So many parents have faced down the challenge of picky eaters and trying to get their kids to make healthier food choices. It can be very challenging to introduce new, healthy foods to kids, and even more so to lead a family well through a big change of habits!
It doesn’t have to be impossible, though, or fraught with dinner table wars. How do we know? Because we have lived it! Two kiddos – under 10 – and we’ve taken them around the world a back again. We had one dig-your-heels-in stubborn eater who hated trying new things, especially green ones, and one who was pretty much game for showing up his older brother.
We really desired to present our kids with balanced, healthy meals that we could all enjoy together as a family. No cooking two dinners, no picky eaters to plan around, and no worrying about their health due to lack of proper nutrients. So, we started planning recipes that appealed to all and that introduced our kids to new foods without an in-your-face, clean-your-plate approach. We involved our kids in the process of growing food, shopping, planning, and cooking. We learned new things about their tastes and were flexible when some things went well and others didn’t.
We have compiled our tops tips for a not-so-extreme family food makeover below:
Talk with your family
The way you present a change in eating habits matters. Talk with your family about healthy eating in a way that makes the change seems positive and fun, not like a punishment.
Keep recipes simple
You don’t have to be a pro chef to feed your family good foods. Focus on simple recipes that fit your life and won’t cost you tons in prep time or money. Think recipes with about 5 ingredients – a protein, a grain, and a few veggies.
Make meal planning exciting
Themes like Meatless Mondays, Try it Out Tuesdays, or Taco Thursdays offer your family food traditions to look forward to. They make meal planning easier to predict too.
Start small & simple
You can’t erase every undesirable habit in your family overnight. If you try, you’ll end up dealing with behavior issues and push back. Start with careful planning of 2-3 healthy meals and introducing 1 new food a week.
Harness the power of leftovers
Cooking extra at dinner means not having to plan healthy lunches for the next day. Sweet relief! Double the recipe, then serve one half and pack the other for tomorrow.
Release the boxes & bags
One of the simplest changes to make is to introduce more whole foods (in their natural condition) to your family over things that come from boxes and bags (processed foods). Offer snacks and make meals that come from the outside perimeter of the grocery store, rather than the aisles.
Hone your chopping skills
What’s with the idea that kids (or anyone) have to mow down on a whole stalk of celery for it to be good for you? Chop veggies small enough that they can mix with other ingredients and decrease your chances of a battle over the one glaring vegetable left on the plate.
If at first you don’t succeed…
Cook it another way! Expose yourself and your family to a new ingredient 2-3 times before deciding it’s not for you. Tastes take time to develop and everything deserves another chance.
The secret sauce…
Of healthier food choices is patience. Have patience with yourself, your partner, your kids, and your habits. Changing or reinforcing 1-2 habits a week is enough and it will lead up to big impacts on your health over time (with a lot less frustration than an extreme makeover).
You don’t have to do this on your own
Our Online Coaching Programs include Nutrition Accountability to help you identify, plan for, and develop healthy food habits for yourself and your family. Click here to learn more about what we offer.
We also have a very special Family Food Makeover program beginning for a small number of families next month! This program was developed to empower parents to introduce more healthy foods to their kids with less upheaval – and to establish some positive habits in their own lives as well! Email firstname.lastname@example.org to book a time to talk with us. We’ll help you make a plan to develop health at home that will work for your whole family.