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How To Introduce The Family To Healthy Eating

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In these times of financial leanness and obesity, sensible eating and children aren’t always synonymous with each other. Legislating that a new dietary regime is in progress probably isn’t going to be met with very much enthusiasm, so tact and compromise is the order of the day, and it might just lead to co-operation all the way around. Explain the problems exacerbated by a shortage of time and money; ask for help in planning and preparing weekly menus that everyone will enjoy. Your family may feel they eating the right things but on average we eat just over half the recommended fruit and vegetable intake, and almost double the amount of fat. Also look at whether the family diet is balanced - eating the same foods day after day is not good for us, while eating a wide variety of foods keeps us healthy.
What you'll need: 
Lots of colourful recipe books from the charity shop
Get everyone to list their favourite foods - do these include the recommended five servings of fruit and vegetables a day? - and the things they like the least. Avoid skipping breakfast because we then find ourselves craving sugary or fatty snacks by mid morning. Remember the old adage of breakfasting like a kind; lunching like a prince and dining like a pauper. This allows our digestive system to break down food during the active part of the day to give a steady supply of nutrients - which doesn't happen if we eat a hearty meal in the evening.
Make a note of everyone’s suggestions for adding healthier foods to the menu and a compromise over which less healthy foods should be reduced. Red meat is high in saturated fat but nutritionally important, so rather than eliminating it completely, restrict its use to one meal a week. Use more beans and less meat in dishes - you will still get plenty of protein while reducing the cost and fat content. Lean meat, poultry, fish, nut, eggs and pulses (including baked beans) are good sources of protein, with significant amounts of minerals and vitamins. Wholemeal cereals, breads an pasta, brown rice and potatoes are rich in carbohydrates and usually low in fat: pasta with tomato and herb sauce is low in fat and high in carbohydrates. Fruit and vegewtables are the best sources of fibre, minerals and vitamins. Dairy foods such as milk and low-fat cheese are good sources of protein, calcium, potassium and B vitamins; full-fat varieties contain vitamins A and D.
Talk about the ingredients for a healthy breakfast and ask for suggestions that are easily put together when everyone is in a hurry. While we sleep, our bodies goes on a mini-fast and a breakfast of carbohydrates in the form of unrefined cereals or wholemeal bread will recharge the blood sugar levels and provide the energy we need until lunch time. Set the table and put out cereals the night before, and add fresh fruit in the morning. If there's time on a cold winter's morning, serve porridge instead. A 6 oz glass of fresh orange juice provides one of the daily servings of fruit.
Simplify packed lunch preparation by planning ahead. Think up alternatives for the family’s packed lunches that don’t contain lots of sugar, fat or additives. Try continental and wholegrain breads that have more flavour and include plenty of salad. Moisten bread with a smear of ketchup or mild mustard instead of a low fat spread. Use skinless chicken or turkey instead of processed meats. If fresh fruit isn't available, eat tinned fruit in unsweetened juice. Fresh fruit served with yoghurt adds fibre and vitamins.
By choosing highly aromatic herbs and spices, you can add interest to meals without noticing the loss of salt. The marine flavour of dried seaweed, for example, adds zest to rice dishes and stir-fries.
List the favourite foods that are high in sugar and fat and agree when and how frequently these can be added to the menu. Naturally occuring sugars are found in fruit and vegetables - which are also good sources of vitamins, minerals and fibre. Vegetable oils (including olive) are a good source of vitamin E.
Suggest that the family tries a new recipe at least once a month. Study the healthy eating recipes in women's magazines and acquire a new selection of recipe books from the local charity shop to provide new ideas. Also rethink the proportions of food per serving - rice, pasta, bread or potatoes should fill two-fifths of the plate; vegetables or salad should be similar in quantity; while meat, fish, cheese of eggs make up the remainder.
Encourage children to help with menu planning and meal preparation. Baked potatoes make a hearty meal and be dressed with a variety of simple, nutritious meals that a child can make. Try a sauce made with chopped chicken, lightly cooked beans, tomatoes, herbs and peppers.
Exchange crisps and sweets for healthy snacks, including dried fruits that can compensate for a sweet tooth. Two wholewheat biscuits only provide 140 calories and they also provide fibre.
Restrict take-aways or junk food to once a week as a compromise. Take it in turns to have the casting vote on whether it's fish and chips, Chinese take-away or pizza.
Even if you don’t have children to cater for, the above can help introduce a healthy diet for yourself, and the ideas listed above can easily be adapted for someone living alone.
When preparing meals at the weekend, make extra and freeze in portion-sized containers.
Try out some alternative cooking methods, such as poaching, baking or steaming.
Eat less butter, margarine and mayonnaise on sandwiches
When making cakes substitute a mashed banana for a third of the fat
62% of the calories in roast chicken comes from the fat in the skin.
Half of the calories in a tuna, salad and mayonnaise sandwich comes from the fat in the mayonnaise.
90% of calories in a green salad comes from the fat in the dressing.


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