Most of the time, healthy eating starts with one member of a family. And we hear from stressed-out clients about the trials of having others in the household that just aren’t supportive. Whether it’s a spouse that brings home junk food for the cupboard or the kid that continually has sweets at the neighbor’s house, it can be such a challenge to get your family on board with healthy eating.
From experience, we know that rarely can you force anyone, adult or child alike, to do something they don’t want. So that’s why when you’re trying to shift your family to a more nutritious diet, it’s critical to take small steps.
As you make minor changes in the direction of better nutrition, you’ll start to see the difference. It might be imperceptible at first, but as time goes on, you’ll be able to look back and feel encouraged by how far everyone has come.
Own the Healthy Eating Journey
If you want to start eating healthy (and get your family to eat healthier too), you need to own it. You can’t expect others to hold the same motivation. That’s why it’s important to educate yourself so that you can slowly start to educate your family. You’ll also want to get very clear on why you want to change your eating habits. Having a firm “why” means you’ll have a lighthouse to steer toward when the voyage gets bumpy.
With your why in mind, here are 8 steps you can take to get your family to eat healthier.
- Start your children with healthy eating as young as possible. It’s way harder to change the eating habits of a teenager than a toddler. You’ll get less resistance from younger children and be able to have more control over what they’re exposed to while they’re still in the home the majority of the time.
- Introduce kids to as many foods as you can. Variety is the spice of life, right? But variety also means there is more opportunity for your kids to enjoy different foods. By showing kids the abundance of foods available, you may find new favorites that can become part of your regular rotation.
- Don’t intentionally pack unhealthy items in kid’s lunches. You have control when the kids are smaller, so take it. Choose only nutritionally sound options for kid’s lunches and leave the special treats for other times, as we’ll go over in step 6.
- Be open to healthy cravings your kids have. Healthy cravings are a good thing. So do your best to support your kids if they ask to eat eggs for lunch or “dinner foods” in the morning. After all, food doesn’t know when it should be eaten. So it’s wise for us to not assign foods a specific time of day either, especially if they’re healthy.
- Share your food. It’s crucial that you model the behavior you’re trying to instill. You’ll need to show your family what healthy eating looks like and how to do it. If kids, or a spouse, gets curious about what you’re having, offer a bite or two. If it’s something they end up liking too, then that’s one more healthy option in your arsenal to use for later.
- Sneak in treats. You’re setting yourself up for failure if sweets and candy are totally off-limits. Instead, you can have the upper hand if you offer them at times that you designate. Instead of having kids asking 10 minutes before dinner or at 7 am, offer them a gummy bear or cookie on your schedule. That shows kids that it’s okay for them to have treats and that mom and dad aren’t always going to say no.
- Put healthy options at reach for kids. Put healthier snacks where you know little hands can reach them. The same goes for keeping unhealthy food options out of reach of your littles. Out of sight, out of mind is so true, so put candies, sweets, or anything else you don’t want kids asking about onto a high shelf where they can’t see. (This goes for adults too! Out of sight out of mind means less mindless grazing during the day!)
- Offer options. Kids love feeling like they have options. So sometimes, allowing kids to choose the meal at dinner will help them eat healthier. Of course, kids don’t get to decide what those options are, and they don’t need to know that what mom or dad are presenting is all healthy. You can also cook a few different vegetable options that aren’t all favorites. If kids try the veggie that’s served and they don’t love it, they can grab another one that’s already prepped.
The Last Word About Getting Your Family to Eat Healthier
There will be days where you may feel alone in your journey. But with preparation, mindset, education, and ownership, you’ll be on your way to doing the best thing for your family. If you need help, don’t be afraid to ask. There are plenty of online resources or even support groups in your local community where you can seek counsel for other ways to get your family to eat healthier.
If you’re really strapped for ideas or don’t know where to start, consider consulting a local nutritionist or hook up with a local gym that has a nutrition program. If you’re committed and start to feel better as a result, over time, you’ll find that your family switches more toward healthy eating with you.
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