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How To Eat Healthy…Sans the Family Whining

By Sep 19, 2011July 9th, 201417 Comments

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These are some simple strategies to get your family to eat a bit more healthy without having to listen to them whine about it, or resort to sneaking veggies into their favorite foods. Also, if you are trying to lose weight, this is a great way to nudge your own diet in the right direction without feeling deprived.

All it takes is a little understanding of human behavior and a few simple adjustments. Here is the first strategy and a few ideas to make use of it.

1. People like to do things that are easy and don’t like to do things that are hard.

(Shocking, isn’t it?)

how to eat healthyUse this to your advantage by having the healthier foods cut up and available for grab & go snacking. The not-so-healthy foods need to live in more inconvenient places like high shelves or the deep, dark cabinet corners. If you have to get on your hands and knees to dig back into a cupboard for the cookies, you’ll find they become much less appealing.

When serving meals, leave the pasta & other starches on the stove, but make sure large bowls of salad & veggies remain on the table. Lazy creatures that we are, most people will not walk the 3 feet to the stove to get their second helpings if there’s an option within arms length. Same thing for chips, cookies, etc. Serve yourself a SMALL portion, then close up the bag and put it back in the cupboard. If you leave it on the table, your hand is liable to sneak over there, when you’re not looking.

Same thing with sodas. Keep a large pitcher of ice water on the table, but put the sodas on a shelf in the garage or in the basement. Consider offering a small incentive for drinking water or milk with meals – a few minutes later for bedtime is a big temptation and easy to follow through on.

2. If you want to train a dog, you’ve got to be smarter than the dog. Works with kids too.

Remember Popeye and his spinach? During the 50’s when that cartoon was new, spinach was one of the most popular vegetables. However, I think that particular fad had worn off now. So why not start your own fad? Use your imagination. Broccoli can become “dinosaur trees”, peas can become “power peas” and impart imaginary super powers, and ants on a log are always more fun to eat than plain celery with peanut butter and raisins. How ‘bout Rain Forest smoothies? Come up with fun names and new stories for the items you want your kids to eat.

how to eat healthy

Change your comfort foods. We have certain comfort foods we prefer because that’s what our Mom’s served us when we were sick or feeling sad. Grilled cheese sandwiches, chicken soup, milkshakes, meatloaf – these all fall into that category. So why not start some new traditions for our own kids? A turkey pita sandwich with vegetable soup is probably just as tasty when you’re sick as the cream-laden tomato soup with a buttery grilled cheese, as long as it’s served with a heaping helping of TLC and a warm hug. When your kid does well at their piano recital, take them out for frozen yogurt rather than an ice cream sundae. The praise and the concept of a “special treat” is what is important, not the fat content of the food consumed.

how to eat healthyIf all else fails, you have one undeniable option – your checkbook. Chances are, you or your spouse buy nearly 100% of the food your family eats. Set firm policies for what does and does not come into your house. My husband can buy ice cream, bacon, and big bags of shredded cheese. He’s over 21 and he can do what he wants, but he can’t do it out of our regular grocery budget. If he wants those things, we’ve agreed that he must pay for them with cash out of his pocket. He still gets them sometimes, but we don’t have them nearly as often as we used to.

This brings us to strategy number three, which is the best and the easiest.

3. Your stomach is just plain dumb when it comes to serving sizes. Your brain isn’t much smarter. Sorry, but that’s the truth, and my brain isn’t any smarter than yours in this area.

Study after study has proven that people have no clue whatsoever when it comes to portion sizes. Even scientists who do this type of research for a living have been fooled with a clever enough setup. You can use this to your advantage in two different ways – use large portion sizes to fill up on healthy foods and use small portion sizes to eat less of your not-so-healthy foods.

This is a great excuse to get a complete set of new dishes. Make the dinner plates smaller, the salad bowls larger, and the dessert bowls tiny, but exquisitely beautiful so dessert will feel like more of a treat. Soda glasses – small, water glasses – large – you get the picture. Buy some extra measuring cups too. Make serving sizes “official” and serve foods with the same measuring cup every time, even if you think you know how much a serving should be (you don’t).

how to eat healthyAnother tip is to simplify your meals. If you have more foods to choose from, you’ll eat more by default. They did a study with M&M’s – people with 10 colors of M&M’s ate a whopping 40% more than people with 7 colors. Yeah, we’re goofy creatures that way.

Here’s a big tip that will save you money too. Don’t buy the big Costco sizes. I know America has this love affair with Costco and those fabulous warehouse-sized containers of stuff, but studies show if you have a whopping HUGE container of something, your brain just makes you want to use it up faster. So, you don’t save any money in the long run, and you are getting fatter in the bargain. If you insist on buying the big sizes for the sake of economy, do yourself a favor and split it into two containers with the bulk of it out of sight. Trust me, it works.

Disclosure: Many of these tips came from a fascinating book I read recently called Mindless Eating – Why We Eat More than We Think by Brian Wansink. I recommend you read it to learn even more about this helpful and interesting topic.

About the Author:

adrianscrazylife.comAdrian’s Crazy Life is just that, bits and piece of my crazy life – my job, my 3 fabulous boys, my paper-crafting business, my 4 grand-kids, the whole enchilada. I’m always going 90 miles an hour with my hair on fire, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Source via phentermineonline.com the phentermine online website.

I love to give advice of all kinds, so I have lots and lots of posts on my site about decluttering, managing your finances, parenting, and whatever else I feel like an expert on that day. C’mon over and visit me at AdriansCrazyLife.com.

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About Francesca

Francesca has an extensive background in content marketing, public relations, and social outreach. She oversees all Operations at Sway Group, including our robust metrics capabilities. Prior to joining the online world, Francesca oversaw viticulture and oenology at various wineries in both California and Italy, and managed regulatory affairs and facility approvals at the biotech company, Genentech. Francesca has been featured on CBS Sacramento and Food Blogger Pro’s podcast. She has also hosted an AMA webinar and spoken at Social Media World.


  • loudlyshy says:

    You had a lot of awesome things to say here, I loved that you got to the heart of it: the parents are buying the food. When the kid is 16/17 and has their own income it’s okay for them to treat themselves. Until then they are on mom and dad’s diet plan.

    I tried the portion size thing and it worked, but I’m also totally lazy and I ended up forgetting about it. I should really pick that back up again. It’s not healthy to eat 4x the portion size of something and I often do since I’m a boredom snacker. Hm.

    Thanks for making me think.

  • Lady Jennie says:

    Great tips. Thanks!

  • Anne Galivan says:

    My family must be from a different planet…

    I can guarantee you my 17- and 23- year old sons have NO problem with walking over to the stove to get more food. Usually that’s how I serve anyway. Oh, and my husband doesn’t have a problem with “the walk” either.

    Fortunately for them they have great metabolisms – they all work out too – so they can pretty much eat whatever they want. Me, not so much. In order to keep my girlish figure I follow “The Diet Doc’s Guide to Permanent Weight Loss.” Someone actually recommended this book to me on Twitter! And it works.

    So…I cut back on carbs, make sure I eat more protein and limit myself to one treat day a week. Fortunately I’m pretty disciplined so while there are lots of healthy choices in the house (yogurt, whole-wheat bread, healthy cereals, fruit, etc.) there’s nothing that I don’t buy because someone (me or the kids) will go hog-wild. And I’ve taught my kids all the way along about healthy eating so they make quite good choices for themselves too.

    On the other hand my youngest son, age 9, is something of a super-taster. All the tricks in the book are not going to get this kid to eat carrot sticks or broccoli. What we did do for him was to make a list of all the (relatively healthy) foods he does eat (there are 23 things on the list) and we make sure he eats mostly from that list. It’s actually kind of cute because he refers to his “menu” himself and makes sure he’s eating from it.

  • We have made the decision to cut 90% of processed foods from our diet. Of course it is a lot easier now that all the kids are moved out!

  • Great tips. I am going to have to implement some of them, especially with my two-year-old.

  • Luci says:

    WAY to GO! All of these are super ways to keep your portions down to “normal” size and amp up the good food that you eat (while ratcheting down the bad).

    I completely agree with the Costco item – if there’s more of it, you’ll eat more of it!

    I’m a busy bee getting ready for my online fitness and nutrition class starting next week and really excited because we always have so much fun! (OK, I do :)). Pop over and take a look if you’re so inclined on the blog post below.

  • PatriciaD says:

    My mom did the broccoli (it was trees)…at that time she bought the broccoli that was a full stalk of broccoli with a long stem. She’d say “pass the trees, please” and of course we loved it. She made cheese sauce to go on it but I don’t think any of us serve it that way these days.

  • We do not eat dessert except on special occasions. That is my contribution to healthy eating!

  • Tammy says:

    Great tips! I actually made a conscious decision not to go to Costco yesterday. I spend double what I do in the grocery store…and do we need such large quantities?? I don’t think so!

  • anne says:

    I agree with Marie Cole, I have been stuck at the same number of followers for a while and would love to meet new blogs! Good tips, Anne

  • Marie Cole says:

    Great tips! We keep a VERY healthy house and splurge when we eat out, seems to work 90% of the time. 😉

    I would love more smiling faces aka followers over at my blog, if you wouldn’t mind following me…Been stuck at some numbers for awhile, trying to stir it up. Thank you all for the consideration and have a wonderful day! :))))

  • Great tips! Keeping the junk out of the house is step number one for me to not eating it! I like your tip on having less to choose from. Who says dinner needs to have 3-4 options, most of the time I serve 1-2. One pot meals can have it all (protien, veggies, grains) and keep your time in the kitchen cut back, especially on busy week nights!

  • What a fabulous post! I’m on a self-imposed health kick at the moment. I’ve always been curvalicious but lately I’d been feeling quite flat. I’m making a concerted effort to eat healthy so that I can feel vivacious again. But meal-time is a struggle. I have 3 fussy children under 5 and an even fussier husband who yearns for my mother-in-laws Greek cooking. My husband actually needs to put ON weight, while I’m trying to lose some. It’s a juggling act 🙁

  • misssrobin says:

    Always nice to get a little nudge in the right direction at the right time. Good timing on this one for me. Thanks!

  • Tanya says:

    These are great ideas..I have been battling this with my 3 kids lately. Thanks!

  • Veronica says:

    Great tips! Especially for my picky two-year-old! 🙂 thanks for sharing

  • Kimberly says:

    Great tips. We have strict shopping list rules here, too, and although we do indulge in ice cream every once in a while, we don’t ever keep any in the house (because I would mindlessly eat it all in one night).