Tips to encourage healthier eating as a family
Small adjustments can add up in moving the family to healthier eating.
Getting the entire family committed to healthier eating might seem overwhelming, but with a few small changes you can make a big difference. Try one of these tips each week and build on your success over time. Remember that any lasting behavior change takes time, so be patient with yourself and your loved ones as you build a better diet that can impact your health now and in the future.
- Make a list before you shop that includes ingredients for several easy and nutritious meals for the week, including healthy lunch items, as well as lots of fruit and vegetables.
- Get in the habit of reading Nutrition Facts labels to find foods lower in calories, sugar, sodium and saturated fat.
- Aim for unprocessed whole foods as much as possible.
- Branch out and buy new foods that your family can try together such as quinoa, garbanzo beans, Brussels sprouts, bok choy or pomegranate.
Focus on preparation and ingredients
- Grill, steam or bake instead of frying.
- Get a flavor boost with herbs, low-sodium broths, garlic and spices instead of added salt or fat.
- Choose low-fat milk, cheese, sour cream and yogurt to replace full-fat versions.
- Switch to more nutritious whole-grains such as brown rice and whole-wheat bread.
- Look for ways to get more fruits and veggies into every meal such as topping cereal with sliced bananas, having carrots with a sandwich and filling half of a dinner plate with salad.
Get everyone involved
- Letting everyone help plan the menus is a great way to get them on board with eating right.
- Make family meals fun. Include children in the preparation. Young children can snap beans, tear lettuce or set the table. Older kids can help with chopping, measuring, stirring and slicing.
- Make it a weekend tradition to prepare a few meals for the week as a family.
Build healthier habits
- Eat together as a family as many days of the week as possible. If dinner is impossible, eat breakfast together.
- Make sure every family member eats breakfast every day, even if it’s a grab-and-go breakfast such a peanut butter sandwich on whole-grain bread eaten at the bus stop or the desk.
- Serve water or low-fat milk at meals instead of soda or other sugary drinks.
- Pay attention to food by turning off the TV at mealtime and making it a no phone zone.
- Aim for packing a breakfast and lunch instead of visiting the drive-thru. With just a bit of planning, you and your family will eat better and save money.
- Put a bowl of fruit such as apples or clementines on the counter. That way everyone can grab a snack anytime. Or, cut up broccoli, carrots and celery and have a low-fat dip available. Make those snacks “all you want, anytime.”
For more ideas on how to help your family eat healthier, visit the Fruit & Veggies — More Matters website where you will find recipes, meal-planning guides and tips for getting kids involved in cooking and shopping.
Stacey Kendrick, MS, is a health educator with more than 20 years of experience in wellness and population health. She spent much of her career at Vanderbilt’s Faculty/Staff Wellness Program and currently works in Strategic Marketing at Vanderbilt. She is mother to two adult daughters. In her free time, she teaches healthy cooking classes, runs, gardens and enjoys backyard bonfires.