It’s the beginning of a new year and I’m uber focused on my health and nutrition. (My youngest daughter has a bat mitzvah next month so I admit, I have some dress motivators too…as in “I want to look good in the pictures.”) LOL! Seriously, healthy changes are on my mind after falling short of my weight loss goal last year and then happily indulging over the holidays. I’m taking it all in stride though and know that a few small tweaks go a long way.
The adjustments I make to my family’s meal plan are never just about me. As the meal planner, shopper and cook in the family, I feel a huge responsibility to make sure I’m planning nutritious recipes each week. And let’s be honest, it’s not always easy to please when you’re being healthy.
I put a lot of effort into making sure my family’s meals are not only nutritious, but also delicious. There’s no use cooking if no one is going to eat it, right? So when it comes to healthy changes, I suggest easing into it (my word of the year). If you’re looking revamp your family’s meal plan, take note of these other tips for success.
Just do it: Don’t spend too much time (if any at all!) telling your kids about the healthy changes you’re making to the family’s meals. Dive in and get it done. Chances are they won’t even notice, and if they do, you can talk about it organically at the table around good food. Ask them what they think (instead of lecturing about how and why). My kids usually surprise me with all they know and their outlook on healthy habits.
Take it easy: Rome wasn’t built in a day! Don’t go overhauling your meal plan in one fell swoop. Not only will you be overwhelmed and exhausted, but your family will be wondering what happened to their favorite foods. Instead, incorporate 1 or 2 new healthy changes a month and see how it goes. From there, keep going at a pace that works for your family.
Keep it simple: Small adjustments add up to big healthy habits over the long run. Don’t feel like you have to make huge changes. The suggestions below are all manageable, baby steps towards a cleaner diet.
The following healthy changes are where I have seen the biggest impact on my family’s diet and nutrition.
Healthy Changes for Your Family’s Meal Plan
1. Add juices and smoothies to your breakfast meal plan.
Jumpstart your family’s day with vibrant and colorful juices and smoothies packed with fresh fruits and vegetables. A smoothie can be positioned as a fruity shake to picky eaters and it’s even easier to get kids to try it if you set up a smoothie “bar” with a few ingredients to choose from. (I try to give my kids some bit of control in their meals when I can.)
Don’t knock the green juice until you try it! I wouldn’t think of starting my day without my green juice but I’ve never forced it on my kids. I’ve offered and offered time and again, but it’s been over 5 years into my juicing routine and my kids still aren’t joining me…But, wait! After watching me make my daily blend a couple of months ago, my son asked me for a glass. To my surprise, he loved it!
2. Set up DIY food “bars” for meals.
I’m a huge fan of DIY meals and incorporate them often into my weekly meal plans: tacos, veggie sushi bowls, avo toast…If there’s a way for me to create a DIY station out of a meal, I’ll do it!
I find that it gets the kids more excited about their meal while introducing them to cooking and food basics. Another benefit is that it teaches kids portion control. Instead of serving my kids an amount that I think they should eat, they fill their plates with an amount that matches their hunger level.
3. Break out the spiralizer.
I love this kitchen tool! For those of you new to a spiralizer, it’s a lightweight countertop tool for turning your vegetables into noodles. I use it for zucchini, sweet potatoes, carrots and more!
Instead of serving straight-up pasta noodles, mix in a few zoodles (zucchini noodles) for some veggie power. It’s a fabulous way to add more vegetables to your family’s meals.
4. Have your kids pack their lunch.
This has been a hard change for me to make, but if you’ve got older kids (8 and older), having them pack their own lunch offers so many wonderful things:
- Teaches them how to prepare a balanced meal
- Makes them responsible for taking care of their body’s needs
- Shows them how to prioritize healthy eating habits
- Introduces them to cooking
As I mentioned, I’m still struggling with this one. My kids have been making their lunches once a week for a couple of months now and I know it’s time to have my teen girls take over completely.
It’s a control issue for me. I want to make sure they pack nutritious foods and are getting a balanced meal. My husband keeps reminding me that I do the shopping so they only have healthy options to choose from. He’s right…and they have to check their lunch with me after they pack it so I always get veto power. It’s time!
5. Add more plant-based foods to your meal plan.
Research shows that adding more vegetables, fruits, and plant-based protein to your diet can reduce cholesterol, lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation and reverse chronic diseases (such as diabetes). Not to mention, those on plant-based diets weigh less and have more energy. (I lost 6 pounds in the first week I went vegan.)
You don’t have to go 100% vegan though to reap the benefits of a plant-based diet. Go meatless 1 or 2 meals a week or add more vegetables and plant-based foods to your family’s plate while reducing the amount of meat.
For more help and resources to add more plant-based foods to your diet, check out my 21-day online course.
What healthy changes are you making this year?