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I'm Trying to Eat Healthy; My Family, Not So Much

Updated: Mar 1, 2020

If you live with other humans and you're trying to eat healthier, you've probably encountered your fair share of eye rolling, protesting, and push back on the changes you're trying to make. It's especially true if you are the one responsible for planning, and/or shopping for, and/or executing meals.

You are not alone. This is a common dilemma for me and for my clients! Let's face it, no one really likes change. Your loved ones get defensive because they want what's familiar and comfortable. And, as they are rather quick to point out, you may want to be healthy, but that doesn't mean that they want to be. They have a very valid point!

For better or for worse, our social networks have powerful effects on our behavior. If those closest to you have a habit of eating cookies while watching TV every night, you are very likely to adopt this habit too (more on that here). If your household like to skip dessert in favor of walking the dog, chances are good that you will participate too. So what can you do if the habits of your loved ones are not in line with your goals for healthy change? Firstly, you can and should ask for your loved ones' support. You can also reach out to friends who have or are working on healthy habits. You can hire a coach for support. But wouldn't it be great if you had some easy and practical ideas that you could try right away? OK, then, give these a go:

A bit of healthy swapping

Take stock of the ratio of less healthy/more healthy food you have in the house. How can you swap out just one or two things for something healthier? Try to bring in just a bit more of the fresh food options, and a bit less of the packaged stuff. We're not talking a major kitchen overhaul here. Remember, we're trying to avoid more eye rolling.

What's right in front of you?

For snacks that your loved ones can't live without, but you're trying to avoid/have less of, find a inconvenient location for these tempting items. Instead, put fresh food where it's frequently seen and easily accessed.

Dinnertime harmony

If you are gracious enough to cook meals for your loved ones, I do not believe in the strategy of creating separate dinners. If you are trying to make healthy changes, you need

ways of making it easy on yourself so that this is a doable way of life. I find most people are too busy for this to be practical.

Take a look at your meals, and see which healthy ones are already family approved, and look at the less popular things to see how they can be offered as an optional component. Here are some specific examples:

Things they'd rather not eat: kale

Perhaps you've tried to introduce a kale salad to your weekly menu, only to find that it's a bridge too far for your tribe. Taco night could be a great solution. You prepare the protein, and all of the components are offered buffet style. Everyone chooses what and how much they'd like. Your might have seasoned ground turkey on a bed of leafy greens, with black beans, tomatoes, avocado, onions, bell pepper slices, etc.

Things you'd rather not eat: burgers & fries

Maybe your family loves burger night, and you typically eat that with some frozen fries. Make a turkey burger that you season any way you all would like, and offer your usual burger components buffet style. You can take some of the components - leafy greens, onion, tomato, mushrooms, etc. and add a squeeze of citrus for a side salad, skip the bun, put some avocado slices on your burger, and voila, you've got your healthy dinner. To get your own healthy carbs, dice up a small sweet potato, drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, and heat that at the same time as your packaged frozen fries.

Things that everyone enjoys: grilled chicken

This seems to be a crowd pleaser. Marinate some boneless skinless chicken breasts and thighs with a small amount of olive oil, zest and juice from a lemon or lime, and salt and pepper. If you're feeling adventurous, you could add some other spices and/or chopped garlic. Marinate for as little as 20 minutes up to overnight. Chop up some veg that your family enjoys - tiny potatoes, broccoli, zucchini squash, bell peppers. Throw in some sliced onion and drizzle it all with a tiny bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. Put that on some aluminum foil, and you can grill that along with the chicken.

Things with simple compromises: Italian Skillet

See my recipe (here) for an easy solution to pasta night.

If you've tried these or other ideas, or have faced other challenges with eating within your social circle, please comment below.

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