I make a wide variety of meals with very little repetition. Only my very easiest meals, really, or particular family favorites, get repeated from month to month, and none are repeated within a month. It’s sometimes tempting to make a shorter plan that repeats more often in order to cut down on the actual planning portion, but I think variety is important. Here are five reasons why:
1: A varied menu is more nutritious! When we repeat dishes on a shorter rotation, we run the risk of unconsciously eliminating valuable food sources from our family’s diets. The more variety we have in our diets, the less we have to worry on the micro level about making sure we’re getting the nutrients we need. True Story: The family remembers with pleasure our little foray into the paleo diet because we were eating so many more and interesting foods. I have, regrettably, fallen back into a bit of an ingredient rut, especially since these last babies were born, and I’m working my way out of it at present.
2. A varied menu is more interesting! Repetition breeds boredom and possibly, over time, disgust, but variety keeps us entertained and intrigued. True Story: Due to childhood overload, I avoid peanut butter and jelly like the plague, and I have only recently begun serving beans and franks, but only because one of my children adores it. I consider both junk food. 😉
3. A varied menu encourages anticipation! We get more pleasure from a thing which is rare than from one which is common, and that applies to food, too. My family looks forward with relish to remembered meals they haven’t encountered for a while, and I look forward to delighting them. True Story: My littler children will forget that they enjoyed a food they haven’t seen in a while, so I just tell them, “You like this!” I pop a spoonful into their mouths and they almost always finish up their serving on their own.
4. A varied menu promotes varied tastes! It’s difficult for a child – or adult – to build strong food preferences when they are frequently exposed to all different kinds of flavors and textures. If we feed our children nothing but peanut butter sandwiches or chicken nuggets, how should we expect them to react with pleasure when we present them with something new? True Story: The same techniques above work with brand new foods, too. I just start with, “This is really yummy! You should try it.” Watching other people enjoy their meal helps, too.
5. A varied menu increases cooking skills! Yes, it really does! The trying of new recipes and new foods causes us to learn new techniques and flavor combinations, and that promotes confidence in the kitchen. True Story: I learned how to cook alongside my parents when I was young, and I have always enjoyed it, but I think many people are thrown into adulthood without this basic skill, and they learn to dread meal preparation. I don’t blame them, but the fault is probably just due to lack of experience, and we are never too old to learn something new.
So, pick a new recipe this week and give it a whirl. How bad could it be?
Tip: If you have cautious eaters, try having a No Matter What Night for experimenting with new recipes. If the children really don’t like the meal and don’t eat much, they still get dessert – no matter what!