Breaking the Habit of Unhealthy Diets

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It is far easier to eat an unhealthy diet with your family than it is to eat a healthy meal. This is especially true for the families who are hard pressed to find time to cook or even shop for healthy ingredients. When you find yourself relying on take out menus and have a regular meal for every child at every restaurant in the vicinity, it’s time to examine your diet and the quality of the nourishment you’re offering your family.

Check Your Family’s Diet

There is a possibility that your family eats out often, but is still eating a healthy diet. If you order primarily lean meats, fruits, vegetables and whole grains, you are likely doing okay. The trouble is when your take out diet consists of fried foods, rich sauces, fatty meats, and high calorie food items. When you’re feeding your children a steady diet of processed cheese, friend potatoes and friend fish sticks, you’re not giving your children the sorts of things they need. Instead you’re giving them the sorts of foods that will lead to poor health, weight problems and a poor diet throughout their adult life.

Food Responsibilities

There are varied levels of responsibilities for parents when it comes to feeding their children. The first level of responsibility to ensure they have adequate nutrition. This means that your child is eating enough calories per day. Interestingly, the high fat school lunches provided are the government’s way to helping to feed children who would otherwise be starving. Eating a school lunch every day might give your child almost all of the calories he needs for the day, so be sure to check the menu before sending him off to buy lunch at school.

The second level of responsibility is to provided balanced nutrition that will help your child grow and develop at a healthy rate. Indeed poor nutrition is linked to poor growth and if you’re not feeding your child well you might be stunting his growth on some level. Finally, you should also be working to teach your child how to eat well. Feeding him healthy meals every day, or almost every day, is a great start, but be sure to talk to him about what makes those meals healthy so that he can learn to prepare the meals himself as he ages and becomes more independent.

Learning about Nutrition

If you’re just entering the world of good nutrition, the articles and websites on the topic can be almost overwhelming. Rather than running off scared at the thought of tofu and Vitamin B complex, start simply. Read and learn what sorts of food your children should be eating on a daily basis. Then take the next step to learn what sorts of foods deliver the most bang for the buck. Cantaloupe, for example, is high in both Vitamin A and Vitamin C – two critical vitamins babies and children need on a daily basis.

Many television shows that feature families making the switch to healthier eating do so dramatically. They eliminate all the bad foods and focus solely on pure nutritional foods. You can do this, but it might be easier to apply what you’re learning to your diet on a daily basis. For example, swap out high-sugar drinks for fruit juice to get in a serving of fruit every day. Then get rid of the sugary snacks and crisps and exchange healthier options your children still enjoy such as pretzels, whole grain chips, baked crisps, fruit slices, cereal bars, and sugar free popsicles and gelatin or pudding snacks.

Phasing in Nutrition

As you’re incorporating simple things to your family’s diet, begin simply by adding. Add a vegetable or fruit to every meal. Younger children will need to see the food at least a few times before tying it in most cases. Use foods that are generally more acceptable to children such as natural applesauce, green beans, peas and corn. Cut fresh fruit and add it to their lunches every day. Include more whole grain snacks in the pantry.

As your children and you get more adapted to the healthier items, begin replacing regular items with a healthier version. High sugar jellies become natural jams. White bread becomes whole grain bread. Chocolate milk goes low or no sugar. Ice cream becomes sorbet or frozen yogurt. Hamburger goes from chuck to sirloin. Chicken goes skinless and so on. As you make small changes, you’ll notice that it’s easier to make better choices around the house. Starting with drinks and snacks is enough to make a tremendous difference in your child’s diet. The real changes, however, happen over the dinner table.

Eating In

If you’ve been eating almost exclusively take out, you don’t need to stop. What you do need to do is find balance. Exclude restaurants and meals that serve only food items you wouldn’t want to feed to your children and seek out new options such salad bars and sandwich shops that have healthier options. When you order from the menu, skip the succulent or rich foods and opt for foods as close to nature as possible. A grilled chicken breast and baked potato is a good choice while a cheesy casserole and fried potatoes is not.

This can be a challenge when you order from restaurants you’ve frequented for years, so while you make the initial change to healthier eating, it might be wise to avoid those restaurants. Save the pizza buffets and fried favorites for special treats rather than a nightly occurrence. Perhaps order your special “bad” foods one day a week. And at the same time, make it a point to start cooking at home at least one night a week. Simple recipes and slow cookers make this easy to do if you plan ahead and do your marketing over the weekend.

Work your way up to fancy meals. Start with chicken and salads. Pasta made with whole grains and a simple sauce is another easy food item to cook in a hurry. Some nutritional experts claim that you should work to eat at least three dinners a week without meat. And when you do eat meat, opt for a serving of lean protein no bigger than your palm. The rest of your plate should be filled with vegetables and a bit of whole grain bread.

Lead By Example

When making a switch as dramatic as this one might be, it is critically important to lead by example. If your partner continues to eat out every night and refuses to even try the healthier options you’re making, it can jeopardize the transition to a healthier lifestyle. Be sure your partner is on board with the decision and then always be sure you’re doing what you need to be doing to show your children the rights foods to buy in the store, the right foods to eat and the right attitude to have about nutrition and taking care of yourself. If you’re able to take a walk together after dinner, that’s a statement about exercise that’s just as important as one about healthy food. Both are required to have a healthy family.

Children and Fat

It is important to note, however, that children of any age should not be placed on a low fat diet without the advice of a pediatrician. If your child is working to lose weight, he should do so by increasing his activities and eating a balanced diet that includes fat. Children need fat for many reasons, but primarily because fat contributes heavily to brain growth and development. Whole milk, dairy products made from whole milk, peanut butter, nuts, avocados and other foods that are natural with higher levels of fat should be encouraged in a child’s diet. Avoid saturated fats such as cooking oil, margarine and foods that contain these as they are not the proper form of fat for optimum development.

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