Making healthy food convenient
How do we get our family members to make good choices? How do we move our kids toward more yogurt for snacking rather than chips?
It does take some work to change eating behaviors. Habits are very difficult to break, and many people develop food and eating habits that are comforting to them and challenging to break.
A newly released study from Cornell University found that you can help people, including family members, make healthier choices.
Make healthy foods convenient
- Have foods visible and easy to reach, not stashed away in a lower refrigerator drawer or stashed on the lowest shelf of an out-of-the-way cupboard.
- Right at eye level when you open the refrigerator, have string cheese, yogurt, cut up fruit and other healthy snack options.
- Have fresh fruit on the countertop in a bowl. Ready to go!
Make it easy to eat
The less prep your family has to do the more likely they will eat it!
- Have fresh veggies washed, cut and ready to take: cherry tomatoes, celery sticks, baby bell peppers, etc.
- Make your own snack packs, putting items into single serving containers or snack bags: whole-grain chex cereals, dried fruit, pretzels, whole-grain crackers, etc.
Engage your kids as kitchen helpers
They will be more likely to eat – or at least try - what they helped you to prepare. Have your kids help with the following tasks:
- Wash and prep fruits
- Cut up tofu and veggies for salad or stir fry
- Toss the salad with oil and vinegar dressing
- Pour the milk
- Set the table
The other piece to healthy family meals is making sure that you as a parent are a good role model. It’s a hard sell to get your kids to drink milk at meals if you are sipping on a soda. And if you make fish for the family but turn up your nose at it, it’ll be tough to get your kids to fall in love with fish.
Finally, be sure that most of the foods in your household are great choices for everyone. If you have snack foods like chips, you can expect your kids to want them. But if bunches of grapes, baby carrots, cheese cubes, and whole grain graham crackers are available and within reach, that’s what everyone will reach for. Out of the house for most unhealthy foods – out of mind.
About the Author
Rita Smith is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She's been working in the field of nutrition and disease prevention for more than 35 years and currently works at Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville, Va. Each week, Rita provides nutrition counseling to clients who have a variety of disorders or diseases including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, gastroparesis and weight management. For these clients, food choices can help them manage their health problems.