How to Give Your Family a Nutrition Makeover
Continuing my blog series on the Family Fit Plan tips, I'm including a post outlining some ideas for a nutrition makeover. This is a big part of week 1 of the Family Fit Plan!
Wish your family would just eat better? Get in more vegetables? Cut back on the sugary snacks? You can help the whole family eat healthier -- without the bribes, food fights, begging and pleading by making a few changes to your nutrition routines.
Step 1. Clean out the fridge, pantry, and countertop. Before you do this, try to get buy-in from other family members so they don't become irate if you throw away some beloved food item. Starting with the fridge - get rid of the stuff that is no longer edible like the outdated items and too-old leftovers. Then, clear out the stuff that you have that you wish you or your family wouldn't eat like sugary drinks and juices. Do the same in the pantry. You've now made room to restock with the healthier items you want to eat more of. If you aren't able to completely get rid of the junk food, at least move it out of sight and into harder to reach places. Clear off your countertop by putting rarely-used appliances and other 'stuff' away. Now you have made room for a small vase of flowers or windowsill herbs and a bowl of fruit. The more accessible and visible the healthy foods are, the more likely that family members will eat them.
Step 2. Plan out your meals and snacks. Even if you don't stick to it 100%, if you have a plan, you are more likely to eat more vegetables, fruits, and whole grains and less processed and fast foods. From your plan, create a grocery list so you can pick up the foods you want to eat more of and stock up your fridge and pantry. If possible, once you get home clean and prep fruits and vegetables so it requires less work later for you and other family members to grab them on the go. If you can, take the kids along when you go shopping and encourage them to pick out one (or more) fruits and vegetables they'd like to eat this week (if they help pick them out, they are more likely to eat them later).
Step 3. Cook and prepare foods at home as often as possible. Life is busy and very hectic, leaving little time for home-cooked meals for many families. Seek out easy-to-make recipes and meals that you can throw together at home which include vegetables and/or fruits, a whole grain, and lean protein. This balance will boost everyone's nutrition and will be much healthier than what you can get eating out -- and you know what is in your food. Whenever possible, try to include kids in the cooking and they will be much more likely to eat what you've made. Plus, older kids can start to learn how to cook and how you are mixing ingredients together, so soon enough they'll be able to help out with preparing family meals.
Step 4. Eat together. Eat family meals (the same meal) together as often as you can. Kids who grow up in families that eat together at least 3 times per week have better nutrition habits, better relationships with each other and their families, and are less likely to engage in risk-taking behaviors as teenagers. Keep mealtimes enjoyable by making a habit of not remarking on what everyone is or is not eating, and not pressuring anyone to 'clean their plate' or 'eat their vegetables'. Make it the norm that everyone eats the same meal (no separate meals or catering to picky preferences) and listens to their body to decide how much to eat. Spend your time together at meals enjoying each other's company.
If you give your family a nutrition makeover using some of the strategies I outline above, I'd love to hear from you and how it went!