Family meal time is becoming a thing of the past. Our fast-paced society and busy lifestyles often prevent us from sitting down and sharing meals together on a regular basis. This makes it difficult to ensure that family members are eating healthy.
As challenging as it is to get your family to eat right, it is possible to practice healthy eating habits at home.
Try the following tips from the American Dietetic Association to encourage healthy eating:
- Serve a variety of fruits and vegetables daily. In addition to bananas and apples, try something new like kiwi or papaya. Add vegetables to stir fries or casseroles.
- Schedule a specific snack time, and stick to it. Schedule snack time at least two to three hours before a meal.
- Involve your kids in meal planning and preparation. Children are more likely to eat foods they help plan and prepare; they also will learn how to handle and prepare foods in a safe, healthful way.
- Keep less healthful foods on a higher shelf, where they are harder to reach, or better yet, don’t buy them at all.
- Eat as a family at least once a day, if possible. If it’s breakfast, set the table the night before to save time in the morning.
- Don’t eat in front of the TV. Have your family eat around a table, not side by side at the counter.
- Experimenting with new foods to expand your food knowledge, experience and skills. Don’t be discouraged if your kids don’t like all of the new menu selections. If they find one or two new healthy foods that they like, that’s a step in the right direction.
- Let kids stop eating when they say they’re full. Encourage your children to eat slowly and recognize when they are full.
- Enjoy your food and avoid fussing and arguing around the table. A stress-free meal promotes family bonding and allows everyone to enjoy the meal.
Make Mealtime Family Time
Eat at least one meal together as a family. Eating meals as a family will help your child develop a healthy attitude toward food and improve your child’s food habits. Studies show that children tend to eat more fruits, vegetables and dairy foods at meals shared with their parents.
Try Something New
Take turns deciding on one new food or recipe to try each week. Introduce an exotic fruit like papaya. Serve it in bite size pieces with some vanilla yogurt sprinkled with cinnamon. Try eggplant parmigiana made with part-skim mozzarella for tomorrow night’s dinner.
Stock the Pantry with Healthy Foods
When you eliminate high-fat, high-sugar foods from your pantry, you eliminate the temptation to make poor food choices, especially when on the go. Stock your pantry with healthy snacks, such as whole-grain granola bars and boxes of raisins. Always have canned beans and vegetables on hand to whip together a nice hearty vegetable soup. Don’t forget to rinse away the salt from your canned goods.
Stash Healthy Snacks
Keep healthy, nutritious snacks handy at all times so you won’t be tempted to grab a candy bar from the vending machine. Stock your purse, brief case, car, desk drawer, back pack, gym bag, carry-on, etc., with trail mix, fresh fruit, mini boxes of cereal, granola bars, almonds or crackers and peanut butter.
Use these simple tips to change your family’s mindset about food. There is no time like the present to start developing healthier eating habits.
About the Author
Eileen Conneely, RD, LD, NASM CPT, is a registered dietitian with the Palos Health and Fitness Center in Orland Park, IL. She has Bachelor of Science degree in nutrition and dietetics.