Small steps to greater healthy eating

by laurri on November 1, 2012

national eating healthy day

With  the recent celebration of Halloween and two holidays in the near future, a day like this is perfect.  The American Heart Association has declared November 7th as a National Eating Healthy Day.  They are encouraging organizations and others to make small changes towards healthier food choices.  What a great idea and definitely worth implementing!  Small changes are really the answer!

Being a passionate mother for health, I have found that my children and also my husband of course, respond favorably to my healthy lifestyle changes when I do it in small steps.  As much as I would love to go full throttle in healthy additions, I have realized that success in my family has been accomplished one step at a time.  It has not happened all over night.

Although we are far from being perfect, we have managed to make some of the following small steps toward greater health in our family.   Perhaps they may do the same thing for other families striving for change as well.

1.  Read food labels

As soon as I learned about high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils, harmful preservatives,  and food dyes, I began reading labels before purchasing the food.   Naturally, we began to choose those foods  that were the most natural and did not contain any of these ingredients.  My children will often now read food labels with me to ensure that specific ingredients are not contained in them.

green smoothies2. Added spinach to smoothies

The great thing about spinach is that it’s taste is easily disguised.  Our once strawberry banana protein smoothies soon became powerful alien juice.  Once they were used to the green, I then slowly began adding other greens like Kale, Chard, and at times Collard Greens to their smoothie.   It has been a gradual process but it is fun to be able to now add chia seed, flax seed, or hemp seed as well.

lettuce garden

3. Grew a lettuce garden

The greatest thing about growing a lettuce garden was that my children saw exactly how lettuce was made.  They loved being the ones to go cut it out of the garden and bring it in for our nightly salads.  I think they appreciated the salad a bit more and were even willing to try some of the more bitter tasting lettuces that sometimes formed.

4. Replaced white flour to whole grain flours like wheat or rice  in home baked items

Our days of whole grains began with this one step.  Replacing the white flour with wheat. Over time, I gradually began replacing some of the wheat with other grains like rice, kamut, or spelt.  Because it was gradual the children did not seem to notice as much. Once they were use to the heartier taste, I then replaced white flour pastas to whole wheat pastas as well.  We now most often eat rice pastas.


5. Replaced regular sugar with Stevia, Xylitol, coconut sugar or Succanat in baked items

At first I started by replacing half of the sugar with one of these substitutes.  Gradually over time, I was able to replace all the white sugar with one of these substitutes.  Because my children had grown to recognize the taste, they did not seem to mind and there were no complaints made.



6. Gradually replaced high carbohydrate snacks with more fruits and vegetables and nuts

This step definitely needed to be done gradually. However, if there are a lot of options of fruits and nuts available, my children will not complain.



7. Started making more food at home rather than purchasing it

This change was definitely the most time consuming. However, by thinking ahead, I was able to have frozen cooked beans and chicken on hand.  I was able to have frozen home made pesto, spaghetti sauces, and lentil soups available.  Thawing these types of items out was easier than  I had imagined.  Recently, I have started cutting up sweet potatoes into the shape of fries.  I freeze them as well until we are ready to use them.  Having these types of frozen food items available has made dishes less likely to have preservatives, sugar, and other additives that may occur in these types of foods.

8. Started having small discussions at meal times on the benefits of certain food

Flax seed oil was one food item that I  started early on in their life.  I would attempt to add it to anything I could get away with.   I would often refer to it as ” smart juice” and we would discuss how this oil was beneficial to our brains.  The more detailed I was with how it worked exactly with the brain, the better.  Visuals were used at times and they loved it.   These small discussion were definitely more effective when they were young . Regretfully, we still have discussions but just not as frequent.

9.  Replaced ground beef with ground turkey

I thought that using ground turkey instead of ground beef may have created some rebellion.  However, it did not.  With the information I had read about red meat, I decided that we needed to eat it less often and therefore started using ground turkey instead.

10. Subscribed to a magazine subscription called Eating Well

I am certain there are other subscriptions like Eating Well that can be purchased.  However, the one thing that Eating Well did for me was allow me to see all the creative ways that food could be made healthy.  Most of the food was common and popular food so my children did not put up a fight if I added a healthier option over another to make it better for us.  I learned so many tricks of how to make food more healthy from this one subscription and I still will find myself resorting back to old magazines when I am in need of ideas.

Vegetarian-meals11.Started replacing meat meals with more vegetarian meals

When I would plan meals, I would make sure that the our dinner meals during the week would include four vegetarian meals and three meat meals.  This was definitely not a substantial change but it did mean less meat in our diets.



12.  Worked to create a rainbow of color on each dinner plate

This small project came about because of the research I learned about the power behind the pigments of food.  Sometimes the pigments are as nutritious as the fruit itself. Once I learned about this, I did my best to ensure that at least four different colors were represented in each dinner meal. Whether those colors were found in the salad because of a red pepper,carrot, and beet  or as a side dish such as a sweet potato, I attempted to make sure as much color as possible was available.  I knew that I would need to start small so I started only with dinner and then eventually started to implement this same process into breakfast and lunch as well.   vegetables

13. Started adding sprouts into tuna and egg salad mixes

The nutritional power of sprouts are incredible and I knew it was important for my children to have an opportunity to consume them.  I knew my best method for implementing these would be to add them to an already familiar mixture.  So,  I started adding them to a tuna salad mixture that contained Vegenaise ( vegetarian type of mayonnaise) and tuna.  I would then place this blend onto two pieces of bread.  As long as I did not overdo it on the sprouts, the children would eat it.  To this day, I continue this practice and my children will eat the sprouts, Vegenaise, and tuna mixture.

healthy-treats14. Started making wholesome treat as a reward for meals that may be a bit challenging for my children to eat.

If I was making something different or if it included an item that my children were not as fond with, I would include an after meal treat.  Although our children are always allowed to choose whether or not to eat what is placed before them, a little wholesome treat sometimes was just the bribe needed to help them finish the meal.

food choices

15. Started cooking with coconut oil

I started using more coconut oil in my cooking and baking because of the research I learned. Because of it’s ability to very heat-stable, I knew it would be a better choice to saute onions and garlic as well as cooking stove top popcorn.

As a family we are far from perfect and still have a lot of area of improvement. However, my hope is that the small steps that have been made and continued to be implemented will help my sons to accept a healthier way of eating.  It is my hope that this gradual process of consuming healthier foods will also become a way of life for my children as they start to make their own food choices outside of our own family circle.

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