Healthy Eating: Practical Tips and Tricks for Helping Your Family Eat Better

December 1, 2009 at 9:52 pm Leave a comment

Sometimes I feel like I’m fighting a losing battle against food that’s just plain not good for my family. Fast food restaurants line the roads as far as the eye can see, and that burger and fries seems like they are calling my name, and that of every person in my family. And while we all know that artificial cheese food isn’t even in the same nutrition universe as fresh vegetables or fiber-rich multi-grains, that doesn’t stop us from wanting what’s not good for us. My family will dive right into and demolish a pizza, but somehow they won’t attack a plate of veggies with the same gusto. I know that we need to make changes to our habits, but knowing and doing are two very different things.

As I contemplated the ways I could start to move the needle on healthy eating in my household, I once again turned to the blogosphere to see what kind of useful advice I could uncover. I did find some really great and highly practical tidbits that I’m pretty sure I can start to work with almost immediately.

  • Choose healthy snacks. Sometimes healthy options are already family favorites, or they are close enough to favorites that they are easy to work into the routine. Nuts, granola bars, and raisins are just a few of the suggestions MonaDarling.com has for helping kids snack better. My big take away from this post is to look for healthy options in and among what my family already likes.
  • Get a little help from peanut butter. This story provides details on a study that looked at what impact dipping fresh vegetables in peanut butter had on the chances of a child actually consuming said vegetables. It turns out that kids who said they didn’t even like veggies would eat them more readily when dipped in peanut butter. I’ve used things like ranch-style dip in the past as a way to make vegetables more appealing, but hadn’t thought of peanut butter. This just goes to show that condiments can help get nutrients into the family and sometimes that’s just good enough.
  • Make a few healthy substitutions. It’s unrealistic to expect my family to give up their favorite foods all together. There would be mutiny if I banned pizza or mac and cheese from our regular rotation. However, it is possible to make those favorites healthier with just a few substitutions. This Café Mom post has some easy and healthy recommendations for keeping the family favorites while making them a better source of nutrition. With a few changes here and there, you can keep them on the menu without feeling guilty.
  • Take one step at a time. Sometimes I think I try to run before my family is ready to walk. I remember when I banned all white flour products from the house – it wasn’t pretty. Instead, I should have started with one or two ingredients first, to get the family used to a new version of their favorite breads and pastas. The Super Healthy Kids blog not only made me feel better about my picky eaters, but pointed out that you have to start somewhere, and starting small is okay. Incremental changes are still changes, and a year’s worth of them can make a big difference in a family’s overall attitude toward healthier foods.
  • Start by eating together. As a child, I remember how important it was that we all ate together at the dinner table several nights a week. As a parent, even with our hectic schedules, I try to get us all around the table as much as possible so we have a bit of quality family time at least once a day. It turns out that this doesn’t only strengthen our family ties, it is a key element of helping my family eat better. The Raise Healthy Eaters blog interviewed Ellyn Satter, MS, RD, LCSW, an internationally recognized authority on eating and feeding. Dr. Satter’s first piece of advice to parents is to eat together as a family because this sets the foundation for building healthy eating habits. I was so excited to hear that this technique is so powerful, because it makes the extra effort I go through to gather the family around the table all the more worth it.

In the end, it’s not about making big changes all at once – upsetting the apple cart as it were. Instead, I can look for the low-hanging fruit (to exhaust that metaphor) and start there to help my family be more helpful. Many small changes will add up over time, and that’s something I can work with.

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Entry filed under: Avoiding Food Ruts, Healthy Eating, Tips & Tricks.

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