You’re ready to whip your diet into shape and start eating healthy. You can just see your future — you’ll be more energetic, happier and healthier. The only snag in your plan: Your family. Maybe it’s your partner who isn’t ready to give up the ice cream and chips or your kids who think veggies are the world’s grossest foods.
It’s a plight that registered dietitian and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spokesperson Sarah Krieger hears too often. “Having your family on board is important to helping you reach your goals,” she says. The good news is that it is possible get your household on track. And if they still refuse? Well, then we’ll show you how to do it solo.
How to Get Your Family to Eat Healthy
When your entire family has your back, health habits are just easier. In one preliminary study, dieters who participated in exercise and nutrition activities with two to seven friends or family members lost more weight and trimmed more belly fat, compared to those who were simply given information about how to lose weight. Do it with your family and you’ve got a built-in cheerleading system that makes getting healthy way more fun.
“Be a role model. Start living your healthy lifestyle and don’t talk about it or push the issue.”
Of course, changing how everyone eats can be a challenge to say the least. “Bring up your goals in conversation with your family or partner at a neutral time — not meal time,” says Krieger. Rather than saying things like, “You’re making me eat this way” or, “I don’t understand why you want to eat this crap,” say “I can’t do this alone” or “I need your help.” That can open up a conversation about how to build a healthier home without making your loved ones feel like they’re under attack.
What to Do When Your Family Can’t Quit Junk Food
If you’re in a salad state of mind, but your partner is still on the “Let’s go out and order all…the…food” train, he or she may unintentionally sabotage your efforts. But if the chips and ice cream still lurking in your pantry are driving you insane, just make like Elsa and let it go.
Instead of getting stressed or frustrated, tell your partner or kids that you want to eat healthy for you, and that they don’t have to participate. “We tell people that if you’re ready but your house isn’t, then be a role model. Start living your healthy lifestyle and don’t talk about it or push the issue,” says Krieger. Even if they’re reluctant at first, they’ll often start to follow as they watch you — and see how great you feel.
So if your partner or kids want to keep the cheese curls and nuggets around, let them. “It’s not fair to say, ‘You have to get that food out because I can’t handle it,’” says Krieger. One practical way to deal: Keep the tempting foods relatively hidden — store them in the cupboard, not on the countertop or front-row in the fridge. Read on for more tips on how to stick to your diet, no matter what your family does.
5 Tips for Eating Healthy Family Meals
1. Make meal prep a family activity. If your kids are just learning about the joys of fruits and veggies, or feel ‘meh’ about anything that doesn’t look like a slice of pizza, involve them in meal planning and prep. One person in your family can pick the meal for one night, and the other the next night, recommends Krieger.
2. Avoid the “H word.” To expand your family’s taste buds, pick out a new nutritious meal to try once or twice per week. “But don’t call it healthy,” says Krieger. The h-bomb can scare people away. Instead, describe tonight’s dinner as a delicious chicken stir-fry or a yummy meat pasta (that just happens to be made with zucchini noodles).
3. Go slow. “So many people want to make tons of changes at the same time, but these high expectations burn families out really quick,” says Krieger, who offers healthy eating classes. “In my nine-week class, we make one simple change per week,” she adds. Maybe one week you swap sugary cereals for lower sugar options. Or you take two weeks to slowly phase out sodas and sweet teas. Enact a complete overhaul and there will be rebellion.
4. Recruit a new crew. If your partner or family won’t join you, hook up with a different community. Online dieters who got more social support from others who logged on too lost more weight (at least 8 percent of their body weight) than those who were going it solo, according to a Northwestern University study.
5. Don’t give up. Not every meal will go perfectly. Your kids might tell you that whole-wheat bread tastes gross compared to white, or you might whip up a new low-cal recipe that’s just not a winner. Still, keep going — you and your entire family will benefit in the long run. Eating at least three meals per week as a family is associated with kids who eat more nutritious diets and are at a healthier weight, according to research from the University of Illinois. Give it time — and your loved ones will follow. “As long as you’re eating nutritious foods every day, you’re winning,” says Krieger.