Back on Track: How to Get Your Family Eating Healthy (Again)
Story by Jennifer Tyler Lee
Photos by Carole Topalian
Pushing a rock up an icy hill: That’s how I feel about getting myself, and my family, back on the healthy eating track in the New Year. Like most families, we enjoy the holidays with all of their pleasures—including the sweet ones. Come January, we’re ready to recharge. Here’s what we do to get back on track:
1) Set One Simple Goal, Together
If I had a dime for every resolution I’ve made, and broken, I could buy a lot of lattes. Each year, I would dutifully add “eat healthy” to the top of my list and fail by February. Then I stumbled on a way to get myself, and my family, eating healthier without a struggle. The secret was simple: one resolution, taken on together. For my family, trying one new food each week was the catalyst for all sorts of fun food adventures and a big shift in the way that we eat. It could just as easily be cooking together or shopping the farmers market as a family every weekend. The key is to pick one simple goal that you can work on together.
2) Focus on Process, Not Product
Saying that we were going to “eat healthy” felt enormous, and amorphous. Even worse, I was focused on the wrong thing. What I learned from our experience trying one new food each week was a helpful reminder: The journey makes the difference. It didn’t matter whether we liked the new food or not. The point was that we enjoyed seeking out new foods together, and cooking new foods together and talking about new foods together. It was about the process, not the product—the journey, not the destination.
Another important thing to remember is that any change worth making takes time. It’s a setup for disappointment if you expect to change your family’s eating habits in a week, or a month. Take the long view. Think about working towards your goal over the course of the year. There will be twists and turns along the way—and that’s OK! Know that when you reach your destination, there will be more to discover. There is always more to learn.
3) Set Up for Success
As you roll into the New Year, make it easy by setting up for success. Stock your fridge full of colors. We are incredibly lucky that even the bleak winter months in the Bay Area deliver loads of colorful produce: deep green kale, purple cauliflower, colorful rainbow carrots, juicy pink grapefruit, mellow yellow pears. Head out to the local farmers market (go to EdibleSiliconValley.com for a map of farmers markets) to load up on your colors—along with a new food, or two, to try.
Then try your best to start each day on the right foot with a healthy, colorful breakfast. What your family eats in the morning will set the tone for the day. Try something simple like broiled grapefruit with a drizzle of honey and a dash of ground ginger or Greek yogurt with homemade pear sauce. Carry those colors right through to dinner, along with a conversation about where your food adventures will take you next.
Jennifer Tyler Lee is the creator of the award-winning nutrition game Crunch a Color and author of the forthcoming book The 52 New Foods Challenge(Penguin/Avery, 2014). Jennifer’s weekly new food adventures and easy recipes can be found at CrunchAColor.com.