If you’ve been wanting to help your family eat more real food and ease into a eating a healthier diet, now is the perfect time to begin. Although eating more real food does require a bit of planning and a small investment of time (it’s not as quick and easy as zipping into a fast food restaurant!), it doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are 15 simple ways to get started. Try one or two at a time and let them gradually become part of your family’s diet.
- Serve two fruits or vegetables with every meal. They don’t have to be fancy – put plates of cherry tomatoes, carrot sticks, sliced red or yellow peppers or sliced cucumbers on the table. Or serve bowls of cut-up melon or peaches or fresh berries. Make fruit- and veggie-packed smoothies for breakfast.
- Organize and package healthy snacks on Sunday so they’ll be ready to grab and go on weekdays. Make small bags or containers of things like grapes, berries, whole grain crackers and peanut butter, nuts, granola, carrot sticks, and cheese cubes.
- Plan at least three sit-down family dinners each week. They can be simple meals like baked chicken, baked potatoes, a steamed vegetable and some fruit; grilled fish, brown rice and a salad; or a large salad topped with grilled chicken and shredded cheese.
- Grill food for several meals at once. If you enjoy grilling (or your husband does!), cook enough to last for several meals. Grill chicken breasts for dinner one night, plus extra for a salad with grilled chicken another night. Grill two large pieces of meat (like London broil), and serve one with corn on the cob and salad; turn the other into steak fajitas.
- Make extra dinner and enjoy the leftovers for lunch – at home or at work.
- Cut down on heavy and high-sugar desserts. Instead, serve fruit, fruit sorbets, frozen fruit pops or crisps/cobblers you make with fresh fruit.
- Replace some of your family’s white/processed grain foods with whole grain foods, such as whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta, or brown rice.
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- Buy the best quality meat and chicken you can afford. We can’t afford organic chicken or grass-fed beef, but I try to buy hormone-free/antibiotic-free beef and antibiotic-free chicken whenever possible. Those meats do go on sale sometimes, so look for sales and stock up.
- Use some healthier ingredients in your baked goods. Substitute some whole wheat flour for white flour, and experiment with sweeteners other than white sugar. Avoid foods that contain high fructose corn syrup, and anything that has sugar as one of the main ingredients.
- Start shopping more on the perimeter of your grocery store and less in the middle aisles (where most of the processed foods are located).
- Begin visiting a farmers’ market or farm stand every week. Plan a couple of meals around the fruits and vegetables you buy there. Take the kids along and get them involved in talking about and selecting fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Begin easing soft drinks out of your family’s diet. During the summer especially, encourage everyone to drink more water. For those who balk at drinking water, make fruit waters.
- Eat the real thing – use butter instead of margarine, half and half instead of coffee creamer, cheese instead of “cheese food,” ice cream instead of frozen dessert.
- Serve “real food” breakfasts – Whenever possible, serve things like eggs, low-sugar whole-grain cereal, whole wheat toast with peanut butter, or smoothies you make with real ingredients for breakfast. If your family tends to eat “junky” breakfast foods, begin easing them out of the picture and replacing them with real foods.
Have you made healthy changes to your family’s diet? What strategies have worked for you? Please share your ideas in the Comments – I would love to hear from you.
(You may also like 17 Ways to Prep Healthy Food in 15 Minutes or Less and 10 Real Food Mini-Projects for Busy People.)