Let’s be honest. It’s one thing for you to choose this healthy clean lifestyle and foods but what about the picky kids? and the ‘ah, it’s OK’ and ‘not chicken again’ significant other?
Here are some tips on how to transition your family to clean eating and include them in the weekly meal planning.
Remember that 80/20 guideline. Trying to be perfect all the time would be overwhelming and set you up for failure. My personal goal is to stick to clean eating 80% of the time. The other 20% I still eat reasonably healthy with an occasional indulgence. However, my family probably only eats clean 50% of the time. If I make it for them, they eat it – sometimes. But if it’s up to them, they still like to grab easy, unhealthy, junk food because my children are young and do not know any better so its up to me to educate them.
I try my best to pack homemade snacks where I can. But sometimes I don’t have time and <gasp> they may eat a processed snack. I try my best to read all ingredients and buy healthier versions (i.e. snap pea pods vs. chips and fig bars vs cookies) but sometimes they beg me for Bear paws or those goldfish crackers. I have created a new routine, when we all go grocery shopping together on Sunday’s, I allow my 5 year old to select one item/treat for her school lunch that week. Then the rest is up to me. I always include fruit and veggies in her lunch even when those seem to be the first things to come back home with only a few nibbles.
Keep in mind that CONSISTENCY is the key to change. What you do the majority of the time really does make a difference and adds up over time – it’s way easier to lose weight and keep it off if it’s not a super restrictive ‘diet’. Same goes with the family. Some days they do surprise me on what they ask for. The other day my daughter was going to the fridge and she said ‘mom I’m going to grab an apple and carrots cause I don’t want to eat junk today’. They watch and listen and even if it really doesn’t sink in until they are adults, I’m okay with that. Heck, that’s what happened to me!
TIPS FOR THE TRANSITION:
1. Start slow if you need to. Rather than trying to make a big change all at once or eliminating all their favorite foods, start by adding in the healthy stuff. Before you know it, some of the unhealthy choices are being crowded out.
2. Make changes to the meals you already enjoy. Clean eating doesn’t mean you can never eat things your kids love like pizza and spaghetti. Just make healthy swaps. Whole grain pita for the crust, make your own pizza sauce (sometimes I even blend frozen spinach into it) and loads of veggies. My kids love pasta, so I use whole wheat or brown rice noodles and sauce without added sugar – they eat it maybe once every other week not everyday. Is it completely clean? No, but remember the 80/20 rule.
3. Encourage your kids to add a fruit or vegetable to every meal. I always make sure my kids eat fruit at least after every meal and a vegetable during the meal. Treats come after the healthy stuff!!! I tried this little experiment /tip the other day-when they came home from school and they demanded a ‘snack’ cause they were starving before dinner. I stuck out a plate full of raw veggies on the table and said ‘help yourself’. First they said ‘no way, I want crackers’ but after they realized that’s all there was till I made dinner, they started to nibble and eat the veggies. I figured if they filled up on veggies before dinner, I was OK with that!
4. Meal prep on the weekend for the upcoming week. I always cook chicken breasts. You can cook a batch in the crockpot, then shred and freeze it. You can also pre-cook lean hamburger and ground turkey. I make some healthy muffins/oat cups and whole wheat waffles for their breakfast. I also make one or two things that will go in the lunches for the week (i.e. homemade bars, fruit leather, etc.) that way I have quick snacks for lunch or playdates.
5. Add extra veggies to everything. Casseroles are easy to sneak them in, but you can also add them to most sauces, smoothies, meatloaf, etc. I add sweet potatoes liquidized to their pasta sauce too.
6. To save money, buy things in bulk. Also, since meat is expensive, you can often replace half the meat in a recipe with quinoa. It’s still high protein and makes your grocery budget stretch further.
7.Don’t fall into the trap of making one meal for your family and a separate clean meal for you. Add something to the meal that you know your family will like even if it’s something you may not eat. Often times, I will just sub out the carb (even though whole wheat) for more veggies for myself. That way everyone is happy and we all still get a healthy balanced meal to our preferences.
8.Educate yourself and your family as you make these changes so you know WHY you’re doing it. Help them see it’s not just “another new diet,” but a lifelong plan to keep them strong and healthy.
Most important of all. Don’t stress. You’ll get the hang of it, and soon you’ll be surprised how much your family loves it.