Making family lifestyle changes takes time and team work. It’s not something that has to happen overnight. Small changes here and there add up to lifelong healthy habits down the road. Here are five tips for making healthy eating fun for your family:
First, sit down as a family and set goals for your healthy eating plan. And remember, it’s not all about cutting “bad” foods out! It’s equally important to add healthy foods in. Some examples:
- Eat one piece of fruit alongside a healthy breakfast
- Integrate heart-healthy whole grains like breads and pastas
- Add a vegetable side to weeknight dinners
Write them up and post them where everyone can see, like the fridge.
Lead by Example
Eating healthier begins with us, as parents. When we commit to new healthy habits, we are also role modeling them for our kids. Our kids are more likely to adopt healthy habits if we adopt them first!
Cook and Eat Together
Identify a meal (or two, or three) each day and eat together as a family. Regular family meals can help establish a sense of routine and provide an opportunity to spend time together. And don’t be afraid to get the family involved with the cooking process! Kids can help wash vegetables, set the table, or fill water glasses. Assign everyone a task to complete.
Make Healthy Swaps
Making small healthy swaps can make a big difference! Using whole-grain bread instead of white bread for lunch sandwiches or enjoying a bowl of fresh fruit instead of sugary cereal for breakfast are easy (and delicious!) substitutions.
Make it Age Appropriate
Get the kids involved with age-appropriate fun activities. Here are some examples:
Preschoolers: Make sandwiches interesting. Cut whole wheat bread into a star or heart before filling it with turkey or cheese. Grab a whole-wheat pretzel and wrap the turkey around it. It's the same as a sandwich, but looks more fun!
Elementary and middle-school kids: Take them to the store or farmers market and let them choose healthy items they would like to try this week. They are more apt to eat it if they choose it. Under your supervision, allow them to help you do some of the prep work, like snapping green beans, washing potatoes, or shredding carrots. They can even help make their own lunches for school!
Teens: When it comes to teenagers, try to focus on the wellness and performance benefits of healthy eating. Healthier choices will help them perform better at extracurricular activities, such as sports, theater, science, or math club. This strategy can also be helpful if a teen is trying to lose weight. For example, if your teen loves soccer but is also working toward a weight loss goal, talk about what types of healthy foods they can choose to boost their performance and endurance during practice and games. This approach generally works better than restricting foods, which sometimes leads to uncontrollable cravings.