I get it. Sometimes your family doesn’t always make the best choices when it comes to eating like you are starting to do with your bariatric journey. It can be difficult especially those with young children, or stubborn significant others, who don’t want to change their eating habits, especially if they don’t see anything wrong with it. Unfortunately, sometimes family can be stubborn when changing habits, especially eating habits. It might be challenging to get everyone excited about kale, quinoa, and cauliflower — especially little mouths that aren’t accustomed to eating these foods.
Here are 20 ways that Derreck and I have used to help you get your family on board with healthy eating.
1. Don’t suddenly overhaul your family’s diet. Start small with one healthy change at a time.
2. Be a role model. Eat the nutritious foods you want your family to eat. This is especially important when it comes to kids. Our kids mimic what they see.
3. Nudge, don’t nag. You want your family to want nutritious foods. Nagging will cause your loved one to push back more.
4. Introduce new foods gradually and prepare them a few different ways to see what everyone likes best. You can do this by changing one or two ingredients that you use with their meals, especially ones that you eat all together.
5. Stock healthy snacks in plain view — place a bowl of fruit on the counter, for example. This not only helps the bariatric patient as we are less tempted to grab unhealthy snacks, but helps them see us making those changes as well.
6. Eat nutritious meals together as a family. They don’t have to be fancy, just delicious.
7. Make the farmer’s market a family affair. Have the kids choose one vegetable they want to help prepare that week.
8. When making casseroles, meatloaf, chili, soups and stews, toss in some grated, chopped or pureed vegetables, too. This is a good way to sneak in healthy items without them knowing it at first. Helps introduce new foods to them.
9. When you talk about healthy foods with your family, highlight the nutrients the foods provide. Now this one can be more difficult, especially if you have a family member that is stuck or been lead to believe that they are eating ok. In this situation, sometimes taking an item that they eat that may not be healthy and showing them a similar healthy item to exchange it for helps.
10. Explore new ways to prepare veggies. If you usually steam, try roasting or grilling. Start by trying some easy, 5-star recipes online. We also sell our Bariatric Cookbook as well. It may be a holiday cookbook but it does work for year round recipes and includes desserts.
11. Teach your kids to honor their hunger cues. When they tell you they’re full, don’t insist they clean their plate. But also remember that sometimes kids hunger cues, just like adults, are from boredom. Start by readdressing their attention to something else. If they are still hungry then they are most likely still hungry, especially if it has been a few hours and also fully depends on what they have eaten earlier.
12. Take pride in food presentation. Research shows beautiful food actually tastes better. No, it doesn’t have to be restaurant presentation, but I will say kids are more likely to eat with the eyes.
13. Get your family involved in meal planning and food prep. For example, have your kids choose something to eat for Meatless Monday. You can sit down and plan out meals together, which will help get them to more than likely also eat it.
14. Limit fruit juice intake to one 6-ounce glass per day. Any more than that and those calories will quickly add up. If you allow your children to constantly drink fruit juices especially ones that have a lot of added sugars this can lead to weight gain even in active children.
15. Have fun with healthy foods to make them more appealing to kids. Try making celery boats or cutting fruit and vegetables into fun shapes with small cookie cutters.
16. Stir frozen vegetables into canned soups or frozen entrees. This is something older kids can do even when they’re fending for themselves.
17. Select snacks that provide around 150 to 200 calories, and make sure they contain some protein, fiber, or healthy fats. Make little containers of snacks for the kids so they have them to snack on or even for the adults in the family.
18. Teach your family how to read the Nutrition Facts Label and have them help you scan the ingredients at the grocery store. This is harder for those with younger children, but as they get older helping them recognize things with food labels will help them make better choices later in life.
19. Adopt a “No Sugar-Sweetened Drink Policy” at home. Make milk or water the go-to beverage at mealtime and save soda, fruit punch, and sports drinks for special occasions.
20. Learn a few healthy ingredient swaps, such as using Greek yogurt in place of sour cream, or coconut oil instead of butter in baked goods, to cut down on saturated. Simple substitutions go a long way in helping your family eat more healthfully.
While some of these may not work for everyone, there are always other ways that you can help get your family on board with healthy eating. It can take time so be patient. Don’t get upset if they go back into an old habit as old habits can be hard to kill. As a bariatric patient, you should understand that because you most likely have had to change some of your old bad habits when it comes to eating and you know that you can sometimes fall off the wagon no matter where you are at on your journey.