It can be tricky to establish nutritious and sustainable eating habits for your family—especially when kiddos are involved. Whether your family is jumping into a new lifestyle, such as vegetarian, or starting small by making more of an effort to eat real, sustainable foods in correct portions, use these tips to make healthy eating fun for everyone.
1. Plan Now to Enjoy Free Time Later
Create a weekly menu in advance to skip the last-minute panic of deciding what's for dinner, and whip up a delicious meal each night with time to spare. With benefits like saving money and keeping everyone healthy, meal planning is a great way to make the most of dinnertime. Use the time you've saved for a family activity like going to a concert in the park.
Don't have time to work the planning process into your busy schedule? Try a meal planning service like eMeals, which creates your weekly menu and grocery list for you and provides step-by-step cooking instructions, so you can enjoy the benefits without sweating the details.
2. Make Mealtime an Adventure
Involving your children in various steps of the cooking process helps add excitement to that salad you're urging them to try (and hopefully love). Let the kids pick out a meal or two for the menu, give them the power to choose the produce at the farmer's market, and—when time permits—assign them specific jobs during meal prep to add enthusiasm and pride when dinner is served. Taking on cooking and cleanup as a family can teach them valuable skills they're sure to use when they're out on their own.
If you're always looking to get your kids to try new foods, bring them into the planning process and allow them to venture into new foods out of curiosity—at their own pace. Creating an open-minded perspective when it comes to trying new things is a great way to escape the boredom that can be associated with healthy foods and lead to newfound favorites. Introduce your kids to unique but accessible cheeses like ricotta or Gruyere, or let them pick out a new seasonal or exotic fruit or veggie every week. Reward their brave attitude with praise or special tasks during dinner prep.
3. Turn Treats into Something to Look Forward To
Following a healthy diet doesn't have to mean completely cutting out all "unhealthy" food. Allowing treats in moderation is often the key to success when creating sustainable, healthy habits. Enjoy a take-out pizza during family movie night, celebrate with cake at birthday parties, or cool off with an ice cream run on a hot summer day to turn these splurges into special occasions rather than everyday occurrences. Eating real, whole foods won't seem as bad when it becomes routine, and the treats will be appreciated even more.
4. Use Sneaky Swaps to Please Everyone
Incorporate new, adventurous recipes with family favorites to satisfy even the pickiest of eaters. Re-create some of your go-to dishes with healthy ingredient swaps to get the satisfaction of nutritious eating without having to completely give up foods you love. For example, if Kraft Mac & Cheese holds a top spot in your family's weekly meal rotation, try out a delicious alternative: Make spiral "noodles" out of zucchini and yellow squash, or pair whole grain pasta with cashew "cheese." To take care of your sweet-tooth cravings, try puréed frozen, ripe bananas—this magical dessert is so close to ice cream you may not even notice the missing sugar.
5. Replace Junk with Easy-to-Grab Healthy Snacks
Sticking to a healthy eating routine in a time crunch can be tough. When you're rushing out the door to soccer practice, grabbing a sugary, over-processed granola bar is easier than washing and drying those fresh berries sitting in the fridge. That's why it helps to always have healthy options at the ready in easy-to-find places for kids to grab on the go. Assemble snack-size fruit cups or yogurt parfaits, pop whole-grain popcorn in a microwave-safe bowl (covered with a microwave-safe plate) and season with a touch of lemon pepper, and replace greasy potato chips with homemade root vegetable chips for perfect after-school snacks.
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