One of the main obstacles for staying focused on healthy eating is family objections. The family starts complaining about having chicken all the time and gagging on green things that you put on their plates…..and then they are raiding the cupboards as you’re cleaning up the dishes. After a while it’s tempting to just give up; it seems like a waste of time.
I would encourage you to be very “middle of the road” when turning your lifestyle around and expecting your family to join you. I started working in the area of wellness and nutrition when my 2nd child was 1 year old (now he’s 29!) I’ve seen my kids love veggies as preschoolers and instantly turning up their noses at them as first graders. I usually refused to have food wars with them but it was frustrating to see uneaten meals and get bombarded with complaints after I’d spent an hour cooking. My family won the prize for being the most picky…..scraping tiny chunks of tomatoes out of their spaghetti sauce, not touching a vegetable unless it was corn (their interpretation of a veggie) and backing away from any new recipe. I eventually resorted to blending canned tomatoes anytime I added them to sauces or chili, and smashing up pinto beans so they wouldn’t be able to tell I had added them to the taco meat or casseroles. I’d leave green peppers and mushrooms out of recipes and kept salads very basic in an attempt to get more food in their stomachs than down the garbage disposal.
The good news is that now my kids are “foodies.” One of my sons called me when he was in college and asked what vegetable would go best with meatloaf. “You eat vegetables?” I couldn’t help but ask. My kids and I share healthy and unique recipes all the time now and I love going to quaint little restaurants with them to try new dishes. So don’t lose heart! Tastes do change and your family will most likely try healthy dishes eventually; here are a few tips while you’re waiting for that miracle to happen:
*Start with their favorite dishes and modify them just a little. For instance, use lean ground beef and be sure to drain it and pat it dry or rinse it. Use less cheese in mixed dishes or keep it separate so everyone can add their own. Low fat sour cream usually cannot be detected by the picky ones and you can use less than a recipe calls for without much notice. Add some pinto beans to Mexican dishes and use less meat. Use your crockpot and bake or broil instead of frying.
*It doesn’t work to prepare a healthy meal for you and a separate meal for your family. You will burn out quickly doing that! Serve a balanced diet and allow each person to choose how much of eat dish they want, if any. For instance, if you are making pot roast at the request of your family, pick a leaner cut of meat, serve it with potatoes/carrots or however you usually do, fix a salad and another green veggie and serve. Many of them may only have meat and potatoes and you may only have the meat, salad and green veggie, but you all basically eat the same meal. If they want you to make their favorite enchilada casserole smothered in cheese, modify it and then make yourself a large salad to have on the side while keeping your portion of casserole smaller. For years I would make a salad and small microwave serving of broccoli for myself to have as a side to whatever else I was serving. It wasn’t that much more trouble and it kept me satisfied and the family content.
*Cut up veggies and fruit taste better (or one would think). When my kids were teens, it was pretty common on crazy weekends for someone to bring home a pizza. I consistently threw some baby carrots in a bowl and sliced up apples and pears. The finger food aways got eaten (as did the pizza). If I just sat out a fruit bowl, no one would touch it. Even today when we are all together and order a pizza, one of the kids will go to the ‘frig for some finger veggies.
*Refuse to be a restaurant! Serve the meal, allow kids to eat what they want and how much they want without nagging or criticizing. Your job as a parent is to serve healthy and regular meals and snacks. Their job is to choose how much and what they eat. Once the meal is over, the kitchen is “closed” until the next snack time. That rule pertains primarily to younger kids…..teenagers will be eating an hour after the meal. Just try to avoid allowing family members to pick at their plates during dinner and then grab a bag of chips before the dishes are done. If you serve a variety of foods they will fill up. Forcing kids to eat isn’t worth it. I remember one instance where I encouraged my teenage daughter to try green beans again. She insisted she hated them but really hadn’t tried them since she was young. We had a little power struggle and she finally stuck a green bean in her mouth and started gagging. Like I said, it’s not worth fighting over. Let them decide what they like and what they don’t but when dinner is over, meal time is done.
*Include the family in the meal planning. If your family has a say in meal options, they will be more cooperative. Agree to try a new recipe once a week and keep this on the healthier side.
*Plan the meal that’s the most difficult for YOU to control. Most families eat together once a day. If you have the freedom to eat healthier for Breakfast and Lunch, take advantage of that by making the best choices you can make. You’ll have a little more flexibility in your evening meal that way and can focus on controlling portions.
Moderation, Moderation, Moderation. Eat smaller portions of fattier foods and large portions of veggies and lean protein and you’ll keep your weight down and make your family happy.
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