When counseling families to live healthy lives, I encourage them to start by making just one change. Choose something that will positively impact your family’s health and stick with it. Once it becomes a habit, you can make another change. When it comes to living a healthy lifestyle we often have good intentions, but struggle with the follow through. Making one small change that can instill long-term habits in the next generation is more impactful than trying to change a whole lot at once and getting incredibly frustrated.
Here are ideas of ways you can change your family’s eating habits.
Pick one and stick with it:
- Change from eating white bread to eating brown bread. Brown bread has more fiber and vitamins. The fiber helps prevent constipation and colon cancer.
- Instead of buying Sobo, Fanta, Cokes, and other sugary beverages, just drink water. If it’s not in the house, it’s easier to say no to unnecessary sugars.
- Replace an unhealthy school snack with a healthy school snack. With your children make a list of healthy school snack ideas, then when you go shopping it will be easier to make healthy choices. Here are some ideas: raisins, dried mango, peanuts, carrot sticks, crackers, grilled chicken strips, cucumber slices, cheese cubes, yogurt, fruit, or popcorn.
- Keep a bowl of seasonal fruit for an easy to grab snack on the kitchen table. If it’s visible, your family is more likely to snack on fruit when hungry.
- Buy fresh vegetables each time you go shopping. Keep vegetables washed, peeled and cut up in the fridge so they’re ready to eat as a snack or serve as a side.
- Set the table with plates already served with modest portions that include vegetables. This is helpful with kids (and parents) that struggle with eating too much or too little of the healthy stuff.
- Make a list of healthy meals (check out the websites below), then make a weekly menu based on your list. Planning ahead makes sure you include fruits and vegetables and keeps you from settling for less healthy options.
- You could try to cook one new healthy recipe each week. For some this is a fun way to creatively change your meal habits over time. For others this sounds stressful. (If it’s stressful to you, don’t do it!) I have found that it can be hard to find the ingredients for many American recipes, but don’t be afraid to change a recipe to include local ingredients. Share your healthy recipes with friends! Try these websites:
- ChooseMyPlate- Recipes
- Eatingwell (Check out these kid friendly recipes)
- Heart Healthy Recipes (Since high blood pressure, strokes, and heart attacks are common among Africans, I recommend a heart healthy diet for the whole family.)
- Plan some family play time or a family walk before or after dinner. For the picky eater, this is helpful when parents have been at work all day and mealtimes end up being emotional. The family bonding times before or after meals reduces emotional struggles at mealtimes.
- Check out these websites and come up with your own healthy food change based on your family’s current habits:
Some of us eat more healthy than others. The goal is not to compare yourself to other families. Decide, “What is one simple change I can make this year to make a long-term habit that will impact my family’s health?” Once it sticks, make another change.