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Heart-Healthy Diet Tips
Do you know why you can’t lose weight or commit to a healthy lifestyle? No, the problem does not lie with the diet or your family’s eating habits! You’ll fail no matter what diet you try and how supportive your family is unless you learn to have fun and enjoy eating the foods that are right for you.
It is so easy to add fun into your diet, to get all your family involved, to implement healthier habits! All you need are a few good ideas and a little practice. Let’s take baby steps, shall we? Here are a few ideas on how to make shopping, cooking, and eating healthy foods fun for everyone!
1. Grocery Shopping Should Be All Games and Contests
According to a study published by the Imperial College London, we should be eating 10 portions (800g) of fruits and vegetables every day to protect our health. Perhaps you won’t be able to make this happen every day. However, every fruit and vegetable you and your loved ones eat is a step to a better health.
How do you get the kids to eat fruits and vegetables when all they dream about is sweets and fast food? How do you get your husband to give up burgers and steak? You can’t force people to do something they don’t want to or eat food they don’t like. However, you can teach them to like healthy foods. Here are a few ideas:
- Turn shopping into a family activity, or at least take the kids with you. Go shopping on the least busy days, to avoid time pressure. Always eat before you leave. If you’re hungry, you’ll crave every unhealthy food on the shelf. If you’re already full, your brain will have a saying.
- For every shopping session, ask your kids to choose the unhealthy food they can’t live without, and a new fruit or vegetable to try. They’re kids, so you can’t expect them to give up those chips and chocolate bars that easily. Instead, encourage them to try new healthy foods.
- For every shopping session, think of one of their favorite dishes, and find a healthy alternative. Invent a story about a new magic discovery related to that food, and use it to stir the kids’ interest. For example, if they love pancakes, you can tell them you learned that adding berries, bananas, or apples to the original recipe (using rice flour instead of white flour, or honey instead of sugar) could make them jump higher. Let them choose the ingredients, add them to the mix, eat the pancakes, and jump as high as they can after that. If goes without saying they’ve never jumped that high before.
- Play the color game. When you reach the fruits and vegetable sector of the supermarket, ask your kids to buy one yellow, one red, and one green fruit, and one yellow, one red, and one green vegetable each. You can help them decide with stories about what you can cook from each fruit and vegetable, or how big and strong that particular food with help them grow.
If you follow these tips, your shopping sessions will be fun and educative, and the kids will look forward to getting home and start cooking. It will be easy to come up with even more ideas and start a new family tradition.
2. Base Your Healthy Cooking Recipes on Your Family’s Favorite Dishes and Get Everyone Involved
You can’t teach your loved ones to hate unhealthy food. However, you can teach them to cook it with healthier ingredients and have fun doing it.
Do they love pizza? Rather than the order in, buy a large sliced whole bread, dip the slices in a mixture of eggs and milk, or eggs and tomato sauce, and use them as a base. Let the kids top them with their favorite ingredients, making sure to include some healthy alternatives as well. In the end, let there be snow with some mozzarella or parmesan, and bake the pizza slices in the oven until the eggs cook and the cheese melts. The healthiest, tastiest, and most colorful slices can receive a symbolic award.
Do they love burgers? Use chicken and beef instead of pork, and a lot of thinly grated vegetables (mushrooms, peppers, zucchini, carrots, celery, garlic, etc.). Squeeze out the juice (save it for the barbecue sauce or some soup), add a couple of eggs, and salt and pepper to taste, and give the mix a good stir before cooking on the grill or in the oven, on baking paper. Let the kids grate the veggies and shape the meatballs if they want.
The bottom line is that no matter what type of foods your family loves, you can give it a healthy and fun twist if you just take the time to look up some healthy recipes and replace unhealthy ingredients and cooking techniques. As for using as many fruits and vegetables as possible, here are a few ideas to make it happen:
- Gather the dots on the fruits and vegetables, or buy some sticky dots or smiley faces, and use them as a reward for each fruit and vegetable the kids cook. Obviously, the one earning the most dots or smiley faces should receive an award.
- Every meal you cook should combine several colors: red, yellow, orange, white, green, etc.. Each child should choose a color and cook something to match it. Think of smoothie, frozen yogurt with fruits, salads, purées, dips, and sauces, etc.
- When cooking, play guessing and association games. For example, if you’re peeling a banana, ask them to name or imitate an animal that loves bananas. They’ll laugh their hearts out while doing it.
By following these tips, you’ll teach your kids to associate fruits and vegetables with their favorite dishes and fun. You won’t have to persuade them to eat their veggies or blackmail them to finish their fruit juice, as it will all follow naturally.
3. Add a Splash of Color and a Pinch of Joy to Each Meal
Teaching your kids to shop for fruits and vegetables and cook them is one thing. Convincing them to eat them is usually the tough part. However, if you follow the advice above, you’re already halfway there. Kids are more likely to eat foods they’ve picked and cooked themselves.
Even so, here are a few more ways to encourage healthy eating:
- The plating should be all stories, rainbows, and smiley faces. Use shapes to cut the cheese and the ham, make cucumber sticks, banana and apple chips, and multi-ingredient toothpick snacks. Use berries sauce to turn cookies and pancakes into smiley faces, arrange smashed potatoes as a face, and use olives for the eyes, carrot sticks for the nose, and sliced tomatoes for the mouth. Slice and dice fruits of various colors and arrange them in rows by color, to draw a rainbow.
- Make bingo boards with the available fruits and vegetables for each family member. Every time the board owner eats a fruit or vegetable, cross it off the list. Whoever crosses off all the fruits and veggies on their list wins, so make sure the prize is attractive!
- Prepare juices and smoothies from fruits and vegetables, and throw a party in the kids’ room or in the garden, drinking from toy cups. Prepare fruit salads and purees, and serve them on toy plates, with the dolls and stuffed bears as your special guests.
It may all seem tiring in the beginning, but remember that your kids are the parents of their toys. Just as you cook, lay the table, and clean up after them, they should do the same after their toys. Besides, all these games, jokes, and playing will get you mind off your troubles and help you relax. In time, you won’t even need to participate, as the kids will establish their own rituals, the healthy ones you’ve helped them draw.