How healthy is your diet right now? If you’re like many families, you’re probably doing a lot of mindless eating these days. The potato chips and bags of cookies disappear faster than you can say, “What’s for dinner?” It’s understandable, given the stress caused by everything going on. Everyone’s a little on edge and eating right now is a universal human comfort.
So how do you improve your family’s diet without causing a riot in the kitchen? Is it even possible right now?
Yes, you can help your family eat healthier this week. It’s easier than you think, but it takes some planning. Grocery shopping has become an adventure, so don’t rely on picking things up at the last minute. With some help from your family and a little time, you can gradually bring healthy foods into your routine. This guide will help you make a plan and get your family on board.
Planning ahead makes everything easier to handle. If you aren’t used to making a list, try putting a sheet of paper on your fridge and inviting your family to write things down when they run out or think about something to add. Your list can create itself as the week goes on. Consider saving your list from the previous week so you can add things you’ll need again soon with less effort.
Along with a list of items to buy, create a list of meals to make in the next few weeks.
Here are a few ideas for keeping the troops happy at home.
- Try new recipes – With more people at home, it’s a great time to try some new recipes. It’s a good distraction and you’ll have something fun to look forward to.
- Bring out some family favorites – Comfort food is a good thing right now. Sprinkle them throughout your meal plan so you don’t have several heavy or similar meals all in a row.
- Carryout – If you choose to add carryout meals to your plan now and then, adjust your grocery shopping to account for the expense and leftovers.
- Stretch your supplies and budget – Find ways to stretch more expensive ingredients by mixing them with rice, beans, potatoes, and other starchy foods.
- Cook in batches – When you make taco meat for tonight’s meal, consider making enough meat for another meal or two at the same time. It may take a little longer now, but you’ll appreciate the convenience on a day you don’t have much energy.
Snacking is OK
Snacking is more than OK right now. In fact, you should encourage and embrace it. Snacking doesn’t have to equal junk food or ruining your dinner. Here’s a shortlist of ways snacking can be great for your family.
- You can add nutritious foods throughout the day – Have containers of cut fruits and vegetables, cheese, whole-grain crackers, nuts, hummus, and other finger foods available.
- It’s a good excuse to get up and walk around – It’s OK to admit that you get distracted during the work or school day at your house. Stand up, get some brain food, and get your blood pumping again.
- Everyone’s schedule is a little crazy – With more people working and learning from home, daily schedules are getting more flexible. Snacking can help fill the gap when someone’s activities don’t line up with normal meals.
- Snacking can keep your energy going throughout the day – Fight off brain fog between meals by having a small snack. The shot of calories and quick energy will keep you going until your next meal.
- Treat yourself once in awhile – Indulgent snacking is OK once in a while. Make healthy snacks the rule, but be ready to have some favorite fun snacks around, too. Especially now, when many fun things are on hold, a splurge food can feel like a real treat.
Boredom and Emotional Eating
Snacking is a good thing when you pay attention to your body’s needs. But many people eat for emotional reasons instead of hunger. When you head to the fridge or pantry, ask yourself if one of the following three things are happening:
- Poor sleep
- Stress/Emotional eating
If you can answer “yes” to any of those three problems, step away from the food.
It may be tempting to eat your feelings away, especially with the stress and uncertainty in the world now. But finishing that container of ice cream or eating the whole bag of chips will only add to your problems. You’ll have stress and a stomachache.
Instead of snacking, try to address the real problem. Do some deep breathing to relieve stress. Lie down and close your eyes for five minutes if you feel tired, or do jumping jacks to wake up. If you’re bored, give in to the distraction and daydream for a few minutes.
If you still feel like snacking, after all, you can never go wrong eating more fruits and vegetables. So if you decide to eat your stress away, aim for the fresh produce drawer in your fridge.
Make Small Healthy Changes to Your Diet
Healthy eating is important, but avoid making too much change at once. Adjusting to change is surprisingly hard work, especially when the time frame gets longer and longer.
At this point, food is one of the few pleasures many people have left. Even if your family’s diet isn’t the best, it’s at least familiar. Take it slow and think of a few ways you could improve your eating habits.
Keep these things in mind: your family’s emotional attachment to food and the need to introduce healthier choices. You can blend these together without shaking things up too quickly. Here are a few ideas:
- Get everyone involved – Let your family choose the weekly menu, and suggest a few healthier side items like fresh-cut apples or salad.
- Lighten up family favorites – Make or purchase a few favorite items, but find ways to substitute ingredients or serve healthier sides.
- Squeeze in more fruits and vegetables – If your family resists fruits and vegetables, dress them up with a little butter, sauce, or fancy dip. Over time, you’ll have an easier time serving them with or without the extras.
Healthy Eating Habits
You and your family may be like many people falling into unhealthy eating habits right now. Don’t sweat it – healthy eating doesn’t need to add stress to an already stressful situation. Take small steps of change and keep food enjoyable.
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