Nutrition Articles

Healthy Family, Healthy Home

WFL Week 11

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These days, busy work schedules, kid’s sports practice, meetings and household chores seem to leave little time for preparing a meal at home. It’s no surprise that the restaurant industry’s share of the “food dollar” is 46% today, compared with only 25% in 1955. We’ve all experienced it: you’re tired or crunched for time, so it’s easier to just pick something up on-the-go. The problem is when those things you are picking up are not the healthiest choices- for you or your family. So what do you do? Is it possible to make healthy meals at home without spending hours in the kitchen? The answer is yes- it just takes some simple planning!

Grocery Shopping

It all starts with a trip to the grocery store. It’s a good idea to know what you are going to get before you head out the door, so plan the week’s meals before you go. This way, you know exactly what you are going to get (saving time), and you’ll be more likely to avoid impulse buying. Chances are, if you do succumb to spur of the moment shopping, you’ll not only add to your bill, but also make selections that are not the healthiest foods. Plus, if you have a plan for each night, you’ll be less likely to spend money at a restaurant. The meals you prepare don’t have to be elaborate cuisine- there are lots of simple, healthy recipes on the site that your family will enjoy. Make meal planning a family affair! Get the kids involved in selecting new recipes or picking out new fruits and veggies at the store. Feeling like they are part of the decision-making will get them excited about your new, healthy food adventure and more likely to eat what’s on their plates!

Benefits of Eating at Home

Eating at home not only saves money, but allows you to spend more time together as a family. Doesn’t it sound nicer to sit down for a quiet meal around your kitchen table, instead of rushing through a drive-through or waiting to be seated at a noisy restaurant? Even if you can’t eat together every night, spending time a few nights a week to prepare a meal together can make a big difference- for both your physical and mental health!

It’s also much easier to control portions when you eat at home. For example, if you make spaghetti for dinner, you can more easily dish out just one serving per plate, leaving more room for extra veggies. (It’s also important to keep in mind that the typical dinner plate might hold three or more servings of pasta.) At a restaurant, a server might put a plate of the same noodles in front of you that could feed five people. Studies have shown that we tend to eat what is in front of us, whether it’s too much or not. Eating at home and measuring portions can also give you a good idea of smart serving sizes, so that when you do go out, you can better judge how much you should eat.

It’s easy to promote healthy eating at home, just by making healthy snacks more convenient than junk. Keep a bowl of fruit on the counter, or cut up veggies in plastic bags in the refrigerator. These make for convenient snacks when the kids (or you) are hungry. A recent study showed that when given the option, kids were more likely to pick the healthy snack than chips or candy. So it’s important to make sure those options are easily available for them!

Cooking At Home

You might be thinking “I am so busy as it is, there is no way I can find time to cook during the week.” It’s easy to make quick meals during the week if you plan ahead.

Cooking in the Crockpot (or the slow cooker) can be easy, fun and healthy. These handy kitchen appliances allow you to prepare food ahead of time and cook it without any attention. Just throw in the ingredients and go! Instead of worrying all day about what to make for dinner, you know a hot meal will be ready when you get home. It's also perfect for batch cooking a healthy meal that will last 4-5 days.

A Crockpot can be a great help in preparing wholesome, nutritious meals that are veggie-rich, packed with complex carbs, and low in fat and calories. Long cooking on low heat tenderizes meat, so it is an excellent way to cook those cuts of meat that have less fat, are less tender, but are also less expensive.

Another option is to cook batches of food on the weekends and freeze them. For a weekday meal, simply unfreeze the portion you want to serve (allowing you to control portion sizes) and reheat!

Helping Your Family Stay Healthy

If you’re not comfortable with talking to loved ones about the touchy subjects of health and weight loss, you can still help them lead healthier lives by practicing “random acts of fitness.” There are dozens of small things you can do every day to make healthy living as easy as possible. Sometimes, you end up helping create good habits without them even realizing it.

And in the true spirit of being a positive force, when you give your time and energy with any of these random acts, you get just as much in return.

Some ideas (in random order of course):
  • Keep a variety of foods in the kitchen.
  • Make sure you talk to them about other things besides weight loss and fitness.
  • Stock kitchen with healthy cookbooks, leaving them where people can find them.
  • Get the junk food out of the house.
  • Plan an active activity after dinner.
  • Make it a habit to play outdoor games together.
  • Plan a cooking date.
  • Cook at least three times a week for the household.
  • If you already cook, cook healthier foods for the family.
  • Maintain an upbeat attitude.
  • Invite them to take part in a fundraiser that supports something important to all of you.
  • Get a physical and urge them to do the same.
  • Give “active” gifts, like personal training packages, a bicycle, roller blades, etc.
  • Make a bet.
  • Use positive language all the time.
  • Be straight up and let them know you’re concerned about their health.
  • Start a garden that you can work on together.
  • Plan a “surprise” hike.
  • Suggest walking more than driving.
  • Take everyone on a canoe trip.
  • Make their exercise a priority. Wash their gym clothes without being asked, do a chore for them so they have time. Make it easy for them.
  • Sneak healthy snacks and a friendly note (maybe even a love note) into their lunch, briefcase, jacket pocket or purse.
  • Prepare their favorite dish in a healthier way.
  • Opt for activities as an excuse to spend time together.
  • Ask them to help you stay on track.
  • Turn off the TV and hide the remote.
  • Give big, positive attention to changes that are made.
  • If it’s your turn to pick, choose a healthy restaurant or one that’s within walking distance.

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