For many people, the family is a major influence in promoting change both in other family members and in themselves. The family is a unit and it is beneficial to analyze the family together as well as members individually.
People need to have a stake in their food. When we have a role in the decision-making, food-preparing, and cooking processes, we are far more likely to be interested in the end result: a healthy plate of food. Having a personal role in the process also makes it less likely we will develop issues from having eating desires imposed upon by an authority figure. Parents are the ultimate authority in the parent-child relationship, but it shouldn’t be a totalitarian regime that engenders rebellion and resentment.
1. Set goals together if possible. It is harder to do something alone than it is to do it with others. Losing weight, going on an elimination diet or even just a general healthier lifestyle is more effective when you are in a supportive environment and working together.
2. No battles at mealtime-this means nagging as well. This is not the time to speak your mind on someone’s eating habits. As Ghandi said :”Be the Change”
Digestion starts in the head and meal time should be a time of pleasant conversation and connection. It is not the time for arguments. That is not to say it won’t happen, ever, but try not to make it a regular event and be mindful of this when the subject arises.
3. Don’t ignore health issues. If you know someone is making a choice that will directly negatively affect their health, speak up in a loving, heart led way. Don’t sit by and watch your loved ones making choices without speaking your mind but not in a way where they feel judged. Voice concern and facts.
“I am worried that your waist size is increasing because it is directly linked to heart disease and early death. Let’s skip dessert this month”.
“Your blood sugar was high this past week, lets go to the store and pick out your favorite vegetables for this week!”
“The soda you drank has a lot of sugar. Did you know two cans have 70 grams which is equal to an entire quart of milk! That is a lot of sugar!” (just a fact, no judgement)
4. Respect everyone’s preferences. Seek to understand, then to be understood. Unless you are living in another person’s head you don’t know exactly what these things feel or taste like when they hit the mouth. That being said, it can take 17 times or more to have enough exposure to enjoy the food for some kids or picky eaters. Be patient. I have seen 40 year olds actually learn to like things they have hated all their lives.
5. Three words: No Other Options: Don’t give alternatives. Make one dinner, everyone eats the same thing. Some may like it deconstructed or may only eat parts of the meal. That is okay but DO NOT make two dinners/lunches/breakfasts. Streamline your fridge, freezer, and pantry to eliminate temptations such as unhealthy snacks and sweets. Pick meals that everyone can enjoy at least some of. Having a list of family favorites will help with this as well.
6. Set a routine: There are many benefits of being in a routine. Science has shown you will live longer and happier. Kids feel safe and secure. Life will be easier because everyone will know what to expect. Pick 5-7 meals everyone enjoys and keep them on your monthly rotation.
7. Make sure each member is getting enough physical activity for their own needs. Often small children will be more likely to eat new foods the hungrier they are.
8. Use positive reinforcement: In general, every living being will react better to positive reinforcement than negative. Therefore, notice when a family member is making a good choice and applaud them for it. Also, notice when goals are being set and reached and encourage and cheer them on.
9. Keep an eye on the emotional health of family members: People often eat for emotional reasons, and keeping an eye on the emotional health of each family member can help avoid problems with food-related behaviors later. A family that provides structure, opportunities for effective communication, and nurturance and support to each family member will not only promote emotional health but nutritional health, too.
Additional suggestions: Prepare Food Together: Making your own food forces you to appreciate that food. It’s more satisfying, fulfilling, and nourishing when it comes from your own hands. We may like taking the easy way out when it’s available, but if you get in the kitchen and cook, you are more likely to want to eat the food.
10. Go to farmer’s markets. Grocery stores don’t compare to a bustling, vibrant farmers market. Where else can your kid be exposed to free-market competition, five kinds of kale, fresh made kimchee, magic crystals, and produce with real dirt on it? Plus, farmers markets are generally bereft of junk as a rule.
11. Use fat and Use variety. A recent study just came out showing that adding fat to veggies helps kids learn to like them (it works on adults, too, I find especially if you use butter). So, be sure to incorporate plenty of healthy fat in your meals. You’re going to strike out once, twice, ten times. Eventually, though, you will find some foods your picky family members will eat and love.