How To Safeguard Your Family's Nutrition

Worried about the way your family eats? Here are some easy to follow tips that can help you enhance their nutritional well-being.

Obesity has become the number one preventable disease among children today. Contributing to long-term illnesses like heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and stroke, obesity is an insidious problem that can lead to serious health problems in adults. But the good news is that it can be controlled or eliminated by making a few easy changes in your family's diet.

First, take note of what each family member eats, and when. Some may be gorging on junk food, like soda and chips. Others may be watching too much television and not getting enough physical activity. Perhaps someone is eating every hour or two from sheer boredom.

After assessing everyone's eating habits, develop a plan of attack to eliminate food-related problems. For example, stop bringing junk food home. If the kids have an individual serving of chips at lunch that they purchase from a vending machine, so be it. But at least they won't be consuming an eleven-ounce bag at home in the evening. Pack fun and filling healthy lunch items and maybe they won't even look for the vending machines.

Make the television off limits until eight p.m. after homework is done. Then discourage snacking in front of the set unless they eat something healthy, like fruit or unbuttered popcorn. Encourage the kids and your spouse to get involved with school or community sports (your spouse can participate on an adult team or coach), take a swim class, or start a walking or exercise program. Volunteer to join your spouse or help the kids get signed up to participate.

Next, clean out the refrigerator. Replace whole milk with the one percent kind, and later, replace the one percent with skim milk. Buy reduced calorie bread; most people don't notice the difference. Instead of sugary or commercial snacks stock up on fresh fruits and veggies, boxed raisins, low-fat pretzels, or yogurt. Rather than making all these changes at once, make substitutions a little at a time so the family doesn't complain. What they don't know can help them.

Experiment with reduced fat recipes. Many delicious meals taste as good as, or better than, the calorie-laden originals. Instead of cooking with butter, use olive oil. Serve fresh salads with chicken breast strips or grilled steak with low fat dressing in place of creamy casseroles or pasta dishes. Prepare smaller cuts of meat and find tasty sauces to enhance the flavor so that less will taste like more to family members. Use less red meat and opt for chicken and fish, or beans and lentils. A hearty bean stew can taste wonderful on a cold evening.

Get creative with low calorie desserts. Avoid pastries like pie or cakes with frosting. Try angel food cake drizzled by warm pudding made with skim milk. Fill half a cantaloupe with low-fat yogurt. Exchange ice cream for frozen yogurt. Cereal bars make a nice substitute for candy bars in a lunchbox.

You don't have to lecture the kids or convince your husband to adopt your healthy plan of eating. Just do it! They will probably appreciate your creativity and eventually you will be appreciated for protecting their health--and yours!

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