If you're reading this, you're probably the one person in your house who's interested in eating healthier (or maybe just organizing everything). Chances are that your husband and kids didn't come home one day and ask if they can have more kale, switch out the chocolate for unsweetened raw cacao, or eat some more fermented food.
If I had a quarter for every time someone asked me "Ashley, I want to eat healthy, but my family doesn't … how do I get them to like what I cook?", I probably wouldn't have to work. It's one of the most common questions that I get (especially since I work with women 99% of the time).
Don't get mad at me, but I have to say that my husband is pretty open minded when it comes to main meals. He doesn't complain about much.
Now snacks is a whole different ball park. If I tried to take away his chips, salted and cured meats, or beer, he'd probably divorce me.
The first thing that I want you to know is that only you can make the choice to eat healthier, and you can't control what anyone else eats 100% of the time. I know that's hard to hear, and as women we want to take care of everyone else.
When you want, or even need, to eat healthier, you need to do what they tell you when you take off on a plane: put your own oxygen mask on first.
Worry about your damn self for once!
Now for some actual, tangible tips, since there's nothing more frustrating than taking time out of your very busy day to make a lovely, nutrient filled meal … and everyone makes pretend gagging noises and won't eat it.
1. Have an honest conversation with your husband/wife/partner and kids: Anyone is going to rebel when they're pushed outside of their comfort zone and it's not their choice. If you go from eating lots of processed foods to the dreaded "green stuff", expect lots of push back. Before you start making changes, sit down with your family and explain to them why you want to eat healthier. Don't attack them, and say "you're fat and need to lose weight", and definitely don't say that about yourself, especially around your kids. If they hear you talking like that about yourself, they'll think it's OK to do it to others, and worse, themselves. Focus on your goals, especially if they benefit them. Goals like having more energy so you can do more fun things with them, or balancing your hormones so you aren't so moody. If your family loves you (and they do!), they'll want to help you with this new journey.
2. Get them involved with meal planning: This has made a huge difference with my family. It sounds all Leave it to Beaver, but we take some time to sit down and figure out what meals we're going to eat for the week. Some weeks it can take a half hour (especially if I want to try new recipes), and some weeks it can take 10 minute (if we're going with tried and true meals). I ask my husband if he's had any cravings lately, or if we haven't had a certain meal in awhile. He reminds me that I always forget to make tacos, and that they're so damn good. When you're first getting started, your family is going to want the same unhealthy meals that they're been having, so it's your job to find similar recipes that will have the feel of their favourite meals, with a healthy twist (this is the exact same thing I do with my clients, by the way). I have a whole Pinterest board dedicated to health(her) comfort foods. Everyone will feel happier if they think they're having some comfort food, and you're the only one who needs to know the difference. If you've been eating super healthy for a string of meals, make them a junk meal as a treat. Just be sure to ask them how they feel afterwards … chances are they'll feel like crap, and hopefully will want to eat less of those meals!
3. Put something familiar on the plate: Eating healthy doesn't have to be an all or nothing endeavour. If it is, you're already set up to fail. I go by the 80/20 rule, in both my life and with my clients. Try to eat healthy 80% of the time, and the other 20% life just happens. Chocolate cake happens. Wine happens :-). When you're first changing up your diet, make something that you know you're family will eat, like chicken breast with their favourite sauce, or a hamburger … and then load up the veggies on the other 75% of their plate. You won't feel like they'll starve because they haven't eaten anything, and eventually they will try the new foods.
4. Don't hide new foods: I know there are cookbooks out there that say you should puree different veggies and hide them in foods, like brownies. While that's one way of making sure your kids eat at least some veggies, I personally don't think that's setting them up for a healthy relationship with food for the rest of their life (mind you, my son actually loves kale right now, but this could totally change in the future!). They'll still act like they're dying from that lone lettuce leaf on their plate. I'm going to put it out there that men sometimes act like children, especially if you change anything, so use this rule with your husband and children alike: try a new food at least 5-10 times before giving up. Worse case scenario just douse it with butter, or roast your veggies (they'll taste sweeter) and put some real cheese on top, like this recipe.
5. Get your kids in the kitchen: Kids love to make new things. They love to be involved. I know it can take 200% longer to have them help you make dinner, but they're more likely to eat it because they're proud that they made it.
Surprise, there's actually 6 ways! I almost didn't include this tip, since I haven't used it yet with my son, but it's so good I couldn't not include it:
6. Don't force them to eat: Look, I get the mommy guilt and worry that comes along with when your child won't eat. This is how it goes in my head "oh my god, Aleks won't eat. What if he doesn't grow? What if he only wants junk food? What if he falls behind in learning? What if it means I'm a shitty mom?". Sound familiar? I read this freaking brilliant article (and shared it on my Facebook page I thought it was that good) that I'm going to use when Aleks mutters those stress-inducing words. Basically, when your kid says "I don't want to eat", you say "you don't have to eat". They still have to sit at the dinner table with the family, and apparently most of the time they'll eat at least something on their plate. Less fighting, less yelling, less stress. Sounds like a winner to me.
Here's my secret recipe for getting anyone to eat veggies that they're not used to. Here's the feedback for the recipe that I got from one of my moms (who, by the way, has 4 kids under the age of 4) when she made it in the 21 Day Real Food Reset program.
You can find a video of me showing you how to seal the packet by clicking here (FYI, it's an old video!).
*to save and print this recipe, click on the recipe and it will open in a new browser window. Then just click File>Save As in your browser menu, save it to your computer, and print it from there.
What's your secret weapon for getting your family on board with eating healthier?