We all understand we need to eat healthy to ward off diseases, lose weight, and generally feel better about ourselves. But how? If it’s not something we grew up doing how do we start? Well, here’s how . . .
The first place to start is to take a look at your eating habits. Are most of your meals cheese laden starchy casseroles? Maybe you snack on chips and cookies when you get the munchies. Are vegetables a four letter word in your house? Is your pantry fridge and freezer full of prepackaged stuff with who knows what in it?
All it takes is a creating a few good habits to start your family on their way to eating more healthy. Food allergies, dietary restrictions, and other eating habits (vegan, gluten free) aside, it’s not that difficult to get started.
Shopping– think about how our grocery store is laid out. The most healthy and less expensive foods are on the outskirts of your store. The fresh produce, meats, and dairy isles are your best bets for ingredients to start eating healthy. When you must venture down the aisle maze, do so informed. Learn to read labels. Not the nifty catch phrase on the front of the package the actual label on the back. Don’t fall for purchasing and item just because the front says fat free or no sugar added; read what’s actually in the item, you may be surprised.
Breakfast– It’s been ingrained in us that it’s the most important meal of the day. You know what? It still is! Starting your day off with fresh fruits, whole grains and protein can get you and your family on the road to healthy eating. Plan it out the night before and have it ready to grab and go.
Snacking– every families downfall. Offer the kids, fruit, yogurt, cheese, or nuts for a snack. If they are still clamoring for that bag of chips or cookies, strike a deal. Have the healthy snack, then half of the usually serving of the other. You could always replace the bagged snack with a healthier version of the same but they are still reaching for the bag instead of the fresh first. Teach them to reach for fresh first.
Dinner– Healthy cooking does not have to be bland and boring. Sometimes the simplest dishes are the most flavorful. Brussel sprouts don’t have to be boiled and gross like when we were kids, they can be roasted crispy with garlic and other seasonings. There are so many more ways to cook vegetables than the old steamed standby. Get the family involved, experiment; try something new every now and then. Just like in a restaurant, serve a salad first. If they don’t like salad make it cut fresh fruit or raw vegetables. Make fresh vegetables and lean meats be the star of the show instead of that cheese laden starchy side dish. Baking instead of frying will cut down a ton of fat. When you do make that family favorite dish, make a half batch and get your family to fill up on the other good stuff on the table. If they are hungry, they will eat it.
Baking- there are so many ways to “healthify” (yes I made that up) our recipes. Substitute whole wheat flour for the white bleached kind, applesauce instead of oil, plain yogurt instead of mayonnaise. There are tons of recipes out there that help you learn the science of healthy substitutions in baking. Even recipes that sneak vegetables into things like breads and cookies.
If you want them to learn to eat healthy I would skip the “hiding” of the healthy items. Find a way for them to learn to like them.
Dessert– You don’t need to go all crazy and never allow cookies and ice cream into your home. Part of being healthy is also being happy. Everything in moderation, instead of brownies and ice cream for dessert one night, make yogurt parfaits. Fresh fruit, when paired with crepes makes a great dessert, or share a bowl of popcorn. Opt for a healthier dessert a few nights a week. When you do indulge in those sweet treats, make the servings just a tad smaller. That way no one is missing out but they aren’t having quite as much would normally.
Eating healthy should be a lifelong goal, not a passing phase. It’s all about starting and keeping good eating habits. Your family will never latch on to it if you suddenly cut out everything there use to eating, plus you’ll have a riot on your hands. True, if you start when they are young it’s a lot easier but it’s never too late to start eating healthy.
What changes have you made in your family to eat healthier within a limited grocery budget?
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