How to Create a Basic Food List

Let’s stop planning meals and start building them instead. To do so, you need foods that work well in a variety of ways. Do you know what foods you need to build successful meals? If not, you may benefit from creating your own basic food list.

Creating Your Healthy Food List

The essentials.  What are your go-to meals? We all have them – those meals that consistently greet us no matter how busy our schedule gets. Whether its spaghetti and meatballs (which just happens to be one of mine) or Filet mignon (not one of mine!), we all have meals we turn to time and time again.

This means we have go-to foods as well, but we often fail to think about our meals in that way. These go-to foods are the essential elements necessary to create meals you enjoy. By breaking down our meals into their food components, we can create a list of foods we need to stock our kitchen with. We may even be able to identify ways to modify or enhance our regularly occurring meals by incorporating new foods to the mix.

When we break it down, our food list is where potential lies, where real meal magic happens. Because without our go-to foods, we don’t really have meals to speak of.

The Basics. As you are creating your food list, I’m hoping that some of the basics will pop up on your list more than once. Okay, what I’m really hoping for is that they pop up A LOT. 

Not quite sure what the basics are? The “basics” are foods that fit within the five basic food groups – fruits, vegetables, dairy, grains, and lean proteins. These are the true essentials – the foods providing your body with lots of nutrients, flavor, and variety. They should be showing up pretty frequently in your meal plan – like 80% of the time. They don’t necessarily have to be the only foods you eat, BUT they should provide the structure of your plan.

My Essential Foods. Instead of having several go-to meals in my regular rotation, I like to have between three to five different foods from each food group to start from.

My basics (1)

This ensures I always have the ingredients I need to keep meals nourishing and simple. Of course, this list doesn’t always stay the same, but it is a nice starting point to ensure more of my meals are eaten at home.

How to Build Your Own Food List. Ready to build your own food list? You can use my starter list as a launching point, but in order for your meals to be successful, use the following guidelines to help create a food list that works specifically for you.

  • Keep Seasonality in Mind. One of the reasons my food list doesn’t always stay the same is because I try to eat with the seasons. This can be a great way to add variety to your plate, save money, and experiment with new foods. Building your food list with seasonality in mind can also increase the likelihood that you’ll find the foods you need in the grocery store or at your local farmer’s market.
  • Be True to your Palate. Not every food that’s good for you will be an automatic hit for you or your family. And guess what? That’s okay. Be sure to build your food list with your preferences in  mind. But please make sure you are always leaving a little bit of room to give new foods or foods you haven’t eaten in a while a chance. You’d be surprised how many foods you disliked as child are actually appealing to your taste buds as an adult. Or how much a different cooking method, preparation technique, or the addition of  a certain spice or seasoning can change the way you approach a food. Always keep an open mind – pretty pretty please!
  • Remember why you’re eating in the first place. This may seem silly, but sometimes when we’re so focused on creating a list of foods we “should” eat, we forget that we should also be enjoying our foods in the first place. It’s important to work in foods that you love in addition to the foods you know are good for you. I like to think of this as balance. Balancing out your plate so that you have a good mix of foods that make your meal worth eating. This is also why starting your list with a few of your current meals in mind can be a great place to start.
  • Consult your physician or registered dietitian. Building a food list may also require consulting with your physician or registered dietitian, especially if you have special dietary needs or a medical condition that might require you to eat a certain way. Meeting up with a registered dietitian, like myself, may also help you identify new ways to enjoy nutrient-rich foods or approach food in a positive way.

Want more inspiration? I love this ultimate grocery-list-for-one registered dietitian Dana Angelo White put together over on Greatist. Be sure to check out! And if you haven’t already, be sure to sign up for my weekly newsletter – you’ll get my pantry starter kit download for FREE when you do!

Why Establishing Table Rules Matters

Why Establishing Table Rules Matters

Bringing everyone to the table can either be a whole lot of fun or a whole lot of disaster. Whether you are struggling to make better food decisions or simply want to calm the chaos your family may bring with them when they sit down to their plate, establishing meal time boundaries can be incredibly beneficial in creating a stress-free, supportive meal time routine.

Why Establishing Table Rules Matters

Table Rules in our Household

At the Mora household, we have clear expectations set for meal time. Not only do these table rules help minimize stress, they also help everyone at the table approach it with familiarity and confidence. 

Now if you know me well, you know that I’m not a big fan of rigid, burdensome rules. That’s because “following the rules” isn’t really the point. But sometimes guidelines are incredibly helpful tools that can help you better achieve the outcome that you want.

When it comes to meals, my primary objectives are for them to be nourishing and enjoyable. Our family table rules reflect that and set the stage. They also help build a consistent and safe routine for our kids and our foster kids. Something incredibly important to ensuring meals work for everyone.

Meals are eaten at the table. In our house, whenever food is eaten, it’s happening at the table. This sets the stage and minimizes distraction. Breakfast and snacks are eaten at the table in our breakfast nook while dinners are served in the dining room. 

One meal is served. Each meal I serve has great potential for promoting positive eating in my children. Because of this, I don’t cater. Instead, I serve one meal with and supplement it as needed with foods that are more familiar or safe for everyone around the table. For example, the photo below is an example of a pretty typical dinner at my house. My husband grilled burgers and vegetable kabobs with a Balsamic reduction glaze. We also served up cherries… oh yeah, and goldfish crackers.

This method ensures everyone’s preferences are accounted for, but still provides opportunity to explore new options if the night calls for it.

Food exploration is encouraged. So I’m just going to let you know this up front – most of the time when my kids try something new I’ve created, they aren’t big fans. These zucchini noodles were pretty much the one exception! But that’s okay, because it takes a long LONG time for kids to get to a point of enjoying a food. In fact, a child may need to be exposed to a new food with no expectation to like it upwards of 15-20 times! So just relax, establish an open-minded approach to meal time, and let your kids do the rest.

It’s okay to not eat everything, but manners matter. When food exploration is encouraged, you can expect a fair share of negative reviews. Unfortunately, when one of our children bellows out an “Ew!” or “Disgusting” group think takes over and no one will touch that poor defenseless food (by the way – it’s usually a vegetable in case you were wondering). To keep an open-minded approach, we make sure all our kids know they don’t have to like everything BUT that they should keep negative comments to themselves because others may actually find it appealing. We’re still working on this one, but its important table etiquette we’re working on.

How to Create Your Own Table Rules

Although these table rules might work for you and your family like they do for mine,  don’t be afraid to create your own guidelines. Keep them simple and easy to reinforce at each mealtime and never forget why you set them in the first place. Hopefully, these table rules will help establish an environment that everyone feels safe to join.

In need of more inspirational ground rules to get you started? I love the approach fellow registered dietitian Paige Smathers takes in her article “Secrets of Successful Meals with Young Kids.” According to Paige, even giving your kids the opportunity to say no can be a good thing.