Summer Dinner Rotation

by Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD on June 23, 2016

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I made it through my end-of-the-year busy time and now summer is here. After a quickie vacation, we are ready to go. I always find the kids whine a lot the first few days without a schedule. I found myself getting agitated when I realized this always happens the beginning of summer. Sure enough, things have settled down. And now it’s time to add some routine, starting with meals.

Above is my base summer rotation for dinners. I’m keeping it open, as we plan to grill a lot and work on some new dishes. We want to try a few more grilled fish meals as well as some new burger options like bison and possibly another veggie burger. I threw in one steak day even though we don’t cook red meat much. It’ll be good to have an option especially when having people over.


I find Fridays in the summer are often spent at the pool or we do potlucks with our neighbors. I planned for very easy serve-yourself dishes most Fridays that can always be changed last minute. I’m also going to make a new rotation for breakfast and lunches since my kids will be home most of the time. More about that next time.

A summer of learning

As I mentioned in my last rotation, I’m focusing on some key learning goals for the kids since they are out of school. First is food.

I plan to have some fun lessons about different aspects of eating, food and some nutrition, starting with the basics of taste and moving through each of the food groups. The point is to explicitly teach my kids about food and its properties and how meals are thrown together. We will also work on cooking skills. I signed up for Chop Chop’s online cooking school for guidance and recipes to make together. I’ll be sure to blog about our progress.

Last year Little D spent the summer in an intense program at Lindamood Bell because he wasn’t able to learn to read in school. This summer, I’m taking over the role of helping him read along with his regular speech sessions. We will have learning time after breakfast for about an hour. This will include reading books, decoding words, learning new sight words and computer games (Nessy Reading). Big A will also be reading, getting on Khan Academy and learning about illustrations to help me with a future book.

The kids will also go to a couple of camps — one in July and another in August. The challenging part for me is balancing work, exercise and the activities of summer. I will get up early most weekdays to get in 2 hours of writing, and the kids will go with me to the gym. I will also work while kids get screen time.

I just remind myself that summer is the time I back off work a bit and spend more quality time with the kids. School will come soon enough.

What are your plans this summer?

What’s been working

Out of all the things we’ve tried recently to teach our kids responsibility, two have worked pretty well. First is every Saturday morning is “clean your room” and “wash your clothes” day. So after breakfast the kids clean their rooms and then sort their laundry into lights and darks. They wash their clothes with help from us. This has been going well and it’s nice to get their laundry done in one day and not have to worry about it during the week. Big A is almost to the point where she can do the laundry herself. Except folding, we need to work on that.

We also have been doing weekly allowance. We are not always good about remembering but we catch the kids up when we do remember. The rule is if they want something they don’t need, like a toy or game, and it’s not their birthday, Christmas or special occasion, they need to pay for it with their own money (they also get some money for their birthdays in addition to allowance). It’s interesting to see how different they are.

Little D was obsessing about this Hot Wheels track and kept going on about how much he wanted it. We told him he had to pay for it and online it was around 47 dollars. He only had thirty something dollars and we calculated that in a couple of weeks he would have enough for his toy. Little D doesn’t like to wait so this was challenging to say the least. So once it seemed like he had enough money, he was still a couple dollars short. We said we’d cover it for him since he has been so patient (not really but he did wait). Then it came time for him to give us ALL his money, and he just started sobbing.

Him: “I won’t have any money left!”

Us: “Well, you don’t have to buy it. This is how mommy and daddy feel about a new house. If we buy one, we won’t have as much money — and will be spending more every month — so we want to be sure about it.” (Little D thinks we should be able to just buy any house we see.)

Him: “I still want it.”

Big A thought he made a “big mistake” spending all his money and she decided against buying something that she felt would take away a good chunk of her stash. Sure enough, when Little D wanted an X-box game a week later and didn’t have the money, he was sad. We talked about being careful about what you spend your money on, and I think it’s starting to sink in.

I feel in today’s world teaching kids the value of money is so important. We are on our way…

In the news…

Research shows it over and over — commenting on their child’s weight is not the way to go.

Really interesting new research about how responsive feeding in infancy cuts overweight risk in toddlerhood by half. We describe how to feed responsively in Fearless Feeding.

Fat shaming starts in first grade? Time to educate all of our kids about size diversity.

Study shows restrictive diets can result in iodine deficiency in young children. A reminder to be careful when limiting foods without professional guidance.

Sandra Aamodt author of the new book Why Diets Makes Us Fat explains why diets are so problematic in this New York Times opinion piece. 

Don’t miss this FREE picky eating series over at Real Mom Nutrition.

On another note, a graduate student emailed me about her research on Parental Attitudes Towards Healthy Eating. She’s looking for parents to fill out her survey here. It should only take about 15 minutes.

That’s it for now. Have a great summer!

Want to create your own family dinner rotation? My latest book What to Cook for Dinner with Kids helps you step-by-step through the process.

What to cook for dinner with kids e-book

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7 Ways I Maintain Health When Life Gets Crazy

by Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD on June 9, 2016

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Over the past month or so it’s been a bit hectic here. First, is the realization my kids are going to be out of school in early June and my next book is not even close to done yet. So I’ve been working extra hard, waking up before 5 and going all day. Then there’s the end-of-the-year activities and planning summer. When you add it all up, it equals much more stress than usual. Instead of throwing my usual healthy habits out the window, I make some adjustments. Here are 7 of the most effective:

1. Easy dinner meals:

Although my dinner rotation works great for busy weeks, for those extra crazy work-like-a-dog weeks, I simplify to my 5 easiest dinners.


Quesadillas (or turkey tacos, but quesadillas produce less dishes)

Spaghetti and meatballs with a strawberry spinach salad (easiest salad in the world!)

Grilled turkey burgers (or chicken) with veggie kabobs

Baked salmon with starch (like potato or mac and cheese), Ceaser salad kit from TJs, fruit

Something slow cooker: Greek chicken pitas or teriyaki chicken

2. Make a batch of frozen burritos

Easy lunches are key. So I buy extra tortillas (my favorite from TJs) and make a big a pot of pinto beans. This requires time to keep adding water, but it’s perfect when I’m home writing my heart out. This recipe is in What to Cook for Dinner with Kids.  click to continue

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5 Changes You Can Expect to See on the Nutrition Facts Label

May 24, 2016
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Have you heard? On May 20th, the FDA announced new changes coming to the nutrition label of food products. Why? Well, the current label is over 20 years old. On their website the FDA states that “The changes announced today are based on updated scientific information, new nutrition and public health research, more recent dietary […]




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What Harping on a Child’s Weight Looks Like 20 Years Later

May 11, 2016
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She was in the 4th grade when she realized her body was wrong. “It’s probably from eating all that pizza and ice cream. It tastes good, doesn’t it? But it makes your body big and fat,” said her pediatrician during a check-up, detailed in this post by My Fat Friend on Medium.com. “Just imagine that […]




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Dinner Rotation: April-May

April 28, 2016
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I hope you all are well. Sorry I missed posting my last meal rotation. I don’t know about you but here in San Diego it’s become warm (although not today) and summer buzz is in the air. So Thursdays will be grill nights as we gear up for summer grilling. Since my husband is in […]




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Want to Strengthen Your Child’s Self-Control Muscle? Avoid This Common Feeding Mistake

April 20, 2016
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This is part of an ongoing series on moderation. It’s in preparation for my next book and includes expert interviews, the latest research and expert tips. Sign up for my updates to get these posts and subscriber discounts including FREE e-book offers. Since I started blogging I’ve consistently received the same question from parents. It […]

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The Power of Paying Attention at Meals

April 12, 2016
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This is part of an ongoing series on moderation. It’s in preparation for my next book and includes expert interviews, the latest research and expert tips. Sign up for my updates to get these posts and subscriber discounts including FREE e-book offers. As a young child, I remember sitting down to family dinners but this […]

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3 Things Carb-Loving Children Wish Their Parents Knew

March 30, 2016
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This is part of an ongoing series on moderation. It’s in preparation for my next book and includes expert interviews, the latest research and expert tips. Sign up for my updates to get these posts and subscriber discounts including FREE e-book offers. You serve dinner with all the food groups and your kids first reach […]

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Transform Your Family’s Food Culture with this 4-Step Mindful Strategy

March 15, 2016
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This is part of an ongoing series on moderation. It’s in preparation for my next book and includes expert interviews, the latest research and expert tips. Sign up for my updates to get these posts and subscriber discounts including FREE e-book offers. Have you ever thought about your family’s unique food culture? Does everyone enjoy […]

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Dinner Rotation: February-March

March 2, 2016
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We are moving right into Spring! One change to my dinner rotation is “No Meat Fridays” because we are Catholic and observe Lent. This thrills me as I love vegetarian meals and my husband has to be supportive. Last Friday, we tried something I’ve been wanting to do for a while: salad bar night. Little […]

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