When Your Family Doesn’t Eat Like You Do
April 27, 2017
4 ways to get what you need and make mealtime easier.
In a perfect world, your family would be totally on board with your healthy eating journey. Your partner would be making you an elegant tray of veggies and homemade hummus while your kids cheerfully remove the cookie dough ice cream from the house.Reality is likely closer to your partner ordering a cheese crust pizza while your kids are begging for cupcakes.But you can stay in this family AND stay devoted to your health. No, really.
It’s rare that everyone in the family has the same wants and needs when it comes to food. Cupcakes aside, we now understand that one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to food, so your body might do best on a protein-strong diet while your partner thrives on a more carb-friendly diet.
That doesn’t mean you have to take on the role of short-order cook, making one meal for you, one for your partner, and another for the kiddos.
Instead of stressing over your family’s different eating preferences, change your thinking about food and the meal-prep process with a few effective life hacks courtesy of Habit Coaches, Jae Berman, RDN and Jessica Guterman, RDN.
1. Make Dinner A “Build Your Own Meal” Game.We’re not talking about an anything-goes food grab before settling in front of the TV to binge watch Hulu. Instead, gather a variety of easy-to-prepare foods, serve them up buffet style, and let each family member create their own masterpiece before gathering at the table.
Think in terms of having at least one type of protein, starch, and veggie available, and include some wholesome fat and a sauce or two for flavor. For example, you could put out pre-roasted chicken, beans, rice, some roasted or steamed veggies, avocado slices, and a sauce. Taco fixings are another popular way to go.
With this setup, each person gets to make their own favorite combo and still have family table time. This is a great learning experience for kids, especially, because it increases family bonding time and exposes them to healthier ways of eating. One study found that kids in families that eat together are 35 percent less likely to disordered eating patterns, 12 percent less likely to be overweight, and 24 percent more likely to eat healthier.
Bonus: There will probably be leftovers, making lunch the next day or two a no brainer. And maybe you can even repurpose some items for tomorrow’s dinner.
2. Introduce Them To Great New Foods–But Do It A Little At A Time.Another huge benefit to serving several different options buffet style? You can weave new healthy foods into the mix slowly, making it more likely your family will be open to trying them.
Kids may need to be exposed to a new food 10 times before they decide they like it. So patience is your secret weapon. If you introduce quinoa one night, eggplant another, and dino kale down the road, and then weave those same foods in again over time, your family will likely be more receptive than if you throw in a bunch of new-to-them foods all at once.
3. Use The Power Of Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind.Out of sight, out of mind is real and we recommend applying it to foods you don’t want to eat. If shortbread cookies and jelly beans are your trigger foods, it’s best not to bring them into your house at all. Making them inconvenient helps too. If a family member wants to eat those trigger cookies, ask that he keep them where you aren’t likely to come across them.
4. Take Charge Of Your Own Food.If your partner is the one who cooks and you want to eat slow-carb style, you can’t expect him to tailor all meals to your needs. Instead, if that’s how you want to eat, take ownership and cook your own meals. You’ll both be more satisfied that way, guaranteed.
And if you’re the one who cooks? Take charge and make an alternative side dish for yourself. For example, if you need to focus on slow-burning carbs, then buy a variety of tasty high-fiber veggies and beans (just for you!) that you can sub in place of the rice or other refined starches the rest of the family is eating.
Meal time doesn’t have to be a big production (or a food fight) if your family doesn’t eat the same way you do.
Instead, start focusing on ways you can eat with them and still eat the way you want to. Your family may not be finding you new kale recipes and making you green smoothies, but it’s still a win-win. You’ll be happier, you’ll role model healthy eating, and they won’t be totally turned off of adopting a healthier lifestyle of their own.