By Carley Mendes
You’d like your family to start adopting healthier eating habits but sometimes knowing how to start can feel overwhelming, especially when life gets busy. With a little planning and organization, you can create significant changes that will make the shift towards more nutritious meals feel much more obtainable.
Begin With A Family Meeting
Starting with an informal family meeting to get everyone on board can help ensure that no one feels blindsided at the dinner table. Instead of simply labeling the family’s shift in food choices as “healthy”, focus on why you want to make these important changes for the whole family. Nutritious food can help kids focus and get better grades in school, have energy to perform better in sports, and get sick less often. Children can begin to understand these associations as young as 2.5 – 3 years old. The objective here is to get everyone excited and prepared to expect a few changes.
Making too many modifications all at once can feel overwhelming, and creating overly high expectations for your family from the get-go may be met with resistance. Instead focus on making one change per week as a more accessible goal. This method is also much more sustainable long-term. It can be as simple as swapping whole oats for sugary breakfast cereal or drinking fruit infused water instead of soda.
Eat A Shared Meal Together
Cooking separate meals for different members of your family will not only tire you out, but it will likely lead to poorer food choices made simply out of convenience. Focusing on one shared meal allows you to spend more time and effort preparing nutritious food for everyone to enjoy together. It’s also proven that children who sit with their family during mealtime eat a more well balanced diet.
Offer Choices & Include Familiar Foods
It’s possible to be sensitive to your children’s likes and dislikes without catering to their every culinary request. Less adventurous children may feel intimidated by a meal of entirely new foods, so try offering new items alongside other healthy foods they already know and like. Don’t force them to eat foods they initially reject, rather lead by example and establish strategies for picky eaters. Buying and serving only nutritious foods and allowing everyone to choose what they want ensures that whatever is consumed will be a healthy option.
Kitchen Clean Up
When embarking on healthier eating habits for the family, take an honest look through your fridge, cabinets and pantry to determine what items should be hidden from view, given to friends, or donated to a food bank. Keep nutritious options front and center so smart choices can be made when reaching for snacks. Make healthy food accessible, such as having a fruit bowl on the counter and veggies cut up and prepped in the fridge. It’s also beneficial to get into the habit of making extra food at supper so that working parents can take leftovers for lunch. This reduces the chance that less healthy choices will be made when out of the house.
Don’t Give Up
You may be met with some bumps along the road and every meal might not go perfectly, but just keep going! It’s an ongoing, ever evolving process and while changes may seem daunting at first, it will get easier with time. Putting a focus on nutrient dense foods for your family is an incredibly worthwhile effort and everyone will reap the rewards.
Carley Mendes is a Vancouver-based Registered Holistic Nutritionist specializing in naturally nourishing mama & baby through fertility, pregnancy, & postpartum. Read more from Carley on her website, Oh Baby Nutrition.