It’s a conundrum faced by many people who have embarked on a weight-loss journey: how to eat meals with your family without sabotaging your healthy-eating plan. After all, just because you’re eating to lose weight doesn’t mean your partner and children have to participate in the same program, right? Right!
Even if you’re following a weight loss plan like Slender You, you can commit to the program 100 percent while still enjoying those all-important family dinners. All it takes is a solid plan, a little planning and forethought, and some tried-and-true tips to help you succeed — and keep your family healthy at the same time.
Read on for our complete guide to healthy eating for families!
1. Be up front about your needs and goals
Research has shown that getting support from friends and loved ones can be a vital element of your weight-loss success. At the same time, however, so-called “family social undermining” (including family members bringing foods you’re trying to avoid into the house, or eating those foods in front of you) can help sink your efforts to lose weight — or even cause you to gain weight back once you’ve lost it.
To get the support you need, discuss your goals and plan of attack with all of your family members. Although it may be hard for younger children to understand, simply telling them you’re trying to be a healthy eater may help explain any changes they notice — plus, you’ll be setting a good example by showing them how to make healthy food choices.
Be specific about the plan you’re undertaking and what it entails. Keeping everyone involved will allow your family to support you and be sensitive to your needs while avoiding potential pitfalls.
2. Don’t eat separately from your family
Just because you’re on a weight-loss plan doesn’t mean you need to avoid your family at mealtimes! In fact, you shouldn’t as research has shown several benefits to children of having meals as a family, including:
- It helps to provide structure for the day
- It allows for family check-ins
- It allows you to model healthy interpersonal interactions; these include problem-solving skills and cooperation
What’s more, there are also longer-term benefits to having regular family meals, including that children are more likely to develop healthier eating patterns, such as eating more fruits and vegetables and fewer saturated and trans fats.
3) Use this as an opportunity to make healthier meals for your family
Since you’re on the path to better nutrition, why not do the same for your family? Look for ways to make your family’s meals healthier by trying the following:
- Instead of cheese made from whole milk, try low-fat; keep an eye on how much you include at each meal
- Use whole-wheat or brown-rice pasta instead of white
- Swap out white rice for brown rice
- Got a casserole on the menu? Add extra veggies — and if your kids seem to have an aversion to “too many” vegetables, steam and puree some to add to the dish (a great trick for pasta sauce, too!)
- Use olive oil in place of butter
- Canned vegetables can be high in sodium, so look for low-sodium varieties; or use fresh or frozen instead
4. Give your kids the opportunity to make healthy choices
Kids like to feel like they have a say in things. Instead of telling yours that they have to eat their broccoli, give them a choice: Would you rather have carrots or broccoli? Asparagus or cauliflower? Squash or sweet potato? Even better, let them choose a new fruit or vegetable to try when you go to the store.
Along those same lines, consider letting them choose one family meal per week — and if they have difficulty choosing a healthy one, give them a list to choose from.
The aim is to guide your children toward making healthy choices without forcing them to do so.