A colorful photograph of many fruits and vegetables squished together on a tabletop.

7 Simple Ways to Help Your Family Eat Healthier this year

Do you want to help your family eat healthier this year? Better eating habits usually falls within the top three New Year’s Resolutions of Americans every New Years. If your resolutions include increasing your family’s overall health and wellness by eating healthier, you’ve picked a great goal!

Increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables your family eats, along with eating more variety of foods and drinking more water will help your family slim down, have more energy and even have increased mental clarity!

But making a resolution is a lot easier than actually DOING it. At Primary Healthcare you and your family’s health is our top priority, so we want to share simple, actionable ways that you can meet your health goals. Read on for seven simple ways you can help your family eat healthier this year.

1. Meal Plan

We know, we know…meal planning isn’t necessarily fun . However, it is a very important way that you can make sure you are eating healthy meals instead of grabbing convenient take-out. Start by writing down 10 healthy dinner ideas that your family likes, and be sure to include 2-3 that are fast and easy to prepare (like wraps). Make a grocery list with the necessary ingredients for the dinners along with the groceries you need for breakfasts, lunches and snacks for the next two weeks. Post your dinner plans somewhere that the family can see them. Be sure to add in some leftover nights to reduce food waste (and give the chef a break)! By planning out your meals every two weeks you will save money, make healthier eating choices AND reduce the “What’s for dinner?” question every night!

a young boy wearing a colorful shirt holds an apple up in a grocery store. He has blond curly hair and is smiling.

2. Take your Kids Produce Shopping

Kids are naturally very curious…but unfortunately that curiosity can go right out the door if you serve them a vegetable that they’ve never seen before. However you can reignite that curiosity with vegetables and fruits by putting kids in the driver’s seat when produce shopping. Have kids look at the beautiful colors in the produce area and let them pick out a new fruit or vegetable every time you shop for groceries. When you get home, do a little online research and learn about the nutrients the new fruit or veggie contains and find a fun recipe featuring it. Not only will your kids be more open to trying something they chose and prepared, but you also might find some new family favorites!

3. Make Hydration Fun and Accessible

Did you know that mild dehydration can be masked as hunger? The hypothalamus, a part of the brain which regulates both hunger and thirst, can sometimes confuse the two. Eating healthier by staying hydrated can prevent overeating AND comes with the added benefits that drinking water can bring including clearer skin, lower blood pressure and better digestion. But how do you get everyone in your family to reach for water instead of soda or juice? One simple way is to buy everyone in your family a special water bottle or cup. Next, you can encourage everyone to drink a glass of water before each meal. You can also add fruits like lemon, lime, oranges or berries or veggies like cucumbers to give the water delicious infusion of taste.

Dr. Kevin Mangum can help your family on a path to better health with yearly wellness checkups! Schedule your appointments today at (801) 758-8735.

4. Eat the Rainbow

Try and have a variety of colors of foods at each meal. Every color of food contains different types of nutrients. By making the simple change of making your plate more colorful, you’ll help your family eat healthier this year.

5. Add a Fruit or Vegetable side dish to every meal

Dinner is usually the meal where we feature side dishes. By making the simple addition of adding a fruit (or a fruit and a vegetable) to every meal you’ll reach the recommended servings of 4 fruits and 5 vegetables a day. Some ideas include: adding fresh spinach, broccoli or tomatoes to eggs, throwing frozen fruit or spinach into a blender for a smoothie, eat apple slices, have riced cauliflower with your chicken or adding a side salad to your sandwich. Once you make it a habit for everyone to grab a fruit and veggie with each meal, you’ll be on the path to a healthier family!

6. Understand (and teach) Portion Sizes

American cuisine is known for its ENORMOUS portion sizes. So much so, that many Americans overeat without knowing it because they think they are eating normal portions. If you want your family to eat healthier this year, do a quick overview of what appropriate portion sizes are for our bodies. Your hand can help serve as an easy reminder of appropriate portion sizes. Your kids’ smaller hands make this “handy” portion size work for their smaller stomachs as well. For example:

Your palm size is equal to about 3-4 ounces or 1 serving of meat.

A closed fist is about the right size for one serving of pasta, rice, cereal, vegetables, and fruit.

Limit added fats like butter, mayo or salad dressing to an amount equal to the size of the tip of your thumb.

7. Focus on food as a fuel not a reward or punishment

The way we speak about food to our children can have lifelong impact on their health and relationship to food. If you’ve fallen into the trap of referring to certain foods as “bad,” or “unhealthy” try to start with a clean slate this year. Have a talk with your kids about how there are no good foods or bad foods, just different types of fuel that can help or hinder our bodies ability to operate. Don’t use the eating of vegetables as a means to receive the “reward” of dessert. Instead encourage your kids to notice the taste and texture of all types of food. Focus on how food makes their bodies feel. It might take some time to get rid of the bad habits of associating food with positive or negative feelings, but it will help in the long run.

There you have it! Seven simple ways to help your family eat healthier this year. Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint. Choose one new habit to focus on each month and build on that momentum. You will feel good knowing that your family is making better food choices AND feeling the benefits of better eating. Don’t forget to schedule yearly wellness check-ups for your family. Having a primary care physician that can provide continuous care will help keep your family on-track and in optimum health.

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