The most popular post on my blog is on the topic of how to get kids to eat healthier from the start. For many families, they feel they are past the point of no return. They have older kids who are stubborn, pre-pubescent teens who are incapable of any sound advice, and there are also other adults in the house who are set in their ways and feel no need to change.
There is always room for improvement. There are ways to make small changes that are barely noticeable and will make a huge impact on the overall health of a family. Every once in a while, I get asked about my eating habits and sometimes I catch people sneaking a peek at my grocery cart. I welcome it, it keeps me in check.
I rarely think about my family’s eating habits, but I think we do some things right. These are some helpful tips that will move your family in the direction towards healthier meals.
1. Offer a fruit and a veggie at lunch and dinner: This is big in our house. If I’m packing a lunch for the kiddos or myself, I pack a serving of each a fruit and veggie. Sometimes 2 servings of fruit because I know they like it. At dinner, this is a must. The veggies rule at dinner, but there is always a side of fresh fruit. Not only do fruits and veggies pack a huge punch with vitamins and minerals, but also fiber. Fresh fruit can also satisfy the sweet tooth and serve as dessert.
2. Offer only water or milk at dinner: This is something that our family has done from the moment we had children. There is no need for extra sugar from juice or soft drinks at any time of the day. Especially at dinner, when good eating habits are most often taught, offer nutritious choices that can build lifelong habits.
3. Start out with smaller portion sizes: If you are a “seconds” family or you have a family member who loves to go back for more, start out by handing out smaller portion sizes or serve the food on smaller plates. Built in habits, like going back for seconds, are hard to break. Even healthy food, when consumed in excess, will start to grow the waistline. This also helps with the temptation to fall into the clean plate club.
4. Don’t serve “family style”: Bringing all of the food to the table to set in the middle is a comforting, but dangerous practice when looking to control how much food is consumed. There is a tendency to graze or take more food, even when there are no hunger cues. Out of sight, out of mind.
5. Talk during dinner: You’ve heard that it takes 20 minutes to feel full. Take the time to have pleasant conversation at dinner with your family instead of making the food priority #1. Your body will enjoy the slower intake of food as opposed to the massive shoveling of food that can occur at dinner. This will give yourself time to register a feeling of fullness and will help stave off overeating.
Everyone can use a tip or two to help with healthy eating habits. Try out one or all of these at dinner tonight.