Most would agree that healthy eating is a vital part of a well-balanced lifestyle. A smart eating plan fuels your body and provides a foundation to live your life to it’s full potential. And if you’re a busy parent who’s growing a family, the good news is that starting a healthy eating plan for the whole family can be simple. Eating healthy doesn’t have to be an uncomfortable, overly complex process. When done mindfully, making small shifts in your approach to healthy eating can make a huge impact. With these minor, long-lasting changes you can start experiencing the health and vitality you crave.
Develop a Healthy Eating Plan for the Whole Family
Balance is the key!
Do a quick web search and you’ll find hundreds of fad diets that promise your extra weight will melt away effortlessly. Often, these diets fall short on producing lasting changes because they require changes that most are unable to sustain for a long period of time. On the other hand, a manageable, balanced plan can keep you fit for the rest of your life.
Eat whatever you want… in moderation
Instead of denying foods you love, simply make wiser choices and smarter portion sizes. Rather than filling your plate with empty, nutrient-void foods every day, find healthier substitutions for things you love that still pack a lot of flavor. When you do indulge, enjoy a small taste and experience the “treats” without the guilt. Eating healthy should not leave you or anyone in the family feeling deprived.
The main rule to remember is the rule of moderation. Eating too much red meat or other processed foods is unhealthy, but there’s nothing wrong with eating them from time to time. Pile your plate with as many vegetables as you want, and make a conscious decision to complement them with smaller amounts of your favorite foods. It’s not what you do (or eat) occasionally; it’s your everyday actions that will have the biggest impact on your health. When working with clients, I encourage them to make moderate, sustainable, changes that will help them to develop overall better health for their lifetime.
It’s not “all or nothing”
Developing healthier habits is not an all or nothing event. You’re on a journey towards better health, not the fast lane. A common complaint of dieters is cravings. They may indulge a craving and feel they’ve “failed” because of a slip. It’s okay to have cravings; actually they’re a normal part of making this transition. You might crave a chocolate bar, a piece of cake, salty snacks or sugary sodas. The truth is that it’s still possible to lose weight and maintain a healthy lifestyle while still enjoying your favorite foods once in a while.
When it comes to your cravings – don’t try to ignore them. If you have a craving for an unhealthy food, satisfying your sweet tooth with moderation will prevent you from over-indulging and help you to remain on track without feeling deprived.
Healthy foods can be delicious
Many people believe that all healthy food tastes horrible. But those who have made the switch to healthier eating can tell you that this is a myth. But you have to make the effort to infuse flavor into your new eating plan by finding healthy, tasty substitutions for the unhealthy foods you’re used to eating.
Your taste buds had to be trained to love the unhealthy fatty, salty or sugary foods – and they can be retrained to enjoy full-flavored, healthier alternatives too!
For example, stir-fried veggies with herbs and spices are a delicious alternative to french fries, while grapes and watermelon make a great snack food. They serve double duty by satisfying both hunger and thirst, while tempting your taste buds at the same time. If you can satisfy your sweet tooth and hunger with far less calories than reaching for a candy bar, why wouldn’t you? This is what a lifestyle of healthy eating is all about – making better choices.
Replace soda with whole fruit juices or healthy smoothies. You’ll still enjoy a delicious beverage and save yourself from the toxic effects of carbonated drinks. Eventually, you may want to try replacing fruit juice with water, which will leave you more refreshed and save you from the sugar in fruit juices.
Simplify your switch to a healthy eating plan
When you start to plan healthier meals for the family, you may be tempted to try out a variety of new recipes. But you can start with what you already have. When you try to make extreme changes in your diet, you’re likely to be left feeling discouraged and deprived. Small changes, however, are more likely to give you consistent results. One easy change is to makeover a few of your family’s favorite dishes.
Start by simply switching out some of the less healthy ingredients for healthier substitutions. For instance, instead of white pasta, try whole grain pasta. When you make these gradual changes, you’re less likely to get “pushback” from the family. And when you see these small changes adding up, you’re likely to keep going until you eventually have a whole new selection of healthier versions to work with.
When you see these gradual changes occurring, you’ll likely have a boost of confidence and sustain the changes for a lifetime.
Here are some other ways to simplify the transition to a healthier diet:
- Ensure that everyone gets a balanced breakfast every morning.
- Supplement your eating plan with regular exercise.
- Remember to hydrate. Drink adequate amounts of water throughout the day.
Don’t make too many changes at once
When you start to adopt a healthy eating plan for the whole family, you may be tempted to do a complete overhaul of your usual routines. But try to resist this urge. Try to incorporate one or two small changes per week or per month. As you create a new habit, add another one until your lifestyle is the healthier one you envisioned. You’ll look back and wonder how you ever lived differently.
Also look for simple ways to substitute healthy, delicious foods in the place of the fattening ones you currently enjoy. Easy ways to do this include:
- Make vegetables the center of every meal, eating as much of them as you want.
- Use herbs and spices generously to increase the flavor of your vegetables.
- Substitute whole grains and brown rice for white rice and pasta.
- Substitute fruits, vegetables and nuts for fattening snacks like candy bars and snack cakes.
The key to a healthy and balanced diet is to make only one or two small, manageable changes at a time. Today, select one or two of these changes. After a week or two, choose another new healthy idea to try. Before you know it, you’ll feel more energy and passion for life, while still enjoying delicious meals with your friends and family.
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Alicia Hyatte is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Family Wellness Advocate, Health Educator, and a Diabetes Prevention Lifestyle Coach. She helps parents to build healthier habits and routines to better balance home and work life. Her website, WholeFamilyLiving.com, provides motivation and simple strategies for handling everyday challenges like managing stress, being active, eating healthier, losing weight, and more. Alicia is a beach lover and gardening geek in her spare time.