22 Feb 2021 Five easy ways to eat more healthily as a family
Finding a routine for home-cooking can be a constant juggling act for many people, and families especially, none more so than in these current times with so many people having to handle work and home-schooling. We asked BANT Registered Nutritionist ® Chloe Steele, who specialises in helping families, to show us five easy steps to build good eating habits at home.
If planning family meals fills you with dread, then you are not alone. Giving your children the opportunity to choose what to have for dinner one night a week is a great opportunity to allow them some autonomy and give you a break. Now I am not suggesting you allow them free reign to eat ice cream with chips for dinner, rather allow them to pick a meal from your repertoire of family favourites. If you really want to instil good eating habits, why not involve them in the cooking too? But only if you can handle the mess!
Modern lifestyles mean that we are busier than ever and often struggle to find a time to eat together. However, sitting down as a family to share a meal away from the television can have numerous benefits. Children who join in frequent family meals are less likely to be overweight, and more likely to try healthier options such as fruits, vegetables, and calcium rich foods. So, allocate as many mealtimes a week as possible to sit and eat as a family.
Boost your Favourites
Much of the time healthy eating is not about removing but adding something to your diet. Taking a favourite family meal and adding extra vegetables, beans or pulses is a great way to boost its nutritional value. For example, adding lentils to spaghetti Bolognese can increase its content of iron, zinc and vitamin B6, all of which help support the immune system. However, if your children are like mine, and can’t find a pair of shoes that are right under their noses but can spot a lentil in their food from one hundred paces, then add these nutritional boosts in small amounts and increase them gradually over time. Healthy eating is about building good habits, rather than quick fixes.
Healthy eating is not about counting calories, forcing everyone to give up the things they love, or starving yourself. The foundation of healthy eating is replacing highly processed foods with those as close as possible to the way that nature intended. Removing snack foods from the home will prevent everyone from grabbing an unhealthy option when they get home from work or school. Instead, encourage fresh fruit and vegetable snacks, or make and bake your own snacks, and only buy ‘convenience’ foods occasionally.
Grow your Own
Research showing the correlation between growing your own food and increased fruit and vegetables in the diet is not in its infancy, especially when it comes to children. Positive experiences of growing fruits and vegetables builds positive feelings about eating them and can increase a child’s tendency to choose healthier foods. If you do not have the space at home, consider growing your own herbs on a windowsill, or search for a local community garden that you can get involved with.