Are you trying to eat healthily but having trouble getting your whole family on board? If that’s the case, you’re not alone.
Medically reviewed by Dr K on 3rd June 2022.
Skip to Your Favourite Part:
- Let go of the need for perfection
- Avoid labelling foods as prohibited
- Make healthy eating about wellbeing rather than weight loss
- Keep meal planning simple
- Make meal prep a priority
- Eat together
- Incorporate more fresh, frozen, or canned vegetables
- Optimise vegetables for snack time
- Make one meal for the whole family
- Serve foods in new and exciting ways
- Say farewell to the clean plate club
- Don’t use dessert as a reward
- Choose more plant-based proteins
- Consume whole grains for breakfast
- Make your own flavoured beverages
- Plant your own food
Healthy Eating for the Whole Family
Are you trying to eat healthily but having trouble getting your whole family on board? If that’s the case, you’re not alone.
Many hurdles might stand in the way of better behaviours, ranging from stress and hectic work schedules to economic limits and restricted food availability.
Furthermore, family members might not always concur on what to eat.
Parents who adhere to a specific diet may eat differently from the rest of the family. tantrum-prone toddlers may refuse to eat while crossing their arms in disapproval during mealtimes. Teenagers may avoid family dinner by stopping at the drive-through on their way home from school.
While it may seem daunting at first, it is achievable to get the whole family on board with healthy behaviours using proper preparation and a willingness to be flexible.
Here are 16 practical ideas for eating healthy as a family.
Source - Freepik
Let go of the need for perfection
Despite what social media may have you think, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to eating healthy.
This means your meals don’t have to be costly, difficult, time-consuming, or picture-perfect.
Instead, be realistic and do your best to support your family in making healthy choices.
Furthermore, by removing the pressure to have a flawless diet, you are more likely to discover a healthy style of eating that works for your family.
Avoid labelling foods as prohibited
While certain foods are undoubtedly more nutritious than others, it is critical to cultivate a good connection with food by avoiding words like “bad" or “off-limits."
Furthermore, being too restricted might lead to stress and anxiety at mealtimes.
Instead, listen to Aubrey Redd, MS, nutritionist and proprietor of Aubrey Redd Nutrition, who tells Healthline:
“Don’t treat any food as off-limits. All foods can fit into a healthy lifestyle within moderation. Consider using the language of ‘always’ foods and ‘sometimes foods. Fruits and vegetables are always a great option for snacks, but you only have birthday cake sometimes when it’s someone’s birthday.”
Make healthy eating about wellbeing rather than weight loss
Diets are not only unsuitable for children, but addressing body weight in front of teenagers may lead to disordered eating beliefs and behaviours.
Rather than discussing a food’s calorie or fat content, consider its advantages, such as how it tastes or the nutrients it contains.
Similarly, make it a point to talk to your children about enjoying your body and treating it with respect. After all, hearing encouraging words from parents may help children develop and maintain a favourable body image and self-esteem.
Keep meal planning simple
Meal planning is an excellent time-saving method since you just have to go food shopping once or twice a week. Choosing which recipes to create, on the other hand, might be difficult.
While there is a time and place for testing out a beautiful new Pinterest recipe, it’s better to stick to basic dinner ideas throughout the week.
Yaffi Lvova, registered dietitian and owner of Baby Bloom Nutrition, tells Healthline to avoid “new or complicated meals on busy days,” and keep “two to three backup meals in the freezer or pantry in case of a hiccup in the day’s plan.”
One approach to speed up the process is to plan meals around what you already have on hand. Using what you have on hand not only saves you time and money but also decreases food waste.
Another suggestion is to make meal planning a collaborative activity by having a piece of paper or a dry erase board in the kitchen to maintain a running list of food ideas to which the whole family can participate.
Tired of preparing the same dishes week after week? Revisit old cookbooks that may be collecting dust in the basement or attic and save recipes that you’d want to make as a family.
Make meal prep a priority
A lack of time to prepare home-cooked meals and snacks is one of the most prevalent challenges I hear from families.
While it may seem to be a significant time commitment, putting out an hour or two to prepare a batch of meals and snacks may save you time during the week.
The first step in making meal prep a priority is to examine your calendar and set out a specific time for meal prep.
Edith Yang, RD, SR, CLT, mom of two and owner of Healthy Mission Dietitian, tells Healthline to do 1-2-3 prep: “Dedicate 1–2 hours one day to prep one easy protein, two fruits, and two to three veggies.”
In reality, this may mean making a batch of oven-baked chicken breasts, a huge fruit salad, and a sheet pan of roasted zucchini and tomatoes on Sunday.
You also don’t have to do everything yourself.
Try dividing meal prep duties among family members or asking the help of a friend or family member to spend time with your children while you and your spouse enjoy a meal prep date.
Consider purchasing an air fryer, slow cooker, or rice cooker to cut down on the amount of time you spend cooking.
Finally, there’s no guilt in purchasing precut fresh or frozen veggies, microwavable whole grains, or a prepared rotisserie chicken.
Eating as a family – without distractions — has multiple advantages, including encouraging healthy eating habits, fostering connection, and supporting social and emotional growth.
Furthermore, research suggests that children from families that dine together consume less fast food and consume more fruits and vegetables.
There are perks for grownups as well. According to one research, parents who engage in family meals had greater self-esteem and reduced rates of depression and stress.
While it may not be possible to dine together every night, make family meals a priority as much as possible.
Here are some pointers to help you have a distraction-free meal:
Make the dinner table a cell phone-free zone.
- Ask amusing, thought-provoking questions to spark discourse around the table. For instance, if you could have any animal as a pet, what would it be and why? You may also take turns asking each family member a question.
- Assign a job to each family member, such as assisting with cooking, arranging the table, or washing the dishes.
Incorporate more fresh, frozen, or canned vegetables
One of the simplest methods to increase your vegetable consumption is to include them in dishes that your family already appreciates.
Set up a range of vegetable toppings, such as chopped peppers, mushrooms, spinach, artichokes, fresh tomatoes, and basil, for each member to utilise as pizza toppings, for example, if Friday is pizza night.
You can easily make pizza night healthier without venturing too far out of your family’s comfort zone by substituting vegetables for highly processed meats like sausage and pepperoni.
Joby Neelankavil, RDN, shares another great way to add vegetables to meals with Healthline, saying, “I add minced veggies to ground meat dishes. This stretches out the meat into several servings and adds nutrients and fibre,” Joby Neelankavil, RDN, tells Healthline, of another fantastic method to include vegetables into meals. This divides the meat into many meals and adds minerals and fibre.
This strategy is particularly useful if you have finicky eaters in your household.
Concerned about the price? There are several methods for saving money on vegetables.
Seasonal veggies, for example, are often less costly and more flavorful than out-of-season options.
Frozen vegetables are another excellent alternative since they are equally as healthy as fresh vegetables but have a longer shelf life. Furthermore, frozen veggies cook rapidly and in abundance, making them more cost-effective.
Finally, canned veggies are a nutritious option if you don’t have access to fresh produce or are seeking a more cost-effective option. Simply seek reduced-sodium or no-added-salt choices.
Carrots, beets, chopped tomatoes, pumpkin, maize, and peas are some canned veggies to have on hand.
Optimise vegetables for snack time
If you have the option of cutting up veggies for a snack or grabbing a bag of chips, convenience will mostly win out.
Encourage your family to nibble on veggies by keeping cleaned and chopped alternatives in the refrigerator. Simply cut the vegetables into sticks or strips and store them in glass containers like mason jars.
The veggies are plainly visible and accessible in this manner. For a full snack, add a healthy dip, such as salsa, hummus, or yoghurt, next to the jar of vegetables.
Josten Fish, RD and dietitian at Dietitian Meets Mom, recommends to Healthline this advice before dinner since snacking on fresh vegetables is a healthy approach to satisfy your family’s appetite.
Make one meal for the whole family
It might be tempting to please family members by cooking many dishes at dinnertime. This is particularly common in houses with fussy eaters.
For example, one child may have a sandwich or a bowl of cereal while the rest of the family is eating a casserole.
While it may seem to be simpler at the moment, eating the same meal is essential to put your family on the same page with better habits.
However, this does not imply that you must pressure your children to consume foods they loathe.
Caroline Thomason, a self-described “not your ordinary dietician," tells Healthline that she advocates “presenting foods by deconstructing them" for families with fussy eaters.
She adds, “For example, when making taco bowls, serve all the ingredients separately and have each member construct their own bowl assembly-line style.”
Similarly, instead of plating food for each family member, serve meals family-style so that everyone can select what and how much they want to eat.
If you have a baby at home, you may be wondering how to incorporate them in the family dinner.
Purée or chop meals that you’ve prepared into suitable consistencies depending on your child’s development for infants over 6 months.
Simply introduce one new meal at a time to aid in the identification of possible food allergies or intolerances.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding the kinds or quantities of food you should give your infant, see the paediatrician.
Serve foods in new and exciting ways
Presenting a range of meals in fresh and interesting ways is a terrific approach to convince kids — and even adults — to eat healthier snacks.
Instead of putting one food choice in a bowl, set together a snack tray or board. You may also boost the nutritional content of the snack by offering alternatives from other food categories.
If you wish to add dips like hummus or peanut butter, presenting food in a muffin tray allows children to experiment with various flavours and textures.
Here are a few ideas of foods to consider:
- apple slices
- mandarin orange segments
- sliced strawberries
- dried cherries
- sugar snap peas
- cherry tomatoes
- baby carrots
- bell pepper slices
- steamed edamame
- cheese slices
- lightly salted almonds or cashews
- pretzel thins
Say farewell to the clean plate club
Children must be able to detect their hunger and fullness signals in order to have a healthy relationship with food.
While it’s fair that you want your children to eat healthily and flourish, forcing them to clear their plate or eat when they’re not hungry undermines these important biological signals.
I advocate the Ellyn Satter method to avoid power conflicts at meals and increase mindful eating: Parents determine the meals to provide and when to serve them, and children pick how much or if they want to eat.
Do not use dessert as a reward
It’s fairly unusual to offer your kid a treat in return for eating their veggies.
Dana Peters, MS, RD, proprietor of Dana Peters Nutrition tells Healthline, utilising sweets as a reward “sets up the mentality that some foods are better or more valued than others.”
While desserts should not be used as a form of reward, they may be a fun and tasty method to add extra nutrition to your family’s day.
Grilled fruit kabobs, watermelon cubes dipped in a homemade yoghurt dip, or sliced strawberries topped with whipped cream are some healthy alternatives.
Also, bear in mind that, while all meals may fit into a healthy lifestyle, classic treats such as ice cream and brownies can be eaten on occasion.
Choose more plant-based proteins
Eating more plant-based meals has been linked to several health advantages since they are high in essential elements such as fibre, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
Furthermore, many plant-based proteins are shelf-stable and less expensive than animal-based ones.
Nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, tofu, and edamame are some plant-based proteins to consider adding to your grocery list.
Do you have any ideas on how to include these products in your family’s meals? Here are some suggestions:
- Substitute tofu for half of the chicken in your stir-fry. You may even leave out the chicken entirely.
- Chickpeas may be used in lieu of meat in your favourite soup or stew recipe.
- On sandwiches and wraps, replace mayonnaise with hummus.
- Oatmeal may be topped with walnuts and fresh or frozen fruit.
- Blend your smoothies with a spoonful of flax or hemp seeds.
Consume whole grains for breakfast
Because of their nutritious properties, it is suggested that you consume half of your grains unprocessed.
Breakfast is an excellent time to include more whole grains into your day since refined grains are typically featured in dishes such as cereal, pancakes, and muffins.
The following are some simple methods to integrate more whole grains into your morning routine:
toasted whole-wheat bread with peanut butter and banana slices
Quinoa porridge with almonds and fruit on top
oats, yoghurt, and frozen fruit smoothie
cereals made from entire grains
brown rice topped with vegetables and an egg
Also, have white whole wheat flour on hand for creating waffles, pancakes, and muffins.
White whole wheat flour is a softer version of whole wheat that is just as healthy, making it an excellent choice for picky eaters.
Furthermore, it may be used in most recipes in lieu of all-purpose flour. To extend the shelf life of white whole wheat flour, put it in the pantry or freezer.
Cook big quantities of whole wheat pancakes or muffins and freezing any excess to make breakfasts easy during the week.
Make your own flavoured beverages
While it is vital to drink plenty of water, there are times when you need something a bit more interesting.
Make healthier drinks at home with the entire family by blending seltzer water and a few ounces of 100% fruit juice.
Making your own beverages is a fun way to cut down on sugary drinks, which are the leading cause of dental damage in children in the United States.
Plant your own food
Growing some of your own food is another fantastic method to get the entire family eating better.
Furthermore, you don’t need a huge backyard to achieve it. Vegetables and herbs may be grown inside or in tiny pots on a balcony or patio.
In addition, some regions have communal gardens where you may join up.
Growing food, whether it’s a little basil plant in your apartment or a raised garden bed in your backyard, is a terrific way to save money while simultaneously increasing your children’s interest in fresh meals.
The Bottom Line
While it may take some trial and error, eating better has numerous advantages for the whole family.
Just remember to think positively and to promote healthy behaviours without being restricted or putting pressure on yourself.
You’ll discover that it’s feasible to develop a better way of eating that is both practical and sustainable for your family if you take it one step at a time.