Looking for ways to eat a more healthful diet, but your family isn’t on board? Or maybe your family is willing, but you aren’t sure what to do. Where do you start? Does it have to be complicated, difficult, or expensive?
The good news is, you can improve your family’s dietary habits for the better and it does not have to be difficult. It can even save you money. Here are some ideas.
- 1. Replace all white with brown
This is a fairly simple first step to take to improve your family’s diet, but it has a big impact. You don’t have to do it all at once; for example, you can add a bit of whole wheat flour to white flour baked goods, then gradually increase the amount of whole grain flour. Try starting with whole grain pancakes, waffles, or pasta – these are hardly distinguishable from their white-flour cousins. Here is a partial list of “white” foods and their “brown” counterparts:
- White rice / Whole grain brown rice – White flour / Whole wheat flour – White sugar / Sucanat or raw, unfiltered honey (Sucanat is an unrefined, granulated form of sugar that still contains the micronutrients and minerals found in whole sugar cane) – White bread / Whole grain bread
- 2. Go for fresh, whole, and organic food rather than pre-prepared
From grains to produce to meat, buying organic, whole foods and preparing them yourself is much healthier than consuming pre-prepared, packaged foods high in preservatives, sugar, and salt. It is also cheaper that paying for all that packaging – for example, a 3-lb. bag of organic potatoes costs less than a 1-lb. bag of potato chips.
- 3. Eat what’s in season
Here is where you can really save money. Seasonal foods are much cheaper than out-of-season foods, and you can stock up and freeze, dry or can produce when it’s in season. And some experts think the human body digests and processes in-season foods better.
- 4. Have fun and get the kids involved
Food and eating can be fun and should be enjoyable. Try a new dish as a side to a familiar dinner, and make it a game – everyone around the table can taste and give his or her impression. Let the kids choose foods where possible – take them to a local farm, or better yet, a pick-your-own farm where they can harvest the produce themselves. Connecting with food is a great way to make it enjoyable.
- 5. Meat as a side
Americans are used to assembling a meal around the meat, with the meat being the “main dish.” One of the ways to cut your food budget is to cut back on meat – it’s expensive stuff, whether you buy organic or not. Make meat the main dish maybe once a week, and during the rest of the week concentrate on having meat for only one meal a day. For example, if you are having organic chicken for dinner, make breakfast and lunch meatless that day. This is a good way to start working your way to having meat only once a week.
Replacing poultry and beef with fish is another way to incorporate healthy proteins into your family’s meals.
Don’t be too concerned about protein – meat is not the only source (beans and whole grains combined are also a complete protein, as are other food combinations), and Americans generally eat more protein than they really need.