Whether you want your family to eat less sugar or add more fruits and vegetables to their daily diet, changing everyone’s eating habits can be a challenge. You want to avoid making every meal a battle, but at the same time, avoiding the health risks of obesity is probably a high priority for you. The good news is that there are several ways to change your family’s eating habits without a lot of hassle, even if their habits have been in place for years.
1. Discuss Changes as a Family
Before you try to make changes to your family’s eating habits, remember that it can be difficult for anyone to accept change, whether it’s your four-year-old son, your teenage daughter, or your spouse. As such, a decision to change the family’s diet should be discussed as a family, not a choice you make on your own and then spring on them all at once. Before you have a family meeting about any dietary changes, make a list of points you would like to discuss. Talking about the process with your family instead of announcing changes are coming should make the transition easier.
2. Start Off Slowly
A family that is used to a pantry full of cookies and sugar-laden cereals that suddenly finds them filled with protein bars and fiber cereal is likely to rebel against you in a big way. To prevent a battle at breakfast or to keep your kids from trading away their healthy packed lunch for chips and cupcakes at school, bring in new foods one at a time. For example, offer them a homemade blueberry smoothie instead of a can of soda that will still satisfy their craving for something sweet but offer a variety of health benefits at the same time.
Another way to introduce healthy food options is to make a new dish with fresh ingredients once a week. Instead of ordering chicken wings, for example, bake chicken tenderloins in the oven with a homemade barbeque sauce that is low in sugar and sodium. For dessert, put out a fresh fruit platter a few times a week and change up the selections each time until you discover which fruits your family prefers.
3. Set a Good Example
While change might be just as hard for you as it is for your family when it comes to altering your eating habits, setting a good example might help them see you are serious about the new regimen. After all, if they see you sneaking cupcakes and cans of soda after supper or grabbing a bag of chips from the gas station while filling up the car, they will probably be less likely to stick with healthy foods themselves. Do your best to eat the foods you want your family to eat, whether they can see you or not.
Setting a good example may be especially beneficial for your younger children, who ape adult behavior more readily than older kids. Share healthy snacks with your little ones as often as possible so they follow your lead.
4. Make Food Prep an Opportunity to Learn
One of the most effective ways to teach your kids about nutrition is to involve them in meal prep. No matter their age, your kids can learn lessons about healthy choices as they chop veggies, mix homemade sauces, or even as you make healthy desserts. For example, if you swap out your white-flour-and-sugar cookie dough for Hampton Creek Just Cookie Dough, which is made from wheat flour and sorghum, explain why these ingredients are better for their bodies than white flour and sugar, both of which are major contributors to weight gain.
5. Have Healthy Snacks Within Easy Reach
As you slowly replace sugary snacks with healthy ones, make sure they are highly accessible to your family. Buy a large decorative bowl to keep fruit in and leave it by the front door so your family members can grab an apple, tangerine, or banana on their way out the door. Keep trays of celery smeared with peanut butter on the top shelf of the fridge, at eye level, so kids are more likely to grab them as an after-school snack. Put chilled bottles of water on the door of the fridge and keep fruit punch and juices toward the back.
Changing your family’s eating habits may not be easy, but with a little time and patience, they will grow accustomed to new foods and then even come to enjoy them. Remember to practice these changes as a family and support each other whenever possible to make this worthy transition a bit easier on everyone.