Tag Archives: Feed Your Family Well

A Clean Eating Family

Trying to stick to a clean eating diet when the rest of your family is eating the same non-healthy diet that they know and love is setting yourself up for failure. It is nearly impossible to stay with it.

So . . . why not get everyone on board and become a clean eating family? When there is no junk food in the house to tempt you, it will be a 1000 X’s easier to stay with a healthy, unprocessed food diet.

The $64,000 question is – how do you get the entire family on board with such a dramatic change?

Hold a Family Meeting

After you have seriously considered and answered the two questions in the previous post – Get Started with Clean Eating, call a family meeting and lay all your cards on the table. Share with them the WHY and WHAT of this new proposed way of eating.

Explain why eating clean, healthy, unprocessed food is so important and why you want to make this change as a family. When you talk about it in a dedicated, passionate way, conveying how important it is to you (and to them) – and ask for their support, there is a good chance you will get it.

A Gradual Change Is Best

Going cold turkey as a family could create too much resistance. It may be more effective to make the change in stages, beginning with small changes at first.

For example:

  • Grill some chicken and fix a big salad, but also offer hot dinner roles with butter and jam – then, for dessert, serve fresh sliced strawberries sprinkled with Stevia and a dollop of fresh, lightly-sweetened whipped cream.
  • Make your next batch of spaghetti sauce with grass-fed beef hamburger and serve with whole-wheat noodles. Add some sliced cucumbers, avocado and tomatoes as a healthy side, but keep the garlic bread for those who want it.
  • Make Spanish omelets with cage-free eggs, stuffed with real solid chunk, grated cheese and topped with salsa made with onions, bell peppers and tomatoes, plus your favorite Mexican flavorings. Serve with rich 12-grain toast and real butter.

Encourage your kids to take at least a couple of bites of each new healthy dish. If they do not like it, don’t force them to eat it. They will eventually come around.

Create New Family Favorites

After each meal that includes a new dish, take a vote. Find out what they like and what they don’t like. It won’t take you long to find new family favorites and start creating a list. From that list, you can develop other dishes. It is a great opportunity to use your creativity.

Once you have a few solid dishes that work for the family, they (or their variations) can be the center of your meals. Be sure to use the same process with finding favorite clean snacks – and keep plenty of the healthy favorites readily available. (BTW snacks are actually easier.)

Include one fruit or vegetable as part of each meal. Encourage the kids to eat fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds for snacks. Always have them on hand and prepared for easy snacking.

Remember, even small amounts of healthy food quickly add up and slowly begin to replace the processed junk. It won’t be long until junk food becomes a faint memory of the past.

Practice the 80/20 Rule

Every step toward incorporating clean food into your family’s diet is a step in the right direction.

Every meal does not have to be 100% clean. The 80/20 rule works very well in this situation. Make it your goal to have at least 80% healthy foods in every meal. The other 20% can be a little off, when necessary (just don’t let it expand beyond that).

It is also OK if the kids have cake of pizza at a birthday party. The goal is to build a different attitude toward food and make an overall improvement on the family’s diet and lifestyle – an overall move toward healthier living.

Healthy and Easy-to-Prepare Lunches

Planning and smart grocery shopping are essential for feeding your family healthy, nutritious meals. The process can take a great deal of time and effort. To make it even more complicated, gone are the days of hour-long lunch breaks. They are typically only 30 minutes, which means lunches must be simple. They must be prepared and eaten within the 30-minute time frame. This posting offers a few healthy lunch ideas that may be just what you are looking for.

Image by ivonnewierink

Remember to include your child in the planning when it comes to making healthy and easy-to-prepare lunches. Whether lunch is for school or to be eaten at home, prepare food you know they will enjoy. When you have their input, you are much more likely to prepare help something they will eat. SO . . .  if your child does not like tortillas, do not prepare wraps for his packed lunch. There is a high probability that he will not eat it.

Be sure to include fresh fruit that he likes. A small bunch of grapes, a cut up apple, banana or other fruit will help with the desire for something sweet and is a much healthier choice than a sugary dessert such as cookies or candy. Get in the habit of cutting fruit into small pieces and placing it in snack size plastic bags as soon as you come home from the grocery store. This works well on almost every fruit except apples, which should be cut as you are preparing lunch. Then, all you have to do is grab a bag of fruit and drop it in the lunch bag.

Pack whole wheat crackers, small pieces of roasted chicken or roast beef and low-fat cheese for your child to make their own “Lunchables” style meal. This provides healthy alternatives for lunch and gives them more control over their meal. The pre-packaged choices really ARE NOT healthy! They are filled with fat and additives – mostly empty calories that are not good for them. However, foods packaged at home in a similar manner, can be very good for them.

Sandwiches are one of the easiest choices when it comes to preparation. To provide healthier sandwiches, use hearty whole grain bread rather than white. This will allow you to give them sandwiches they like, but on healthier bread. You can even pack the ingredients separately so they have the choice of making a sandwich or eating the ingredients on their own.

Make tuna salad sandwiches, wrap them individually, and freeze overnight. When you take them out to put in your child’s lunchbox, they will thaw and be ready to eat when lunch time comes. This also works well with homemade chicken salad sandwiches (made from the leftovers of Sunday’s roasted chicken dinner).

Make up a healthy snack mix with dried fruit (cranberries, cherries, or raisins), unsalted nuts, carob chips and pretzels. If you make these once a week in single-size servings, they will be ready when you need them.

Freeze juice boxes if are sending juice to school with your child for lunch. The juice will thaw in the hours before lunch and it will keep your child’s food cool. You can also use the same idea with other beverages. Personally, I am not a fan of juice boxes since they are primarily sugar water, but if you feel you must, this is one way to do it.

Start with things you know your children will like. Ask them what they prefer and you may be surprised at the answers. Remember to offer foods from each food group as your guide.  Remember to choose natural, whole foods without the additives, minimal sugar, and low salt as often as possible.



Breakfast for Picky Eaters

You have probably heard all your life that breakfast is the most important meal of the day – and I heartily agree.  This is true for everyone and especially for children.  Unfortunately, there are some people who simply do not like breakfast foods, which I personally do not understand, but nevertheless, it is true.  If you or someone in your family happens to be one of that group, you may have to be innovative and creative to find alternatives for those picky eaters.

You can start with the following and create your own from there . . .

Image by: Tomasz Stasiuk
Image by: Tomasz Stasiuk

Banana or Pumpkin Bread – Bake several loaves, slice and freeze in small plastic freezer bags. It is unusual for anyone to turn down a slice or two of homemade banana or pumpkin bread. For an extra nutritional bump, add nuts (walnuts or pecans are perfect).  Serve a couple of warm slices with a little butter and a glass of cold milk or freshly-squeezed orange juice and you have a nutritious, delicious breakfast.

Green Smoothies – Initially your picky eaters may hesitate because of the color, but they can be tasty and provide a healthy, nutritious breakfast. They can be made with frozen pineapple and banana slices, apples, oranges, dates, pitted cherries, strawberries, almonds plus plenty of baby spinach or kale for the green ingredients. Try various combinations until you find the ones you like best. You can also add ice to make them slushier – or plain Greek yogurt  or almond milk to make them creamier.  If you need sweetener, add a little local honey or Stevia, but go easy.  A dash of salt also enhances the flavor.

Almond Buter Trader JoesAlmond Butter Sandwiches – Most picky eaters will eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich when all else fails.  I would recommend switching it up with almond butter, which is a little healthier choice – cashew butter can also be a nice change.  Whichever you choose be sure you purchase brands that are pure nut butters – nuts and salt ONLY, nothing more.  Make the sandwiches with hearty whole-grain bread and go very light on the jelly (and always use fruit-only jelly) or use local honey instead.

Omelets – Rather than plain old scrambled eggs, make them interesting by creating omelets. Add sautéed vegetables (onions, green pepper and mushrooms) along with plenty of your child’s favorite cheese.

Bagels – This is one that I learned to love when I lived in New York City. Now they are available everywhere, but some are better than others. The best ones I have found are Bruegger’s Bagels and Safeway Grocery Stores (which are actually pretty good).  If you have not tried them, you are in for a treat. They can be served plain or toasted; spread with butter and a little fruit-only jam, cream cheese, or nut butter.  They also make tasty sandwiches. Try them soon.

Image by: bodrumsurf
Image by: bodrumsurf

Fruit and Cheese – This is a great option for family member who shy away from breakfast.  Most people like at least one type of cheese, which is a good source of protein. Serve favorite cheese slices, whole grain crackers, and sliced fresh fruit – apples, strawberries, blueberries, oranges, or grapes. A dish of cottage cheese with sliced fruit is also good. This may not be a traditional breakfast, but it works well.

Fruit and YogurtI am NOT talking about prepared, sweetened yogurt with fruit at the bottom!  Use only plain Greek yogurt, with sliced strawberries, blueberries or cantaloupe – drizzled with a little local honey. YUM!  You can also top with a tablespoon or two of fresh homemade granola (the boxed version has too many additives and too much refined sugar).

Deviled Eggs – These can be made the night before and served with a slice of whole wheat toast – quick and easy.

Overnight Oatmeal This is a great choice because it is a healthy base to which you can add ingredients that fit your picky eater’s palate. Also, it is very convenient because you make it the night before, put it in the fridge, and serve with the additional preferred ingredients.

Muffin Fritatas – I just found this recipe and it is great – high-protein, low-carb and tasty. This site has other excellent egg recipes you may want to try for healthy, delicious breakfast alternatives.  There is another site for Egg Muffin Recipes that you should check out as well.

As a parent you want your family to be healthy and happy. If some of them fall into the picky eater category, you may be concerned that they are not getting the nutrients they need – and rightfully so; but insisting they eat foods they do not like is probably not a very successful or pleasant experience.

Offer healthy foods that they prefer, even though they may not be traditional breakfast foods, which could include nuts, avocado slices, apples, cheese, fruits of all kinds, whole-grain or protein pancakes, hard boiled eggs or hearty healthy muffins.

Eat and enjoy healthy foods!

Nutrient Rich Meals

The next step is to start planning nutrient rich meals. One way to do this is to make a vegetable (or vegetables) the central ingredient of your main course with meat as a condiment or secondary ingredient rather than the main course.

This is a little more complicated that changing up your snack foods.  It requires a mindset change. In other words, forget everything that you have been taught about meal planning (with meat at the center).

Roasted Veggies with Beef - Image by Maya83
Roasted Veggies with Beef – Image by Maya83

The average American eats far too much meat each day. It is time to change. I am not saying that you should become a vegetarian – far from it. But, I am suggesting that you make vegetables the largest portion of food on your plate, with meat on the side, rather than the other way around.

It sounds simple; but, I realize it will be a sizable challenge for many people. If you are willing to make this adjustment, you will immediately begin to serve healthier meals without changing the types of foods that your family enjoys.

For example: the next time you grill steaks, rather than make the steak the highlight of the meal, serve it as the side dish. Cut the steak serving size in half and double the size of your vegetable portions. (Think about the positive impact that will have on your food budget!)

If you normally make peas or green beans with your steak, look for recipes that spiff up the veggies to make them tastier, more interesting, and more enjoyable. Try adding crisp onions, sliced almonds, interesting spices, or topping them with fresh garlic bits sautéed in olive oil or sprinkle with grated cheese. Remember . . . make the steak the small side dish to your meal.

Substitute olive oil for butter in your cooking (except in baking). Olive oil mixed with Italian seasonings, garlic powder, salt and freshly-ground pepper is a healthy and delicious substitute for butter on bread. Try this Olive Oil Bread Dip Recipe. Small substitutions like these can lead to easy and fast meal ideas that contain very little saturated fat.

Healthy, simple meals begin with simple ingredients. One of the biggest mistakes is using high fat and high sodium butter products in our cooking. (If you are a dedicated butter user – try unsalted.)  But as an important note . . . olive oil is simply the best oil for cooking (except for baking). In cases where the flavor of olive oil is not acceptable in a recipe, try using only pure seed oils such as sunflower oil rather than more processed varieties.

Healthy Diet Cookbook_digital
Purchase on Amazon.com

Find a couple of good cookbooks like my newest cookbook, The Healthy Diet Cookbook, that include recipes for people living with Type II Diabetes or those battling high blood pressure. These types of cookbooks offer recipes that are simple, nutritious, and low in salt, sugar and fats.,

Even for the healthy person without any particular issues, learning to cook with health-based recipes will begin to change your taste in foods; and put you on the path to eating more nutritious meals.

Getting used to foods that do not contain huge amounts of sodium and fat can take time, but using these types of cookbooks will make the changes easier. The “healthy” cookbooks often include excellent dessert ideas and healthy snack options that you may not think of on your own.

Cookbooks take the pressure off when it comes to planning meals and creating good shopping lists (which also helps eliminate impulse buying and waste).

Plan your meals and snacks at least one week in advance. It will be easier to stick to nutritious food options and it will help you avoid unnecessary time crunches that force you to resort to fast foods or frozen dinners. Taking time to create nutritious meal plans allows you to think about the foods you want to serve your family and also enables you to buy ingredients in quantities large enough to cover all meal options.

Meal plans and shopping lists also also make it easier to avoid the aisles in the supermarket where the “bad” foods are located. As I have said many times before – shop the perimeter of the market, skipping the interior aisles entirely. It will not only shorten your shopping time; it will lower your food bill.  It also makes weight control and family dietary concerns much less stressful because you will no longer be filling your cart with fattening, less nutritious foods.

Limit your menu to foods that are as close to nature as possible and never more than one or two steps away from natural. This means means avoiding all processed, prepackaged foods completely (includes most frozen dinners and all fast foods); plus eliminate all refined sugar products and white flour products from your diet.

Buy fresh fruits and vegetables or quick-frozen fruits and vegetables with nothing added (one step away from natural). Only use canned vegetables if you have no other option. They are often loaded with sodium and are heavily processed, making them several steps from natural.

Image by Nick Ares
Image by Nick Ares

Use whole grain cereals, pastas, and breads rather than white flour products. Choose cage-free eggs, grass-fed beef and pastured chickens.

Once you adjust your thinking about food, meal planning, and shopping, it becomes much easier to buy the foods that are good for you and your family. Remember focus on close to nature for the most nutrition. This does not necessarily mean that you must only buy organic foods; but, when available, that should be your first choice – especially for most produce.

Choosing to run a marathon begins with a single step; revamping your diet also begins with the first step. Small changes can have a huge impact on your health and your life.

If starting slowly will work better for you, begin with one change – and add another each week. For example:  you could begin by eating a healthier morning snack (leaving behind the doughnuts and sugar-filled coffee or the heavily caffeinated, sugary soda) – or by simply adding vegetables to your dinner plate – or preparing fresh green beans rather than opening a can.

Every step you take toward serving nutrient rich meals is one step closer to a healthier you and a healthier family.   



Be Mindful About What You Eat

Image by Stephanie Frey
Image by Stephanie Frey

Don’t be an “unconscious eater.” It is very easy to grab whatever is handy and shove it in your mouth in all social situations and also while watching television or even doing chores around the house. It is amazing how much you can pack away without even realizing it. Be mindful about what you eat. Mindfulness ensures that you will eat the most nutritious and affordable foods available

Think about this . . . are you more mindful of the care you give your car than of the care you give your body? You would never use the wrong fuel for your car and expect it to run well. You depend on your car to get you where you need to go and probably take good care of it. You make sure it has regular maintenance, the right oil, the right fluids, and the right fuel. So why would you be less cautious regarding your body?

Unconscious eating habits endanger your own health, and also the health of your children. As a parent, do you toss whatever you can find on the table for the kids and hope they will stay healthy? Do you stop to think about the importance of building strong healthy bodies so they can enjoy long lives free of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity?

You probably try to give your kids the most nutritious foods you can afford. But, when life’s pressures and responsibilities overwhelm you, you may end up going through the nearest drive-thru just to get the family fed. You tell yourself that one time is not going to hurt; but, the truth is, even one time a week at a fast food restaurant adds up.

If you plan ahead and stay mindful of what you need to do in order to feed yourself and your family healthy nutritious meals, you will be more successful in making it happen. If you wait until you are too tired to think about nutritious food, chances are you simply won’t care if you take the easy road.

Educate yourself – read about food and how nutrition affects the body. Find healthy recipes, plan healthy meals in advance, have healthy snacks available to keep the kids happy while you prepare meals, and learn to Cook Ahead.

Finally, listen to your own body. What is good for one person may not be good for another. If you deal with food allergies and intolerances, you must take those into consideration when planning meals. Food allergies, or not, it is imperative to pay attention to how you feel after you eat – today and over time.  By doing so, you can continue to make the best food choices for you and your family.

Eat Well – Live Well!