Reviewed by Christine Mikstas, RD, LD on January 26, 2021
Eat More Fruit Guilt-Free
Cookies, chips, and other packaged foods can taste great. But they have a lot of calories and not much nutrition. Instead, choose snacks -- such as apples, oranges, and other fruits -- that have fewer calories and more nutrients. They keep your family full and fueled for longer.
Fun With Fruits and Vegetables
A little creativity can go a long way to get kids more interested in foods that are better for them. Use cookie cutters to cut fruit and vegetables into fun shapes -- like tomato flowers or watermelon stars. Use fruits or veggies to make a funny face on a bowl of cereal or an open-faced sandwich.
Look for Water-Rich Foods
Fruits and vegetables have more water and fiber than processed foods, making you feel fuller. For example, a whole, juicy tomato has the same amount of calories as five dry pretzel sticks. So choose more fresh foods to help your family fuel up.
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. Try adding them to soups, making a chilled bean salad, or using them instead of meat in a main dish.
Get Whole Grains in the Morning
Mornings crunched for time? You can take your healthy breakfast to go. Pack whole-grain cereal for kids to eat in the car. (Skip the sugary kinds. They won't fuel kids for as long.) Grab low-fat yogurt 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 be healthy. Try mixing better foods 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 cut back on high-fat ingredients like meat and cheese.
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 new item to try. Steam, roast, or stir-fry vegetables. And let kids get in on the cooking. They're more likely to eat what they helped make.
Get the Family Involved
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 their pie. Try cutting back on fattier options like pepperoni or sausage. 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 healthier foods -- you're enhancing it. For example, apples in a chicken salad add a touch of sweetness and crunch. What if your family's go-to dessert is two scoops of chocolate ice cream? Make it one scoop of low-fat ice cream (or frozen yogurt) and top it with tasty berries.
Parents, Walk the Walk
Of course, if you want your family to eat foods that are better for them, you need to do it, too. Kids learn mainly by watching their parents. Don't order a double bacon cheeseburger and expect your child to get the grilled chicken salad. Remember, eating healthier foods doesn't mean eating less. It's about getting more of foods that will leave you feeling more satisfied and energized.
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Indeed / Photodisc
Abramson, E. Body Intelligence: Lose Weight, Keep It Off, and Feel Great About Your Body Without Dieting, McGraw-Hill, 2005.
Rolls, B. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, October 2004.
Teresa Beach RD, LN, CDE, community education dietitian, Sanford USD Medical Center, Sioux Falls, SD.