Helping your family eat healthy can be quite the challenge these days. We are in a time crunch to get to soccer practices, dance recitals, school functions…. the list goes on and on and it is really easy to get in the fast food line to grab something on the go. I found that preparing and planning ahead can save calories, temptation and boost your nutrition in your household.
Preparing brown rice, quinoa, couscous or any whole grain medley and storing it in your fridge can help get you ahead of the game. Adding rotisserie chicken without the skin, and some steamed veggies, you’ll have several meal options to throw together at the last minute.
Quinoa makes awesome cold salads when mixed with nuts, seeds, light olive oil, raspberry vinaigrette and feta cheese. Pack it up for a nice refreshing lunch or mid day snack. You can throw in leftover chicken for extra protein. Try out a new oil for sautéing veggies such as safflower, grape seed oil and high quality olive oils to make the change from butter or margarine.
I have a drawer in our refrigerator that is accessible to little hands with options such as ziplock snack size bags full of cut up carrot sticks, celery, zucchini, jicama; yogurt ( try buying brands that are low in added sugars and no preservatives and chemicals/high fructose corn syrup added); hard boiled eggs, little cubes of cheese, heart healthy nuts such as almonds, and raw pumpkin seeds.
Try making your own bag of granola mix-you can let your imagination go wild, think outside of the normal raisin-m&m-cheerios, peanuts combo that we grew up on. Try venturing into gluten free granola bites, gogi berries, craisins, raw cashews, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, unsweetened shredded coconut, roasted cocoa nibs, dried apricots.
I found that the less processed foods and sugar I eat, the less I crave them.
Here is the deal, when you make healthy food fun for kids, you can engage those curious little brains and let them be their own mini master chefs. Kids love to play with food, so gather up some cookie cutters, softer veggies and fruit such as cucumbers, zucchini, melons, and have them get creative. You can make faces on plates with red pepper strips for lips, tomatoes for the nose, olives for the eyes, zucchini “zoodles” for the hair.
Taking time to sit together for family meals is so important. Spending just a few minutes sitting down together as a unit has been linked to better emotional stability in children, lower rates of obesity, eating disorders and substance abuse. Engaging with each other during dinner can be the only time everyone can share their day before the TV, electronic devices and homework take over.
Remember, lead by example! When your family sees you interested in healthy family meals and together time, they will start following your lead. Also, don’t expect miracles overnight, making small adjustments over time will ease your family onto a heart healthy lifestyle.