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Eat Healthy as a Family

By Jamie Truppi

When you’re a busy parent trying to balance work, kids’ activities and more, finding time to prepare nutritious meals – and enjoy them together  – can be a challenge. Worry no more – there is a way!

As a working mom with two kids and a husband who works nights, I understand the pressure. Rather than put healthy family dinners – and my children’s well-being – on the back burner, I’ve figured out how to do it all most of the time, mostly with ease, and with only the rare disaster.

As with all difficult things, making the transition to happy and nourishing meals takes time and planning. It’s also highly personalized, so trials are a must. With a little dedication, there are many ways to improve – and it can be SIMPLE.

The first step is becoming clear on your vision for your family’s meals and relationship to food. Do you picture calm, joyful mealtimes? Do you want your kids to be excited about eating vegetables? Would willing helpers in the kitchen be a dream?

Here are a few more concepts to consider when embarking on this super-important venture:

Create a weekly meal plan.

Planning meals will help you manage your time better, be more efficient with grocery shopping, and avoid stressful last-minute scrambles to get dinner on the table.

Start by taking a close look at what’s currently happening at home. Note what’s working well – if your kids love Taco Tuesday and it’s easy to prepare, keep it in the plan! The key here is becoming aware of which meals are working on which days, and which meals need tweaking, and why.

Next, consider your biggest meal challenges and change one thing at a time. For example, If your teenager is suddenly a vegetarian, ask her or him to help choose which whole foods (start with vegetables) and proteins (nuts, seeds, legumes) are favorites, and build meals around them. Lovingly invite her to help prepare meals so that she is building her own self confidence with well-balanced food.

When planning meals, you’ll want to consider time, schedules, food preferences and finances. Be sure to get input from each family member over the age of three. Make it clear that everyone’s choices matter. If they are more connected to the meal, you’ll have an easier time and greater chance of success.

Cook whole foods.

If you don’t know how to cook, start by learning simple recipes using plant-based foods that you already enjoy. Practice new cooking techniques, spices and herbs, and preparation methods. For example, if your child eats only raw carrots, try roasting carrot “fries” or making carrot soup. It helps your kids connect with the food when they’re involved in the process – tell them they’re experimenting, like a scientist!

If you’re more advanced in the kitchen, challenge yourself every week to try a new food or recipe. When I allow my kids to choose vegetables, we find ourselves enjoying romanesco and turnips! Picky eaters become more open to trying new foods.

When we become comfortable cooking at least a few foods from scratch, then every homemade meal becomes easier to prepare and enjoy. Like everything in life, cooking is a practice and, with the right mindset, can become a cherished part of family life.  

Increase nutrient density of meals.

Replace pre-packaged, processed and refined foods with a wide array of whole foods raised the way nature intended. In doing so, sugar content and preservatives decrease while food diversity and nutrients increase.

Family meals are a ripe opportunity to become ritual and can create quality environment for connecting with each other. Studies show that the very act of preparing and eating meals together can improve an entire family’s overall health.

There is no better gift to give our family than a positive, healthy connection with real food. And it’s easier than you think! Join Integrative Nutritionist Jamie Truppi, MSN, CNS, for her online course – Simplify Family Nutrition: Improve eating behaviors, mealtime connections, and your family’s overall health in just 4 weeks!  (Starting the first week of February, the 4-week class series includes both daytime and evening options. )