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Real Family Dinner Projects: The Donner Family

Posted on: February 28th, 2018 by Bri DeRosa

Meet the Donner family! Hailing from Nebraska, this family of five has been working on some familiar struggles: picky eating, nutrition and division of responsibilities. We are pleased to be able to share their experiences and great tips with other families!

The Family:

Josh and Jacqui Donner, of Lincoln, Nebraska, and their three kids: Aedyn (12), Zoe (9) and Michael (6).

The Goal:

Currently, the Donners are working on getting the kids to accept more new foods, especially vegetables. In fact, that’s how they found The Family Dinner Project — Jacqui says “I was probably Googling for ideas on how to get kids to eat what we’re having instead of making a separate meal.”

The Challenges:

Like many parents we’ve worked with over the years, Josh and Jacqui have encountered negotiating from their kids over what’s being served. “They only want pizza, Kraft mac and cheese or grilled cheese,” Jacqui shares. Getting Aedyn, Zoe and Michael to eat what their parents prepare instead of asking for a preferred meal has been a struggle.

The Strategies:

The Donners have implemented some rules at dinnertime that have helped not only with their kids’ eating habits, but also with everyone’s participation in family dinners in general.

“We have a new rule that one meal is served. If they don’t like it, they have to make their own replacement. That could be cereal, a sandwich, making a salad if they don’t want the green beans…Everyone must try the new food or new preparation of a food they haven’t liked in the past.”

In addition to switching gears from short-order cooks to presenting one desirable meal, the family has a smart division of responsibilities to help make dinnertime a shared effort. Jacqui says, “We have three helper positions and they rotate weekly. One person helps prep (set the table, get everyone drinks, let everyone know dinner is ready). One person helps plan (gets to choose a meal or side dish, goes to the grocery store to pick out fruits, cereal and vegetables). One person is on clean-up crew (makes sure any trash, like napkins, go in the trash, dishes make it to the dishwasher, leftovers to the fridge and dining table is wiped down).” Keeping everyone involved in dinnertime duties is a great way to ensure that the whole family is invested in the experience, and the responsibility of planning, shopping, cooking and cleaning doesn’t fall to one or two members of the household!

The Food:

Despite the kids’ preferences for mac and cheese or pizza, and their parents’ desires for them to try more vegetables, the Donners can all agree on Shrimp Pesto Pasta as a favorite meal!

The Takeaway:

As they continue to work on improving eating habits and broadening horizons, Jacqui says that remembering to focus on fun and conversation at the table, with ideas she’s learned from The Family Dinner Project, has been helpful. “Having ideas for things to talk about…makes dinner fun and less stressful when they’re upset about what we’re eating. I feel like we’ve gotten to know our kids better and they’ve become more open to giving their honest opinions about some dishes we’ve tried.”

The Best Part:

The Donner kids are enthusiastic about their family dinner experiences. Aedyn, Zoe and Michael say that eating with everyone at the table and talking about their days is the best, especially when they can share something funny that happened at school!

Do you have your own family dinner project to share with us? We’d love to hear from you and consider featuring your family! Contact Us.