have around on especially busy days, and they beat the heck out of frozen lasagna.

Do your kids eat anything? How do you recommend accommodating picky eaters?

We do everything we can to help our kids develop non-picky palates, and embrace trying new things.  I feel the vast majority of picky eating behaviors are reinforced and become ingrained when parents offer their children an alternate option because they express dislike for a particular food or meal.  If children realize that all they have to do is complain and they will get their way, that’s exactly what they will do.  This creates expectations and habits that can be tough to break.

There is no reason to believe that they can only handle bland, typical “kid” foods.  Children raised in other countries are certainly not eating macaroni and cheese or chicken nuggets for every meal!  In our house, our kids eat what we eat, with almost no exceptions.  We teach them from the time we introduce table food that eating vegetables is part of a healthy diet whether they like it or not (though we do our best to help them like it!)  For the part of the parent, it often feels so much easier to simply give in to the child’s demands but trust me – it is well worth the effort to consistently present this message.  The kids eventually become accustomed to it and (most of) our meals are definitely made easier because of this approach.

Of course, they are still kids, and they still have their moments of picky fits (likely more an issue of control than a true dislike for the food).  On those days where we are not making progress at the dinner table, rather than fight about it, we cover the plate, save it for later, and let our child know that when they are hungry again their dinner will be waiting for them.  And honestly, they usually do a lot better the second time around.

Do you have any “go to” recipes you’d recommend for families (or anyone, again)?

Some of our family’s favorite simple, mostly quick recipes are:

Broccoli Pesto Pasta
Garlicky Shrimp Avocado Sandwiches
Mexican Quinoa
Greek Pita Pizzas
Greek Veggie Wraps
Chicken with Tomato Herb Pan Sauce
Panko Crusted Salmon

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About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.

Alex Overhiser

Cookbook Author and photographer

Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.

11 Comments

  • Reply
    Tieghan
    April 12, 2013 at 8:42 am

    I love post like these and annie is on of my favorite bloggers! Such a fun morning read!

  • Reply
    Lauren Ochoa
    April 12, 2013 at 12:11 pm

    As a mom of 3 and full-time nurse, I have experienced my own evolution of meal prep, from a singleton and newlywed who found it easier and less expensive to just mostly eat out to what I am today; a freezer stocking dry-bean soaking, do-it-your-self-ing no-nonsense eat your veggies mom-tacular! Annie has been a HUGE part of this learning process and I don’t think a day has gone by for the last 3 years that I haven’t used a recipe, technique or idea gleaned from her blog. Annie really IS the queen of doing it all!

    • Reply
      Annie
      April 12, 2013 at 1:13 pm

      Lauren, you already know (I think) that I love you to pieces, but this comment just totally made my day. I’m not sure I realized your starting point but I’m so glad to hear that my blog has helped your kitchen evolution. You are awesome and I’m thankful I have you as a reader :)

    • Reply
      Sonja
      April 18, 2013 at 11:21 pm

      This is wonderful! Thank you for sharing this, and so exciting to see how much Annie has helped make the cook you are today! This is so encouraging.

  • Reply
    Gail
    April 12, 2013 at 1:37 pm

    I LOVE Annie’s philosophies on how to eat at home and instill good eating habits in your children. I have a soon-to-be 6-month-old son and we just started him on solids. I’m having so much fun and look forward to introducing him to future family dinners where my plans is that he, too, will eat what we have (because I refuse to let chicken nuggets rule!)

    Annie, thanks for keeping such a wonderful blog. That panko salmon is a regular staple now in the Werner home!

    • Reply
      Sonja
      April 18, 2013 at 11:22 pm

      I couldn’t agree more! We don’t have children yet, but hope to try some of the same philosophies on instilling good eating habits once we do. I look forward to hearing more on how this goes for you!

  • Reply
    Christy
    April 12, 2013 at 2:39 pm

    We’ve embraced the same philosophy about meals with our kids. It’s worked. We have kids who will eat almost anything and we never make a different meal for anyone. I remember when we first introduced raw pepper (red, green, yellow, orange) to our kids. They balked EVERY time for months. But we kept at it. When something is new to them we make them eat at least a couple bites of it, just to develop their palate. A couple years later and they LOVE peppers. They eat them raw nearly every day with lunch. We’ve also found it helpful to only give our kids what we know they won’t love first…once they’ve eaten it, they get the rest of the meal.

    • Reply
      Christy
      April 12, 2013 at 2:39 pm

      I should add that my kids are 5-1/2, 3-1/2 and 19 months.

    • Reply
      Sonja
      April 18, 2013 at 11:24 pm

      This is so encouraging! Thanks for sharing, Christy. It’s so great to hear that with patience, kids’ palates can be trained to embrace all sorts of foods. (I remember being one of said “picky” eaters once upon a time!)

  • Reply
    Erica
    April 12, 2013 at 4:29 pm

    Amen, Annie, on your take on developing non-picky eaters!

  • Reply
    Pat
    April 29, 2013 at 7:07 pm

    I enjoyed this article and, as a mom to three (ages9, 7 and 3) who also works outside of the home, agree wholeheartedly with the recommendations. When we fall prey to the urge for take out it is almost always because I didn’t plan well. Planning and prepping ahead are musts! While I have always cooked evening meals, my style has evolved in large part due to reading Annies’s Eats. I DIY a lot now (beans, pizza crust etc.). With a child with food allergies, it is essential that I know what is in the food and I prepare things I never thought I would. Store bought cookies and the like are rare events for my kids, almost everything at our house is homemade so I control the ingredients. I was preparing brownies once and chopping the chocolate when my sister-in-law stopped by and inquired about what I was doing. I carelessly replied “Oh just making brownies” to which she said “you know they have mixes for that”. I just laughed and replied “I know”. It has become such a routine thing to cook from scratch. Thanks Annie!

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