Updated: Jan 6
Adopting healthier eating habits can be hard. But it can be even harder when you face resistance from your family. Kids (and sometimes even spouses) can be picky and quick to turn their noses up to new foods. While a transition to cleaner eating family meals can seem daunting, having the support of your family can make eating healthy much easier and dare I say ~ a lot of fun!
Below, I will share the most common obstacles parents face along with my suggested solutions to get the whole family on board with healthier eating habits...
What are some of the biggest barriers that parents face when trying to get their family to eat healthy?
The first is time and energy. Any big dietary change requires resourcefulness and commitment from both parents to help the whole family eat well. After a long day of work, school and all things family life, it is not surprising that the last thing you may want to do is cook up dinner - especially for picky eaters who may not partake after all that effort. Pleasing everyone at the dinner time is, of course, a challenge. I've got six tummies to entice with a satisfying meal that they will crave so you could say my work is cut out for me.
The second major barrier is confusion about what truly comprises a "healthy and nutritionally balanced meal". There is so much ever changing information and opinions leaving us confused and conflicted through the media and various sources, choosing what to eat can be overwhelming.
How do I recommend families overcome these common barriers?
Meal planning is key. Carving out a chunk of time every week to put your schedule together, do the bulk of your grocery shopping, and get a head start on meal prep is essential. It also saves you time throughout the week. Plan to make enough so that you have leftovers for nights where you know you may be busy at soccer during your typical dinnertime and invest in some glass containers for storage! A slow cooker can also be a great investment to overcome time restrictions.
To keep everyone healthy and happy, start with a healthy re-working and cleaned up version of the ingredients used from some of your family’s favorite recipes/meals. You don't have to reinvent the wheel if you have a tried and true recipe that works that can be made with cleaner alternative ingredients.
It could be as simple as cooking meatless beef in place of ground beef into your favorite chili or spaghetti recipe, adding more veggies into tomato sauce, swapping sweet potatoes for white and trying a different muffin recipe that uses whole oats instead of white flour. Pick one meal of the day as a start, like breakfast. Make small changes and see where it takes you.
They say to pick your battles. For those who might not be convinced this one is worth the effort, here are just some of the primary benefits of getting your whole family on the healthy-eating wagon.
Eating healthy as a family unit is how we help raise young people to become conscious consumers and eaters. Eating a meals that emphasizes whole foods (over processed ones) provides everyone with the nutritional building blocks they need for optimal health. What you may notice at first is that eating nourishing food has an impact on everyone’s energy, mood and immunity. The immediate effects are certainly there, and the preventative health benefits are icing on the cake.
Healthy eating is not just about the actual food, but how and where you eat. The kitchen in our home is where the daily hustle comes to a pause and is the place where we can gather together, recount stories from our day, work on homework, all while chopping, simmering, and filling up our home with the scents of a delicious family meal.
Eating together as a family, consistently - is probably the most beneficial thing you can do for everyone’s well-being. This helps keep everyone engaged, connected and supported. Studies have demonstrated that children who eat with their parents make better food choices, have greater health outcomes, and improved academic performance. Setting priorities about eating nutritious family meals is arguably a powerful thing worth prioritizing!
Okay, so now that you are totally convinced your family is ready to shift to healthier eating habits, what advice would I offer to parents who don’t know where to start?
Making this kind of a drastic change, especially with kids involved, is all about finding balance. To shift to a more plant-based diet that you'll all actually enjoy and want to stick with, I suggest making this a gradual change.
Some tips to help:
Start Slow. Cut out one less meat, dairy, sugar, and refined food every day. Instead, explore healthier options to replace those. Such as vanilla-flavored oat milk for your coffee creamer, swap honey, agave, or maple syrup in place of refined white sugar, or try using coconut sugar instead.