Healthy Eating Tactics for the New Year
Happy New Year!
I know we’re all done with gifts for the season. But one of the greatest gifts I think you can give for the new year, be it to your kids, your spouse or your significant other, is the empowerment to make healthy food choices for themselves. This is a gift you can even give yourself. Like new jeans. Totally the same thing.
I think it was about a midway through Christmas break that I decided we needed a new technique for empowerment in our house.
Yes, we could do worse. We still sit down to a healthy, family meal at the dinner table almost every night of the week. Hearty, nutritious favorites we all like, like Sloppy Josephines, Tempeh Chili or Chickpeas and Dumplings. Dinner I’ve got a handle on.
It’s breakfast, lunches and snacks where we’ve gotten a little lazy.
A piece of toast on the way out the door.
PB &J in the lunchbox. Again.
Pickles morning, noon and night.
I want us to step up our game, but I don’t want to become the food police. One thing I’ve learned as a parent, and really just a human being is that people, little or not, like choices. People also like control. It’s amazing what your kids will willingly do when you combine the two.
So, I came up with a way to give the power of choice to my family and consequently get them to make healthier eating choices for themselves.
You know how your mom would always say to you growing up, “This isn’t a restaurant!”?
Well, this kind of is. I made the girls charts for the options they always have available to them for breakfast, lunch and snacks.
The idea is to fill each list with:
1) foods your family will eat;
2) meals you are willing to make; and
3) foods you are able to keep stocked in your pantry and fridge at all times.
Whether you are wanting to eat healthier or go vegetarian or vegan (or semi-vegan, as Mark Bittman of the New York TImes suggests), I think the lists of options are great because instead of focusing on what you “can’t” eat, you’re putting the spotlight on what you can.
Take the things out of your pantry and fridge that aren’t on the lists as options, or at least stick them away for special treats. Then restock your cupboards and refrigerator with the foods that are offered on your lists.
While you may have time for other options for breakfasts, lunches and snacks on some days (you can find plenty on our recipe page and cookbook), for us, much of the time we have to be able to quickly put things together from the basics.
Here’s a quick list of veg-friendly pantry and fridge staples. Obviously you’ll want to adapt the list based on your own dietary needs, choices and tastes.
(click on image to print)
The girls were a little skeptical at first, but within a day or two, they were excited to choose their meals.
I was able to pick up some new divided plates for under a dollar each, which also made meal time feel a little more special and allowed them to “display” their choices.
Gigi’s whole wheat bagel & vegan cream cheese, carrot sticks and fruit leather
Lulu’s hummus, pickle and tomato sandwich on whole wheat, cheese stick and fruit leather
You can even have snack stations prepared in your fridge, as with this convenient idea I saw on Pinterest, originally found here.
The lists of meal-builders are also helpful for Pea Daddy, as he now has ideas for things he can choose for his own breakfasts and he knows what’s available for his packed lunches and snacks.
There will always be added variety, when I’ve baked healthy cookies or muffins or when we have dinner leftovers to use for lunches beyond the lists, and you can keep adding to the lists as you discover more healthy foods and options your family likes. But the beauty is, we’ll always have these staples to work off of, and they are all choices we all feel good about.
Plus, everyone thinks it’s their idea, as they fill their plates and their bodies with nutritious food, starting out a new year on the right foot.
Now who wants a pickle?
Other Meal Planning resources: