As a responsible adult trying to make healthy decisions on a daily basis, you probably already understand the basics of a well-balanced diet. However, getting your entire family on-board can be an entirely different challenge.
Maybe your kids have food allergies, your spouse is a life-long picky eater, or your roommate is too busy to share in the cooking duties. But whatever the reason, eating meals together is part of family life, and a more nutritious family equals a healthier and happier family too.
So here are some clever, and sometimes even sneaky, ways to get your family on a better diet starting today.
Choose High Fiber Cereals
Lots of busy families skimp on the morning meal, but that whole “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” saying is more than just a cliché. Most breakfast cereals marketed towards kids are extraordinarily high in sugar, which is probably the last thing that your little one needs.
According to Consumer Reports, a “high fiber” cereal is one that contains at least 6 grams of fiber. On mornings when you barely have time to pour the milk, try one of their high-fiber recommendations: Kellogg’s All-Bran Original, Post Grape-Nuts The Original, Post Shredded Wheat Original Spoon Size, and Post Shredded Wheat’s Wheat ’n Bran Spoon Size. Top your cereal with soy milk or almond milk for an extra nutrition boost.
Add Vegetables to Pasta Dinners
Pasta is a quick and easy dinnertime favorite, and a source of comfort food for many families. Start your pasta dinner off on the right foot with whole wheat pasta.
Then when the pasta is nearing the end of its boiling time, add a couple vegetables to the boiling water. Zucchini, squash, peppers, and mushrooms are good choices. Then drain the pasta and vegetables as you normally would, and top with low-sodium sauce.
Experiment with Dips & Sauces
Maybe your family won’t get excited about raw veggies and fruit, but perhaps some tasty dips and sauces would spark some interest. All some people need to start chowing down on carrots and celery is a little ranch dressing. But don’t stop there!
Hummus is a natural and nutritious dip that’s delicious with cucumbers, carrots, and many other types of vegetables. Experiment with yogurt and cream-based dressings to use as a dip for apples, peaches, and other sweet fruits. Take a page out of traditional Indian cooking and start introducing your kids to various chutneys, such as ones made with mint, coriander, and mango. Finger foods are fun to eat, no matter what your age!
Teach Your Kids to Cook
If kids make something themselves, they’re a lot more likely to want to try eating it. Introduce your kids to different types of cuisine by flipping through cookbooks or watching the Food Network. Then allow them to select a themed dinner night based on a specific culture, holiday event, or intriguing ingredient.
Young children will obviously need some supervision around sharp knives and hot stoves, but use your best judgment and include them in as much of the process as possible.
Need a few more tips for inspiration? Try these!
- Plan dinners a few days in advance so you have healthy ingredients at your fingertips
- Present new foods in a fun way by cutting it into creative shapes
- Be a good role model with your own eating habits
- Ask everyone to try one bite, but don’t force-feed your family
But above all, making dietary changes requires patience and persistence. Research studies have suggested that children need to taste a new food at least 10 times before they can appreciate the new flavor and texture. Happy eating and good luck!