Simple and Delicious Tips to Make Healthier Family Meals
By Heidi Diller, RD
It can be a daily struggle to make healthier family meals with picky eaters in the house. Keep the whole gang happy with these fast and easy tricks to make every meal delicious and nutritious.
Set an example. Don’t be a short order cook.
Inspire kids to eat well by doing it too! When children see their parents opting for nutritious foods, like by taking second helpings of the veggies, they’re more likely to follow suit. Got picky eaters? Refrain from cooking different meals for family members. Sometimes children go through eating jags and they resist new foods. Cooking separate meals for family members gives them the message that it’s okay not to eat healthy. So don’t be a short order cook, set the example by making one healthy meal for the entire family.
On days where you aren’t pressed for time, pull out the aprons and create a meal together. Studies show that kids who help with meal prep are healthier eaters overall and they are more likely to try new foods. Let them help pick the recipe for dinner and then give them a job, like measuring the spinach, chopping the walnuts or tearing the lettuce. Create a family legacy of health that will live on for generations by giving them an invaluable skill.
Make eating an adventure
Amp up the variety of nutrients — and the fun factor — by making meal time a flavor adventure. Set out by researching new cuisines that tie into bedtime stories. Think back on how many children’s books revolve around food. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, and Stone Soup are just a few books that have food themes. A favorite in our house was sharing a hot, peach cobbler after reading the book, James and the Giant Peach.
Here’s a great way to improve your kids’ nutrition IQ: Read labels together. Turn grocery shopping into a challenge or a healthy-food scavenger hunt by letting them search for breads and cereals that contain over 5g of fiber per serving, yogurt with the lowest amount of sugar or snack foods that are low in sodium. It will take grocery shopping from a chore to an adventure.
Make breakfast count
So often in a hurry to get to school and work we miss out on the most important meal of the day–breakfast. Make breakfast count by serving easy to grab foods that are rich in fiber and protein. Both these nutrients can help keep the family fuller longer. Try this: Set up a yogurt bar with bowls of cut up fruit, chopped walnuts, shredded coconut and granola. Then when everyone is done creating their yogurt bowl masterpiece, put a lid on the bowls and store in the fridge to be quickly served again the next day.
Snack your way to health
Often 25 percent of our daily nutrient intake comes in the form of snacks¹. For small children, this can be a very significant part of their daily intake so it’s important to choose snack foods wisely. The secret to healthy snacking is making snacks easy to find, quick to grab, and uncomplicated. A fruit bowl on the counter, cut up veggies (eye-level) in the refrigerator, whole grain crackers, string cheese, hummus, and deli guacamole with black bean chips are family favorites in my household.
American researchers found that when vegetables are served with a small amount of dip, children are more likely to chow down—three times more often actually ². (And that includes those less-loved veggies, like broccoli and cauliflower.) Serve those raw veggies with hummus, guacamole, black bean dip or ranch dressing.
Remember, it doesn’t have to take more time or be complicated to keep the whole family eating well. By intentionally setting the tone of health in your home you’ll turn simple and fun activities into long-lasting, healthier meals and lifestyles for the whole family.
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