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Thursday, June 20, 2024

Get your family on board with healthy eating


When we start to make healthy changes, we often do it alone. But getting healthy is so much easier when you’ve got people around doing it too. 

Its common for people trying to lose weight to have their own food and meals that are separate from the rest of the household. We dont believe in gimmicks or eating some holier-than-thou diet that takes all the fun out of eating. Life’s too short, and it’s bloody boring pretending that you’re satisfied trying to get through a pile of salad leaves and nothing else.

There’s no reason why your family can’t eat the same food as you. Sharing meals saves time and headspace, and works out cheaper too. And your family’s health and wellbeing will improve along with yours, so there’s no reason not to do it. Here’s how to get them on board.

Get them involved
Planning and cooking a healthy menu can be fun and (whisper it) educational. You can involve all children with age-appropriate tasks – from toddlers stirring to teens chopping, peeling and using appliances, theres a job for everyone. 

If youre not an experienced cook, remember that learning a skill together is a bonding activity which can strengthen your relationship.

Be a role model
By talking about nutritious foods and eating healthily in front of your family, youre being a positive role model. If they see you enjoying a balanced diet, theyre more likely to follow suit.And doesn’t it feel amazing to think that your good habits are rubbing off on them?

Plan together  
Plan your food with your family, taking the time to talk about likes, dislikes and the importance of a balanced diet. Explain to the kids about how protein helps your muscles grow strong, which can help them run faster than Dad. Think of healthy ways you can both enjoy foods you love.  

Veggie boost 
When you know what tastes your family enjoys, you can introduce new flavours and boost veg gradually. If mashed potato is popular, add small amounts of cauliflower, sweet potato or swede. Increase the ratio over time to up the veggies even further.  

Similarly, add veg like courgette and mushrooms to homemade tomato sauce for an added boost. Start by blending ingredients if it helps, and move towards finely diced, then roughly chopped until eventually everyone eats chunks of veg.

Share mealtimes
The way we eat is just as important as what we eat. Sit down together to enjoy mealtimes if it’s possible. Turn off the TV and put away the phones and tablets. Ask everyone about their day, share silly jokes and anecdotes and just generally enjoy both the meal and the company together.

Self-esteem, communication skills, eating habits and even table manners are all elevated by family mealtimes. Even if you cant eat every meal together, its worth making the effort to schedule them when you can.

Simple favourites
Recipes that are easy, simple and provide a swift end result are a great place to start. Some ideas include:  

  • Smoothies. If youve got a blender theres hundreds of recipes available online to try. Children will enjoy chopping fruit, dolloping yoghurt and pouring oats, not to mention whizzing it all up.  
  • Salads, wraps and sandwiches. There are no hard and fast rules for these. Combine a whole grain, protein like tinned fish or chicken and plenty of salad veg to make healthy fast food. 
     
  • Using fun shaped cutters for sandwiches is appealing for tiny tots.    
  • Tomato sauce. Chop onion and garlic and cook with a little olive oil over a low heat until translucent, add tinned tomatoes or passata, a pinch of dried oregano, salt and pepper and any other veg you fancy. Pop in a slow cooker for a few hours or leave on the hob for 45 mins, stirring regularly. Blend it to a smooth consistency for the fussiest of eaters or use a potato masher to break up veg. This sauce can then be eaten as is, or used as a base for bolognese, chilli and more.   

You can always leave out strong, pungent or spicy flavours in your cooking and add at the dinner table for those who want them. Chilli flakes, fish sauce and tabasco are great additions.   

Presentation is everything
We dont mean Michelin starred restaurant plates. The way food is prepared and served creates interest, particularly for children. Try these tips to add convenience, intrigue or novelty to eating well: 

Use mini milk bottles and paper straws or other fun glassware for smoothies. 

Stick food on a stick. Wooden kebab skewers seem to make everything a bit more interesting. Thread marinated chicken or fish with veg to make savoury skewers or berries, banana and grapes for sweet ones. 

Lollies are ace, whether youre 3 or 53. Blend up fruit, yoghurt, nuts, seeds and even a little bit of veg (carrot or spinach are ideal) to make your very own healthy ice lollies.  

Spiralise veg or make ribbons with a peeler. Chop, dice, shred or grate foods to create varying textures. Experiment with veg – steam, roast, boil, griddle or eat it raw.   

Grow foods together 
Not only is growing your own food incredibly satisfying, its educational too. Lots of fruit and veg are relatively simple to cultivate and even if youve no outside space, herbs can be grown in a pot on a window sill.   

Healthy foods first 
If were hungry, well often eat the first foods available to us. By keeping a supply of nutrient rich foods like chopped veg sticks (carrot, celery, cucumber), fruit, chicken slices or yoghurt in the fridge, it makes healthy choices easier. Encourage your family to eat the rainbow.   

Make a polite bite policy 
Taste buds change over time. Its estimated we need to try certain foods at least 10 times before we can learn to like them. Encourage everyone in the household to take at least one bite of each food on offer, it doesnt have to be big but it should be done without rudeness or pulling faces. Over time, youll find more and more foods are accepted and enjoyed.

Though it can be challenging, its never too late to make changes to your eating habits as a family. Small, sustainable changes are the easiest to implement and the most likely to stick. Use the opportunity to learn together and explore how a balanced diet can support your health and wellbeing.   

Children absorb not only what we say to them but what we say and do around them. These factors contribute to their inner voice that will guide them into adult life. We can set our families up with a positive, knowledgeable mindset when it comes to health and wellbeing by providing and encouraging a balanced diet and active lifestyle.

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