Eat More Fruit Guilt-Free
Cookies, chips, and other high-fat foods can taste great. But they have little nutritional value, and they pack a lot of calories in a small portion -- so they're energy-dense. You can help family eat more without overloading on calories. Here's how: Choose low-density foods. These foods -- such as apples, oranges, and other fruits -- have fewer calories for a larger portion. And they keep you feeling full longer.
Fun With Fruits and Vegetables
A little creativity can go a long way to get kids more interested in low-calorie dense foods. Cut fruit and vegetables into fun shapes -- like carrot flowers or watermelon stars. Use veggies or fruits to make a funny face on an open-faced sandwich or a bowl of cereal.
Look for Water-Rich Foods
Fruits and vegetables contain more water and fiber than processed foods, making you feel fuller. For example, a whole, juicy tomato has the same calories as five dry pretzel sticks. Try swapping out dry foods with water-rich ones to feel fuller.
Try Beans, Peas, and Lentils
Beans, peas, and lentils are packed with powerful nutrients and energy for growing bodies. They have similar amounts of protein as meat but less fat. Their high fiber content can also leave your family feeling full and can help prevent constipation. So try adding them to soups, making a chilled bean salad, or substituting them for meat in a main dish.
Get Whole Grains in the Morning
The rush to get out the door can sometimes make even the most health-conscious parents lose focus on the all-important healthy breakfast. So take your breakfast to-go. Pack cereal for kids to eat in the car. Choose whole-grain over high-sugar options for better weight control. And grab a protein bar or high-fiber cereal to eat when you get to work. Fiber and protein can keep you feeling fuller, longer.
Update Your Main Dishes
You don't have to eat a big bowl of broccoli to get the benefits of low-density foods. Try mixing them into your family's favorite meals. Sneak veggies like spinach, zucchini, celery, and carrots into stews, casseroles, and chili. Add spinach, green pepper, or carrots to omelets, lasagna, and spaghetti sauce. With those healthy additions, you can reduce the amount of high-fat ingredients like meat and cheese.
Start Dinner With Salad
For the most impact, work in low-density foods at the start of your meal. In one study, women ate 12% fewer calories when they had a large salad 20 minutes before eating pasta for lunch. So dish up a healthy salad with low-fat dressing as your family's first course. Wait a few minutes to notice feelings of fullness before digging into your next healthy course.
Slurp Some Steamy Soup
Soup is another way to start your family's meal with a low-calorie choice -- as long as you choose a broth-based, not creamy, one. High water content makes soup filling. So a bowl before dinner decreases the risk of overeating high-calorie foods later in the meal. Interestingly, drinking water doesn't have the same effect. Foods with lots of water in them curb hunger, but drinking water alone doesn't.
Win Over Veggie-Haters
Is your family reluctant to try new vegetables and fruits? Slowly add them into your menu. List all the fruits and veggies that your family likes. If the list is short, each week have them pick one fruit or vegetable to try. Steam, roast, or stir-fry vegetables. Also, let kids be involved in the cooking. When kids cook, they're more likely to eat. (It might work for other picky eaters, too.)
Get the Family Involved in Healthy Eating
Get your kids on the healthy bandwagon by having them help you make vegetable pizzas. Cut up a variety of veggies and let each person pick what to put on his pizza. Slowly wean your family off high-density, fattier options like pepperoni. They'll realize that vegetables -- and even fruit, like pineapple -- can make pizza just as tasty.
Add Fruit and Enhance Flavor
You're not depriving yourself of flavor when you eat low-density foods -- you're enhancing it. For example, putting apples in a chicken salad adds a touch of sweetness and crunch. What if your family’s dessert ritual is two scoops of chocolate ice cream? Reduce the calorie density and add zing by making it one scoop of reduced-fat ice cream (or frozen yogurt) topped with tasty berries.
Parents, Walk the Walk
Of course, if you want your family to eat foods with less fat and fewer calories, you need to do it, too. Kids' main mode of learning is watching their parents. Don't order a double bacon burger and expect your child to get the grilled chicken salad. Remember, eating low-density foods doesn't mean eating less -- it's eating more of a healthy food. That's one choice you can make to feel more satisfied and energized.