You can improve your health and make mealtimes more meaningful by making just one small change to how you serve dinner. Try eating dinner in courses rather than having a one-plate meal. Start with a light first course like soup or salad, then move on to the main course. If you like, add a simple third course after the main course. Serving in courses- two or three is quite simple and benefits both your health and your family’s connection.
The first time I coached Audrey, I suggested she serve her dinner in courses. Audrey told me that the first time she tried eating in courses, she and her husband ate half of what they usually do in their meal. And they enjoyed their meal more.
To serve your meal in courses, it can be as simple as dividing your meal into courses instead of plating your meal all at once. For example, serve the salad first, then the main dish.
If you are serving a one-dish meal, you can add a simple first or third course. A first course is usually a vegetable and something light. It can be soup, salad, or vegetables. It doesn’t need to be complicated.
For everyday dinners, I have served bits of this and that, like sliced cucumbers or tomatoes drizzled with olive oil and sea salt, or pesto, steamed asparagus with Dijon sauce, and leftover roasted beets with hazelnuts, chives, and red onion, tossed with Vinaigrette dressing.
You can serve a simple French-inspired salad, such as endives with blue cheese and walnuts or grapefruit and avocado with Vinaigrette dressing.
In France, a first course is often what is served as a side dish in America. In the summer, my cousin serves green beans from her garden as a course. She steams them, so they don’t get waterlogged and serves the green beans with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt. It is worth savoring the flavor of fresh beans on their own. You can also toss green beans with a homemade vinaigrette- with or without potatoes. It’s divine.
Another first course my sister-in-law often serves is cabbage salad with French vinaigrette- when cabbage is in season. This dish is as simple as slicing the cabbage and tossing it with a French vinaigrette dressing. It takes 3 minutes to make the dressing, so it’s fast and simple to prepare. You can find the dressing recipe here.
To come up with ideas for your first course beyond a soup or salad, think in season, fresh and simple.
In France and Italy, it is almost always customary to serve a third course. In America, we call it dessert, and it's often shied away from it due to its association with being rich and sugary. Consider dessert as the third course that completes the meal, and it can be something as simple as fresh fruit of the season, berries and cream, or a small piece of chocolate.
Even a few apple slices or fresh plums can be very satisfying. They are sweet and help to prevent cravings for something else later.
My husband Pierre was raised in the south of France, while I was raised in an Italian home. For both of us, dessert was always part of the meal. My father served a few apple slices for dessert after most dinners. Apples help promote good digestion, and, as the saying goes, an apple a day keeps the doctor away.
My mother-in-law says, “il faut une douceur.” You must end with something sweet. At 86 years old, she still insists that everyone eat fruit after dinner. There are many delicious and healthy third course ideas. I'll share more in my upcoming posts. Sign up here for notifications when they are published.
As I mentioned above, when you eat a first course, it is easier to eat slower because you eat one course, then pause for a moment to serve the next course. Eating slowly aids in digestion. Eating in courses also helps with portion control and weight management. When you know there is more on the menu, you are more inclined to take a small portion to save room for the rest. Eating in courses also takes longer to eat; the brain has time to register when you are full, so it's easier to eat less.
Eating in courses is also relaxing. It's hard to rush through the meal. When you are relaxed, your parasympathetic nervous system is activated, known as the "rest and digest" state - a perfect state of being while you are eating.
One of the best parts about serving in courses is that it opens the door to having more meaningful conversations and bonding. It naturally spreads out the time at the table, making the meal last longer and giving you time to talk and connect.
There are many benefits to eating in courses, as you can see. In future posts, I will share more ideas on easy courses and how planning your meals in courses can save you time and money. For now, give it a try tonight and see what you experience.
In the next post, I will share how serving a meal in courses can help please picky eaters and family members with varying tastes. Click here, and I'll let you know when it's published.
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