Have mealtimes in your home become a battle of the wills, with your kids turning up their noses at the nutritious meal you just prepared? Eating well doesn’t have to be hard or boring, or mean that you and your family have to “give up” delicious tasting food. Here’s how to incorporate healthier eating into your life:
Turning The Tide Toward Healthier Eating
1) Make Small Changes
Many parents try to do too much at once, leading to stronger pushback from their kids. Look at adding an extra serving of vegetables to a meal each day and encourage your kids to eat some of them first, or plan to replace a less healthy snack with a yogurt 3 times a week. Write your goal down so you remember, and evaluate after a week. Once your kids’ new habits become automatic, they’ll be ready for additional changes.
2) Make Healthy Food Taste Yummy
Many fruits and vegetables taste good “as is” but others may require a little “finessing.” There are reasons that Brussels sprouts get a bad rap – but they don’t have to! Don’t be afraid to experiment with cooking styles and spices to discover what you and your family like. I’ve had great success with finding healthy recipes that actually taste good on skinnytaste.com.
3) Start With What You Know
Look at your current family staples if you are already cooking at home. Write them down and post them on your fridge so you have some “go-to” recipe ideas and build on those. If spaghetti makes it in the weekly rotation, try adding some vegetables to your sauce, automatically crowding out some of your noodles. Are your kids “breakfast for dinner” people? Omelets are another easy meal that can be beefed up (pun intended) with the vegetables you have on hand. Add tomatoes, broccoli, spinach, peppers, onions, and potatoes for flavor and satiety.
4) Cook What Your Family Likes
Where does your family prefer to eat out? Why do you like those restaurants? Can you play with your favorite restaurant’s themes at home? This is easier with some places than others (I love Persian Rice, but it’s way beyond my culinary level). On the other hand, burritos are something I can handle. I’ll add sweet potatoes, peppers, and beans to chicken for added protein, fiber, complex carbs, and vitamins. I can even double the recipe and freeze some for an easy meal on busy activity nights and receive no complaints from my kids.
5) Get Your Kids’ Buy-In:
To get them excited, look up recipes with your kids, visit your local farmer’s market or gourmet grocery store, or buy a new kitchen gadget. If you and your family feel connected to what you are eating, you will get more enjoyment out of eating it.
6) Describe Your Food:
Research shows that people get more satisfaction from eating food that is described in colorful detail compared to food described solely as “healthy” or with few descriptors. Doesn’t “Grandma’s homemade oatmeal with farm-fresh fruit” sounds a lot better than “oatmeal and an apple?”
Extending this practice into the meal is referred to as “mindful eating.” Taking time to notice the taste, texture, and aroma of your food is shown to increase satisfaction and digestion as well as limit eating when full.
7) Limit Other Options:
If you have Lucky Charms in the house, you probably will have a hard time convincing your kids to bypass them and reach for steel-cut oats. (I mean, come on, they’re magically delicious.) Set your family up for success by making the decision to eat more nutrient-dense foods by having them more easily accessible than less healthy alternatives.
8) Don’t Force It:
The best way to ensure cooperative healthy eating from your kids is by eating fresh, whole foods because they fill them, nourish them, and make them feel great. Not because they “have to.” An attitude of reluctant commitment or serious strong-arming from you sets you up for rebellion. If your kids truly don’t like the way kale tastes (self-disclosure, I HATE kale), despite trying different cooking methods, be flexible and pick something else for a family staple.
There is so much out there to eat. With a little luck, you’ll be able to take the struggle out of mealtime and help the next generation develop a lifetime healthy habits!