1. Get your family on board. For many moms, getting your family on board with the idea of eating healthier is the hardest part. I became a vegetarian in 1998 when my oldest three children were still young. Children, especially when they are young are very interested in what you have to teach them. They watch you, they want to be like you! Be a living example of what it means to live a healthy life. Drink water. Eat your veggies. Exercise.
If your family is resistant to change, there are still ways you can help them eat healthier and eventually choose healthier options for themselves.
- Cook family favorites, but incorporate one new healthy dish to every meal.
- Find healthier recipes your your family’s favorite dishes.
- Hide pureed fruits and veggies in your recipes.
Speaking of hiding pureed veggies, I love the book by Jessica Seinfeld titled Deceptively Delicious. I’ve tried a number of her recipes, all with good success! Here’s one of my favorites (slightly altered):
Mashed Potatoes (with Cauliflower)
- 1 lb. baking potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/2 cup cauliflower puree (or more if you like)
- 2 tablespoons margarine
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
Cook the potatoes with salt in just enough water to cover. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 – 20 minutes or until tender. Drain well. Mash the potatoes. Add the remaining ingredients and mix until smooth and creamy.
Note: My family is larger, so I cook about 3 lbs. potatoes and add 1/2 a head of mashed cauliflower. Yum! Even my child who is not very fond of cauliflower loves this recipe!
Treat it like an adventure! If mom makes it exciting, the rest of the family will be more like to get excited, too. So many ethnic foods are healthy and delicious. You could have themed meals – Mexican, Spanish, Mediterranean, Jewish, French, Italian, etc. Make it fun.
2. Know it takes 28 days to change your taste buds. Often, people are resistant to change and don’t like to try new foods because they are different from what they are used to.
Also, high fat, high salt, and highly processed foods are addictive. The more often you eat these kinds of foods, the more likely you are to crave them. What you want is to crave healthier foods instead!
To move from unhealthy to healthy, you need to commit to eating healthier options for at least a month. I remember when I met my husband I hate olives. He believed this was a terrible atrocity and made it his mission to make me like olives. Now, mind you, I pretty much would eat anything – I’ve never been real picky – but I did not like olives.
I didn’t grow up eating them.
For a couple of weeks he would feed me olives, insisting (in a friendly way) that I try one. Now, olives are one of my favorite foods! I love black olives, green olives, kalamata olives, you name it, I’ll eat it.
That’s why it’s so important for you to expose your children to a wide variety of healthy foods early on! And, if you already have picky eats who are now in their teens, don’t lose hope! You can still set a good example and maybe, just maybe, your kids will eventually jump on board!
3. Have an open mind.This tip sort of goes with what I was saying before. Often, we don’t try new things because they are different. Let’s say I make a dish of Pecan Patties with a brown gravy. You might think, “Ooh, weird!” And then never give them a try. Pecan Patties don’t taste like ground beef. But they do taste good!
I love falafels. The Egyptians and Jewish people have been making them for thousands of years. They are naturally vegetarian. They are very good for you! They also make a great “hamburger” patty. Be willing to try new things!
4. Get your kids involved. We all know that most kids love to help in the kitchen. Use that to your advantage! Let your children help with preparing healthy recipes and they will be so proud to share the meal with the rest of their family! They will also be more likely to try new foods if they had a hand in preparing the dish.
Of course, use common sense when giving children jobs in the kitchen, but even young kids can help! My nine year old loves to make French Toast (with banana) from Jessica Seinfeld’s book. Yum!
Last week we had to travel to Nashville for one night. We ended up eating a late lunch/ early supper. Our family rarely eats out. I mean like, almost never. The girls and I decided we wanted pizza from Pizza Hut. (My gluten free daughter ate a Greek salad from Panera Bread Company.) Anyway, so we brought the pizza back to the room and ate to we were stuffed. It was really tasty. We hadn’t had a Pizza Hut pizza in literally years.
The next day we ate the hotel breakfast – grits, waffles, and juice. Then for another late lunch we ate Taco Bell on the way home. While we were sitting there eating our burritos and tostadas the girls had the following conversation:
Emily (16 yo): “I can really tell a difference in how I feel when I don’t eat healthy.
Laura (9 yo): “Me, too! All we’ve had for the last two days is junk!”
Emily: “I can’t wait to get home and eat some real food. I don’t know how people eat this way every day.”
Kids are smart. Get them involved in taking care of their own health and they will appreciate it!
5. Set goals and change your shopping habits. When I became a vegetarian, I made the decision and that was that. I made the commitment to learn how to cook a different way. I’m always trying new recipes and looking for new ways to keep my family healthy in the kitchen.
Rethink how you shop at the grocery store. Read labels. Shop mostly in the produce section of the store. Educate yourself on what’s healthy and what’s not. Learn to cook from scratch and don’t eat out very often. It is worth the effort – and it’s fun!
Maybe you aren’t prepared to make a drastic switch. That’s okay. Do what you can today. Take baby steps. Try new recipes and find new family favorites. And one day soon, you’ll realize your eating healthy foods more than unhealthy foods!
What things have helped you transition into a healthier diet? Has anything made a difference?
If you have a question about healthy eating, let me know!
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