Best Ways for Families to Improve Eating Habits
Finding meals that everyone in the family will enjoy can be difficult, especially if you have a picky eater or if you're trying to make better dietary choices to improve your family's health.
However, there are a number of ways to help encourage your entire family to eat well and incorporate healthier foods into your routine. While it will undoubtedly require some adjustment, the health and wellness benefits are worth it! Some of these benefits include:
Consider the following ways to help get your family on board with improving eating habits, whether you're cooking at home or eating on-the-go:
Let your family members be involved in the planning process
Everyone in your family should have a say in what meals are eaten, and communication is critical for this stage of the process. Getting everyone on board is the number one step to ensure this change is lasting. Family members should be able to choose from the alternatives available and feel that they have a voice in what is being served.
To assist children learn how to make nutritious decisions on their own when it's time to cook or eat independently, set some guidelines. Family mealtimes have long-term advantages, so utilize them!
Support one another's dietary needs and restrictions
Regularly talking about making healthy eating choices as a family can help reinforce those wise choices throughout their entire lives, especially if a member of your family has certain food intolerances, such as gluten or dairy, or medical conditions that require food restrictions, such as diabetes, inflammatory bowel syndrome, or chronic kidney disease (CKD).
It's important to maintain a healthy diet with CKD as well as diabetes. it's often challenging to follow a meal plan when the rest of the family doesn't accommodate their dietary restrictions. If a member of your family has food sensitivities, teach the other members of your family to respect that need and tackle the challenge together as supportive teammates.
Cook at least one meal at home per day
Home cooking is a wonderful approach to guarantee that your family eats well, but it might be tough with everyone's busy schedule. Fast food and pre-packaged snacks are often full of preservatives, fats, and sugars. Instead of loading up on options with no nutritional value, plan to cook more meals at home to ensure a balanced diet.
With just one meal per day at home with the entire family around the table, you will not only provide more opportunities for healthy food choices, but also provide time for quality conversation, hard work in the kitchen together, and strengthened relationships within the household.
Research has shown that kids who eat together with their families are more likely to eat healthy and be healthier overall. Family meal planning can also help kids learn how food affects their bodies, eating habits, and health as they grow up.
Keep healthy snacks stocked
When creating a family meal plan, keep an eye on your refrigerator and pantry for healthy snack options that your family can grab when on the go—whether kids are coming home from school or heading off to practice. By stocking the shelves with healthy options, your family can reach for a protein bar or fruit and cheese plate instead of chips and soda.
If you plan on having friends and family over to watch the game or have a trivia night, make sure there are plenty of healthy options like nuts and a veggie tray as well. These easy and delicious snack alternatives help your family members stay energized and make good decisions about how they care for their health.
Have a reward or allowance system for treats
Meal preparation might appear to be restrictive to children and other family members. Giving your family choices is one approach to help them eat healthier. With an allowance or reward system, everyone can choose what they'd like, as long as they don't exceed their limit for the day.
This exercise can help children develop healthy eating habits, as well as self-control, decision-making, and prioritization.
Avoid mindless snacking
Most individuals engage in mindlessly eating from time to time. Reduce this habit by substituting your snacking with other activities.
Instead of grabbing a bag of chips and plopping down on the couch, suggest a different activity that you can all enjoy together. Break out the old board games or cards, or pick a movie no one has seen for a family movie night. If it's nice out, you could even go outside and play yard games or sports together.
Set an exercise routine
Speaking of exercise, incorporate some into your family routine! While you learn how to eat healthier together, it can help if you all get moving together as well. Whether you each have your own routine or you plan one together, exercise can help boost a balanced diet.
The benefits of running, walking, biking, or hiking together are unmatched—and it's more fun together! If those aren't your family's favorite activities, take a fitness class, or play kickball, softball, or soccer together at a local park. Start small and find what works for your family to help them understand the importance of a regular exercise routine, as well as healthy eating.
Practice good decision-making when eating out
Eating out at a restaurant can make choosing healthy options even more challenging. When you're with friends or out celebrating with family, it's hard to stay disciplined. However, try your best to encourage one another to take advantage of healthy options on the menu.
A side salad is a great alternative to french fries, and fruit or veggies can replace chips in many instances. Try practicing healthy eating by making small swaps on your plate. If you're feeling daring, try exploring new culinary ethnicities, like sushi or Thai food. Many other cultures offer more health-conscious options, and it's a way to expand your horizons as well.
Don't lose faith!
Asking your loved ones to join you on the journey to health can be difficult, and some members of your family may have trouble adjusting to a new way of life. It's not uncommon to feel like we have to give up the things we love most or that we're losing some of our freedom when seeking a healthier lifestyle. However, it just takes time to find the healthy routines that work with your life and habits.
When you start, make sure to keep your family's unique needs, preferences, and lifestyle in mind, and don't forget that you're not alone. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for meal planning as a family. With the right mindset and patience, this experience can empower every member of your family to eat well and live life to the fullest.