If healthier eating is part of your plan for 2013, you’re likely to be more successful if you get the rest of your household on board. But preparing healthy, family-friendly meals can be challenging. A bit of planning and creativity will go a long way in making 2013 a healthier year for your entire family.
“Getting the family on board with wellness initiatives is an excellent way to ensure success with the process of creating a healthier you,” says Dr. Kenneth Poole of Mercy Clinic Internal Medicine Clayton. “I suggest getting the family together and making sure everyone has an opportunity to express their goals and concerns about meal-planning for the upcoming year. From there, meals should be planned out each week with input from all members.”
Jennifer Moffett, a dietitian at SSM DePaul Health Center, suggests starting with a bit of housecleaning by taking a good, long look at what’s in your pantry and refrigerator and removing unhealthy or out-of-date items. This will allow you to start with a clean slate and create space for healthier options.
Among those options, Moffett recommends simple meals that fill the plate with lean protein, vegetables and whole grains. For example, replace regular frozen waffles and processed syrup with whole-grain waffles paired with natural peanut butter and fruit for breakfast.
“The key to a good breakfast is balance—eat lean protein, whole grains, and fresh, frozen or canned fruit and vegetables,” says Dotti Durbin, a Washington University diabetes educator and registered dietitian. “For example, oatmeal cooked with low-fat milk, along with sliced almonds and berries, or a whole-grain muffin paired with low-fat yogurt topped with berries. By preparing the muffins ahead of time and throwing them in the freezer, you can save time during the morning rush. If breakfast must be on the run, grab a whole grain granola bar and a piece of fruit, and you’re on your way.”
For lunch, Moffett suggests filling a whole-wheat pita with low-fat tuna or enjoying a cup of protein-rich bean soup with whole-grain crackers. And for healthy dinners that please everyone, “baking fish or chicken and having a vegetable side with salad is a quick, easy meal that can be prepared once or twice weekly,” Poole suggests. Using different seasonings, rubs, and/or marinades can add flavor variation without adding lots of calories.
“Everyone has different visions for what meals work for their families. For many, it may be a blend of a couple quick meals away from home, a few simply prepared meals at home during the week, and one or two ‘slower’ meals on the weekend that they want to enjoy with their family when time is more plentiful,” Durbin says. She recommends the healthy recipe section on the Food Network website, Eating Well and Cooking Light for recipes, meal ideas and planning tips.
“Willpower and discipline are the toughest things to overcome in terms of changing one’s diet,” Poole says. “That’s why having family or a partner or a group of friends involved in making lifestyle changes is important—it provides support and lets people know that they are not at it alone.”