Okay, so I know we need to eat better, but this is one of those things that is easier said than done! Am I right? Anyone who has tried a new diet or exercise program or even spending less money knows that it’s easy to make changes at first, but long lasting change to our health is a real challenge!
WHY IS CHANGE SO HARD? The short answer is that we are creatures of habit and we don’t like to be pushed out of our comfort zone. Change is a delicate balance between the push and pull of motivation and comfort. If we are not careful, change can become a slippery slope and lead to regression. For instance, if I decided to serve nothing but kale and quinoa for dinner, my best intentions would quickly fail since my dear family would undoubtedly go on a hunger strike! So, how do we set the stage for success? My approach is to take baby steps and make small measurable changes. I will focus on these changes for the next 2 or 3 months and then go from there. Hopefully, (fingers crossed) I will nudge our current ‘comfort zone’ in the right direction and we will all be eating just a bit healthier.
Ten Healthy Tips to Enhancing Your Family’s Short-term Nutritional Goals
1. Plan: By “plan” I mean ‘MEALPLAN’. Set aside one hour each week to plan out meals for the next 7 days. Having a plan will prevent poor last minute decisions like picking up fast food or making a frozen pizza. During this time, I will review the sales at the grocery store, review which fruits are in season and review which foods are on the ‘The Dirty Dozen’ list.
2. Rethink Fast Food: Keep healthy ‘grab and go’ snacks handy. The fast pace of life often keeps us from making good food choices. Fill your fridge and pantry with healthy snack options – hard boiled eggs, greek yogurt, dried fruit, nuts, seeds, popcorn, whole grain crackers, etc. Even whole grain cereal can be thrown in a baggy or cup in a quick minute on your way out the door.
3. Make kid-friendly healthy appetizers: Despite my best intentions to make a healthy dinner, I’m often derailed when the kids come into the kitchen within the hour before dinner and start rummaging through the snack shelf. My dinnertime defense – I will place a small bowl of cold veggies or fruit on the dinner table, a.k.a. “Kiddie-apps”. Some of our favorites include chopped melon, apple slices, baby carrots, shredded carrot salad, Caesar salad, peas, and corn, or cole-slaw. “Oh! You are hungry? There is a small snack on the table for you already. NOW GET OUT OF THE SNACKS!!!!”
4. Try New Recipes, again and again and ……While I meal plan, I will incorporate new recipes with beans, legumes, and lentils. I expect several recipes will be met with thumbs down, but I will keep trying! Sometimes it’s all about presentation or trying various textures or flavor enhancers (salt, pepper, ketchup, mustard, hot sauce). It took me years before I realized my kids like their broccoli when its just boiled for 2-3 minutes, nothing more and nothing less and not too mushy!
5. Go Vegetarian: We will keep up our tradition of having a ‘Meatless Monday’ night to explore vegetarian options and hopefully save a few pennies — soup, salads, potatoes, veggie stir-fry, quinoa power bowls, etc.
6. Pantry Makeover: Completely clean out and reorganize your pantry (and possibly your fridge). Make it pretty and easily accessible! I recently developed a small obsession for mason jars. They come in all shapes in size, are easy to clean and keep foods visible. When making my grocery list, I can quickly glance in the pantry and see what items are running low. Plus all those foods that come in bags (lentils, nuts, flax seeds, chia seeds, beans, etc.) fit nicely in the larger Ball mason jars with pour-able spouts! No more sifting through bags that tend to fall over and get lost.
7. Change how you shop: On-line shopping at your local grocery store is not only a great time-saver, but helps keep the healthy foods in you (virtual) shopping cart! Have you tried it? Your shopping list is saved each time, so you can easily find what you typically buy and you can sort similar items by price. Just be wary of food quantity and weight. I once thought I was getting a great deal on a bag of cheese cubes, when it turns out I just bought the 2 oz. snack size. Ooops! Try dolling out 6 little cubes of cheese to your hungry campers. I also avoid making unnecessary spontaneous purchases by not actually being in the store surrounded by all the tempting snack food. “Ooooh I’ll just try those delish looking chocolate cookies by the checkout counter or the newest ‘limited time only’ flavored chips on the end-cap!” – sound familiar?
8. Find other ways to save: Buying healthy can raise your overall grocery bill a bit. We will save money in other ways; such as eating out less, buying less coffee drinks at the local coffee shop, and making our own snacks.
9. Set the Mood for Health: We will eat dinner together as a family and eat outside when we can. The kids will help with meal planning, food prep and/or setting the table and we will eat without the distraction of electronics (parents included!).
10. Staples for Success: Build up your healthy food staples. Make sure you have plenty of healthy ingredients in your pantry, so you can easily grab what you need to eat healthy. See my list of pantry staples below.
Healthy Food Staples for your pantry:
Whole grain breads/ cereals / crackers
Pastas with brown rice, whole wheat, or quinoa as ingredient)
Flax seeds (ground)
Dried fruit (i.e. cherries, apricots, dates, blueberries)
Almond Milk (so NUTritious!)
Applesauce (unsweetened, organic)
Popcorn (Have you tried popcorn and watermelon? So yummy and refreshing!)
If you enjoyed reading this post then check out the other helpful posts in the Real Kids Real Food Series and share with a friend or family member!