So you've made healthier eating a New Year's resolution … again. But how are you going to get the family through January (let alone the rest of the year) without falling prey to a steady diet of mac 'n cheese, chicken nuggets and assorted crunchy things? Following a fad diet or being overly restrictive won't help you or your family achieve your health goals—'cause let's face it, nobody wants to eat nothing but dry salad, soy milk and cabbage soup for weeks at a time! In fact, fad dieting or severe dietary restrictions may give your kids (or you) the false impression that healthy eating has to mean boring, tasteless foods.
Try these simple yet sensible steps to help you motivate your family to adopt a healthier diet, without feeling deprived.
Choose whole grains.
The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans
recommend eating at least three servings of whole grains every day. We hear you: You're having enough trouble getting the kids to eat one serving, let alone three. Never fear. The easiest way to increase whole grain intake is to replace some
of your refined-grain products, so the kids don't have to go into full-on whole-grain overload all at once. Try substituting half
of the white flour with whole-wheat flour in your regular recipes for cookies, muffins and pancakes. Toss brown rice, wild rice, or barley in your vegetable soup (they won't even notice!). Or snack on popcorn instead of chips on family movie nights. (Yes, popcorn is a whole grain.) Don't forget, you don't need to completely wipe out all refined grains. Try serving half whole wheat/half refined grains as a starting point—even if that means a sandwich that's whole wheat bread on one side and white bread on the other!
Look for alternatives to processed meats. Instead of always serving sodium-loaded, processed ham or turkey sandwiches, try using a high-quality protein leftover from the night before. Grilled fish, chicken breast sandwich or even soy-based vegetarian hot dogs make great lunch options. Plus, these protein alternatives are usually nitrate-free, low in saturated fat and more heart-health friendly.
Eat breakfast. Forget about skipping breakfast because you're too rushed in the morning or in an effort to lose a few pounds. Not only have studies shown that kids who eat breakfast have better concentration in school, people who eat breakfast regularly are also more likely to control their weight than those who skip breakfast. An ideal breakfast contains at least three food groups. Crunched for time? Try a bowl of whole-wheat breakfast cereal with milk and blueberries to get in all three in one go. Not only is it multitasking at its best, but it will also help start your family's day in a healthier way.
Snack on fruits. When your kids ask for snacks, offer them fruit instead of chips or cookies—yes, they'll scowl at first, but forge ahead! Like vegetables, fruits are high in antioxidants and fiber and low in calories. To make it fun, use low-fat yogurt as a dip. This way, the kids get some calcium as well as protein—which helps them feel full longer. And don't forget about dried fruits. Mixing them with whole-wheat breakfast cereal and nuts makes a nutritious school or after-school snack.
Fill the plate with colorful vegetables. Despite what your kids think, there are more vegetables to try than just lettuce and tomatoes! Brightly colored and dark green leafy vegetables are especially loaded with vitamins and antioxidants. They are also high in fiber, which makes them very filling. In addition, they are low in calories—good to help fill up your kids' stomachs and trim their waistlines (and yours, too). When your kids fill up their stomach with veggies, they'll be less likely to feel the urge to binge on other high-fat or processed foods. Offer up a variety of veggies on their dinner plates and pack some extras in their lunches and see what happens!
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