What can I do to improve my family's diet?

With today's busy lifestyles, families don't always eat as healthfully as we would like. By practicing healthy eating habits at home, you can make it easier for your family to eat right. Try these 10 tips designed to encourage healthy eating habits:

  • Be a good food role model. Telling children to eat nutritious foods is one thing. Showing them is better.
  • Serve a variety of fruits and vegetables daily.
  • Schedule a snack time and stick to it. Space snacks at least two to three hours before a meal.
  • Involve kids in meal planning and preparation. Children often will eat foods they help plan and prepare.
  • Keep less-healthful foods on a higher shelf where they won't be noticed as much.
  • Eat as a family. If possible, eat together at least once a day. If it's breakfast, set the table the night before for less effort in the morning.
  • Don't eat in front of the TV.
  • Encourage your family to try new foods, expanding your knowledge, experience and skills.
  • Let kids stop eating when they say they're full. Encourage your child to eat slowly and pay attention to feeling full. By learning hunger and fullness cues, your child will learn to eat enough, but not overeat.
  • Eat around a table and enjoy your meal. Avoid arguing or complaining at the table. A stress-free meal that is neither rushed nor prolonged promotes family bonding and helps everyone enjoy what they're eating.

Here are some tips on how to help your family eat healthy:

  • Make an appointment for family dinner. Busy families have to make an effort to eat together. But it can be done. Post a family schedule in the kitchen, and circle the time you'll meet for the evening meal each night. If you have to rearrange your day or say no to an event so you can make the meal, do it.
  • Stop grazing. Teens and adults usually need three meals and one or two healthy snacks a day. Younger children may need to eat every three or four hours throughout the day. Set meal and snack times—and don't allow yourself to graze in between times. Drink water to tide you over. Did you know that thirst is often mistaken for hunger?
  • Have everybody help with cooking. Even young children can help with cooking healthy foods at home—stirring, pouring and washing foods as needed. Older children and teens can take over cooking duties some nights of the week.
  • Limit fast food. Make it a family rule to eat fast food less than two times a month. You'll save money, feel better—and probably find that a simple homemade meal is just as fast.
  • Sit down and slow down. Meal times should be restful, not rushed. Enjoy your food—and enjoy the company (without the TV on!). Stay at the table for at least 30 minutes.
  • Eat only in the dining room or kitchen. If you're eating in every room of the house, you're probably eating all the time.
  • Don't eat in the car. Plan enough time to go into the restaurant and sit down to eat. If you're traveling, look for a park or rest stop to picnic in.
  • When things get complex—keep meals simple. You don't have to spend hours and hours cooking. Make a list of six or seven quick, healthy meals to work from.
Jodie Shield
Healthcare Specialist

Here are some goal-setting tips:

  • Start as a family. Sit down and come up with goals together. That way, everyone can take ownership and cooperate.
  • Set no more than three goals at a time. If you try to make too many changes at once, your family will be overwhelmed.
  • Make each goal specific. “Exercise more” is a great idea, but it is not specific. “Take family walks four times a week” is much more concrete.
  • Be realistic. For example, the goal should fit your family’s budget, schedule and cooking skills. If a goal is complicated, costs a lot or eliminates everyone’s favorite foods, then your family is unlikely to stick with it.
  • Identify obstacles. For example, you may have to ask Grandma to stop bringing over a big batch of cookies every Sunday. Instead, maybe she could bring a fruit salad or just enough cookies for everyone to have one or two as a special treat.
  • Know that your family can do it. Help your family stay positive and focused.
  • Forgive your lapses and celebrate successes. Your family doesn’t have to be perfect. If you miss a few days, relax. Get back on track as soon as you can. Remember, changing habits take time. When your family reaches a goal, reward yourselves with nonfood prizes, such as a trip to the movies or park.
Healthy Eating, Healthy Weight for Kids and Teens

More About this Book

Healthy Eating, Healthy Weight for Kids and Teens

In a world of fast food, supersized sodas, and televised temptations, this guide shows how to buck the obesity trend currently in the national spotlight—and have fun doing it. Using a family...
Toby Smithson
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

Preparing meals that are fun and delicious are sure always a hit at the dinner table. The method of preparing the food counts too! Foods that are fried, soaked in sugar or doused with salt are likely to be higher in calories and unhealthy ingredients. Opt for healthier methods of cooking like baking, boiling or steaming. Parents can arrange food on the plate in fun shapes and colors are a sure way to make meal time and eating exciting for kids.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.