As the rise of serious conditions such as diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular and autoimmune diseases reach epic proportions, an increasing number of adults are embracing dietary changes in a bid to turn their health around. However getting the rest of the family to join in often comes with challenges. There’s no doubt that it is easier to make the change when children are small, however once they become old enough to exercise a little (or a lot of) independence, you may need to be more inventive. Here are twelve ways to help you get them on board.
1. Take small steps so the transition is subtle, and give the family time to get used to change.
Going cold turkey is likely to feed rebellion, or cause mutiny. Know that a period of refusal is to be expected but keep going – most people resist change but they tend to get used to it eventually.
2. Add healthy ingredients in before taking the unhealthy ones out.
Try serving up a boiled egg along with cereal in the morning. Try serving steamed vegetables alongside pasta or pizza. Introduce probiotic-rich beverages like beet kvass and kombucha before you phase out the sodas. Organ meats are the most nutrient dense food you can find, but their taste isn’t for everyone. So blitz raw chicken livers in the food processor and add them into meat sauces to help mask the flavor.
3. Use up the unhealthy foods and buy healthier alternatives when they need replacing.
Canned vegetables may be replaced with fresh and in-season, with varying colours. Sliced bread can be exchanged for a sprouted sourdough. Switch your egg supplier to one who sells pastured and organic. Source raw, organic milk if you are able, instead of pasteurized and homogenized. Buy organically grown vegetables, or at least avoid the Dirty Dozen and stick to the Clean 15 when buying conventional. And stock up with grass-fed meat and pasture raised poultry if your budget allows. All this will remove a heavy toxic load from your family.
4. Make family favourites with healthier ingredients and sit down together to eat them.
For example, buy yourself a spiralizer and have noodles made from zucchini, butternut squash or rutabaga rather than wheat pasta. Oven bake sweet potato fries instead of eating deep fried or packaged potato fries. Make your own ice cream with coconut milk and a small amount of honey or maple syrup to sweeten, or even blitz frozen banana slices with water or coconut milk for an instant iced treat.
5. Reduce the amount of sugar in baked recipes and then phase it out altogether in favour of unrefined honey or maple syrup.
The sugar content in most recipes can easily be cut down by a third and most people’s palates adjust within three weeks. Better still, bake less and encourage the family to eat whole, fresh fruit instead.
6. Swap out inflammatory processed vegetable oils and hydrogenated fats (such as margarine) for healthier versions and increase the amount over time.
Healthy fats are vital for managing inflammation and healing, as well as acting as building blocks for cell membranes and hormones. They also make food taste good! Use a variety of unprocessed fats such as olive, avocado and nut oils over salads. Cook with extra virgin coconut oil, and pork lard, beef tallow or butter sourced from grass-fed, organic animals. Increasing the amount of fat gradually over time is easily done – think about a swirl of olive oil or a knob of butter spooned over hot vegetables, or some coconut milk in your next smoothie.
7. Be sure to include some raw foods in the diet for an enzyme-rich boost.
Again, start with smaller amounts and gradually increase over time to allow the digestive system to acclimatize. The easiest way to do this is by eating a salad at lunch time, or a side salad with dinner. Once the family are happily eating raw foods, step up the variety.
8. Make it a challenge to try a new vegetable every week or so if your family is resisting them.
This is a perfect way to get them to try (and enjoy) new foods, and if your family members are anything like mine, they’ll rise to the challenge.
9. Get children involved in the food preparation.
When making a meal becomes fun, they are far more likely to eat it afterwards. Depending on their age, child-friendly and fun tasks include spiralizing the veggies (supervise as these utensils have sharp blades), chopping, manning the food processor and stirring sauces.
10. Always have a selection of healthy snacks on hand.
Whole fruit that has been sliced and spread with nut butter, jerky or pemmican bars, plantain chips cooked in palm oil, or sweet potato chips cooked in coconut oil are far less likely to spike blood sugar levels than cookies and chocolate bars.
11. Ask unimpressed children to taste new foods before passing judgement.
Ask them how they know something’s horrible if they’ve never tried it. Tell them they can’t judge or have an opinion on something they’ve never eaten. Get them to take a small bite and if they refuse the rest take it away without making a big deal of it. Next time, serve it up again and ask them to take two bites this time. Keep doing this and you will hopefully find they just get on and eat it up. Studies say it can take several tries to adjust someone’s palate to a new food, so don’t give up so quickly
12. Education is key to getting children on board, so explain to your family why you want to make the transition, but avoid lecturing.
When it comes to older children you will need to be patient. Feed them healthier foods in the home, and always have a selection of nutritious snacks on hand. However when it comes to how they eat outside with their peer group, sometimes all you can do is lay the foundations. Your relationship with your family is the most important thing and in any case, when they are ready to shift their eating habits for the better, they’ll be all set and will have you to thank.