Maintaining good nutrition is not easy. Dad wants his chips and jerky and the kids want all the cookies and candy. It’s hard to be the buzz kill and say “No” to those bad choices. Let’s face it: planning and preparing healthy meals takes more time and effort. It’s easier to just pop a pre-made, unhealthy dinner in the oven or microwave than it is to keep fresh produce in the house, chop vegetables, and cook nutritious meals. And after all that work, there’s a high probability your kids will turn their noses up at it and demand mac ‘n cheese. While your family can make unhealthy food choices outside the house, at home you have the control. You choose what types of food are in the cupboards and refrigerator. Let’s look at some ways you can keep your family healthy with nutritious meals. Stock the Cupboards One way to deal with the time crunch is to research healthy meals, collect a library of nutritious recipes, and stock your pantry and fridge with staple ingredients for quick, healthy meals. That way you’re always prepared to serve healthy dishes. Make sure you have:
- Dry beans
- Canned veggies and beans
- Dried fruits
- Whole grain bread, tortillas, and pasta
- Healthy oils like canola and balsamic vinegar and low-sodium soy sauce for dressing
- Low-sodium broths for soups
- Dried herbs and spices
- Frozen vegetables and fruits without added sugar and salt
- Low-fat dairy
- Frozen meats
Make Smart Choices Here’re some tips and ideas for healthy cooking:
- Colorful cooking: Bumping up the color in your meals means more fruits and vegetables. Some produce costs less than $1 per serving, cheaper than some junk food.
- Smart substitutions: Choose healthy proteins and meats (fish, chicken, and beans) instead of red meat, and switch to low sodium, whole grain, and low fat products.
- Cut back on salt: Look for other, healthier ways to boost the flavor. Add herbs and spices instead of that extra dash of salt.
- Get creative with salads: It’s not just lettuce and tomato any more. Consider incorporating nuts, dried fruits, carrots, and cucumber.
- Make family meals expected: Everyone together at the dinner table with the TV off and smart phones put away means kids are less likely to eat junk.
Sneaky Veggies Some kids (and adults) have an automatic aversion to vegetables, so sometimes you have to get sneaky with the healthy stuff. Shred carrots, zucchini, or butternut squash and add them to muffins, breads, or pasta dishes. Cooked, chopped mushrooms can go incognito with ground meat in meatloaf, meatballs, and burgers. Would your family notice if you blended cooked, pureed veggies like carrots, sweet potatoes, or butternut squash in cheesy sauces? Make Farmers’ Markets a Fun Family Event Take the whole family to your local farmers’ market bursting with fresh, local produce in season. Plus, there’s often music, arts and crafts, and face painting to entice the kids. You could even turn it into a game: do a meal with nothing but meats and vegetables you find at the market, with each family member choosing one item. Do Your Homework Buy, or checkout from the library, healthy cookbooks, bookmark healthy cooking websites, record low-calorie cooking shows, and collect quick, nutritious recipes your family likes. Take advantage of all the online resources to plan healthy meals for your family. Nutrition.gov has healthy eating resources like ChooseMyPlate and 10 Tips for Eating Out. Get the Kids Involved Be positive and look for ways to make healthy cooking fun. Get your children involved in choosing and preparing meals. You get them invested in creating yummy dishes, explain the importance of nutrition, and teach them the cooking basics. It can be counterproductive to battle kids over food. Instead, limit junk food in the house, establish a meal and snack schedule, and avoid bribing/rewarding kids with food and forcing them to clean their plates. More Healthy Eating Tips When cooking and eating remember:
- Read labels (and teach the kids) and pay attention to serving sizes
- Use smaller plates
- Set a healthy example: Your kids will notice when you enjoy eating healthy
- Diversify: Incorporate a variety of food groups
- Make meals half fruits and vegetables
- Drink water instead of soda
- Stock fewer cookies, candy, cakes, chips, and ice cream in the house
- Make grocery shopping and cooking a family affair
- Stop eating when you’re full
Adapt these tips and tricks to your unique family dynamic and environment. Incorporating healthy principles into your family’s dining routine can be an interesting and rewarding challenge. And this can also be a career. Want to learn to develop healthy food strategies for the entire family or train to become a nutrition professional? Meditec’s Family Nutrition Program might be right for you. Sources: https://healthyforgood.heart.org/Eat-smart/Articles https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/research/resources/hcs/resources.shtml https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/habits.html#