Help! I'm going crazy in the kitchen!
Over the last few weeks, we’ve had a lot of readers comment saying they struggle to get their family to eat healthier, less processed foods. The truth is, converting your family, especially if they’re picky eaters, can take months, or even years. But don’t let that deter you!
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Our family's real food journey
When we took the plunge and started working toward a healthier (real food) diet, our families weren’t jumping up and down with joy. The truth is, both our families reacted in different ways and we received pushback.
I (Kalie) can still remember the time I bravely announced to my husband (who LOVED white pasta and Wonder bread) that we were switching over to whole grains. I think my husband’s heart broke a little bit that day. He wasn’t happy.
It took a little bit of time, but fast forward to today and now HE is the one excitedly heading down the grocery store aisles to check ingredients and grab healthier, whole grain versions of his once highly processed favorites.
If you asked him today, he would tell you he initially wasn’t happy with the change, but now that he’s acquired a taste for real food, he wouldn’t switch back if you paid him.
The really neat thing is his mindset shift isn’t just solely because he enjoys the TASTE of whole foods, but because he’s noticed a significant improvement in the way he FEELS after he eats them.
Every now and again he’ll indulge in a favorite from years past, and often his stomach is upset shortly thereafter. His body is telling him, “No thanks, not anymore!”
The good news
We understand the feeling of wanting to feed your family to THRIVE, not just survive. After all, as wives and mothers, we feel a sense of responsibility for their health, don’t we?
The good news is, with a little patience, persistence and these tips, you’ll be able to transition your family’s preferences and palate (kids included!), and boy, is it worth it!
10 Ways To Get Picky Eaters To Enjoy Real Food
Tip 1: Don’t force, guilt, or scare them into it! Try to keep it lighthearted and fun.
THIS IS IMPORTANT! Do your best to make trying new foods a pleasant experience. We know, this can be frustrating at times, but nothing makes us (men, women, kids, you name it) want to do the opposite of what we’re being told to do more than when we’re forced to do it. That being said, don’t give up at the first sign of resistance either.
Put a positive spin on things by encouraging them to try new foods because they may actually like them (say whhhhaaat!?) and because it’s ONE meal, not their forever meal.
Tip 2: Share the WHY behind your changes.
Let your family (especially your kids) know you want to create a healthy environment in your home so everyone can grow stronger and live longer; it’s important to you and you need everyone on board to make it happen.
Let your kids (and spouse) know WHAT these changes will do for them and WHY you’re making them.
- Do they want to be strong? Then they have to eat the right kinds of protein. That’s why you’re trying this new chicken dinner as a family.
- Does their belly hurt sometimes after they eat? These foods will help make their tummy happy.
- For your spouse: Do they want to live a long and joyful life with you, holding hands in your rocking chairs when you’re old and gray?
By sharing “the why” and teaching, rather than telling how important it is, and not forcing your family into it, you’re much more likely to have a positive response.
Tip 3: Get them involved in picking out your weekly meals.
Challenge everyone to choose a few of their favorite healthy meals and then come up with a menu using some of them. When your family feels involved, they won’t feel forced and they’ll tend to embrace the transition more.
A great place to have your family look for inspiration is on our recipe page, where you can sort by type, ingredient, diet, method and occasion, and on our FULLforLife Pinterest page. We have TONS of healthy recipes to choose from. Just hand your phone over and let each family member choose a meal!
Tip 4: Make one small swap at a time.
Start by switching out refined or highly processed ingredients and making healthier versions of your family’s favorite foods.
Try making some of the foods you know they love in a slightly healthier way. Even if it’s just for one or two meals a week, you’ll be heading in the right direction and positively impacting their (and your) health.
Some recipes to consider trying:
Tip 5: Only put ONE new food on their plate at a time.
No one wants to be served an entire plate of foods they’d prefer not to eat. If your family isn’t a fan of certain foods, don’t lump them together in one meal. Instead, ease them into unfamiliar foods by only putting one new food on their plate at a time.
Tip 6: Try new foods again and again… no matter what they said last time!
It really does take a dozen times or more to acquire a taste for (and enjoy) certain new foods. Seriously, there have been studies that prove this (and we’ve seen it firsthand with our families).
It takes patience and persistence, but don’t throw in the towel all because they didn’t like a particular food the first time. Prepare it again in a week or two and try putting a different spin on how you flavor or prepare it. If you have little ones, give this taste testing game for kids of any age a shot!
Tip 7: Flavor your meals to your family's palate and preference!
Uncovering you and your family’s flavor preferences is a good way to get everyone on board with healthier choices, so you’ll want to keep this in mind when introducing new foods.
Think about what styles of food match everyone’s flavor preferences and incorporate their favorites into the food you prepare. Do they tend to prefer plain, earthy, spicy or ethnic flavors?
You can also check out our article on how to flavor foods and what particular herbs and spices pair well with certain dishes. We keep this in our kitchen and use it weekly!
Tip 8: Talk about the "next time."
Every time you make a new recipe, talk to your family about what could be added or done differently next time to make it better.
What may start out as you trying to help them enjoy eating real food can actually turn into them being a huge inspiration for your cooking. This allows you to further fine tune and tap into your family’s flavor preferences.
Tip 9: Substitute a healthier ingredient and only divulge the hidden food AFTER they’ve learned to love it.
We substitute Greek yogurt in place of mayo and sour cream in various recipes. For months, we did this without anyone in our family noticing a difference in taste. One evening, when we served gyro bowls with Tzatziki Sauce, our family noticed we used Greek yogurt to make the sauce rather than sour cream. We initially received resistance from our family, until we told them we’d been including Greek yogurt as an ingredient and in countless other recipes for months without them noticing any difference in taste. Now, even they grab it instead!
Tip 10: Aim for progress… not perfection!
Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither were our family’s flavor preferences. Compromise where you have to. If adding a little more cheese to their dish will make the meal enjoyable and they’ll eat all those veggies, let them. You can cut it out as you go. Celebrate little successes.
Don’t give up - your family will start to embrace the changes. It just takes time!
It can take months, even years. And believe us, we can completely understand why so many women gravitate toward feeding their family the foods they prefer. It’s tough to make the transition and the pushback is never easy to receive. But, we promise you, if you can incorporate these few tips and have some successes, it is so rewarding!
Like we said, our families didn’t just jump on the bandwagon either. It took some time to acquire a taste for and change the way they viewed certain foods. But now that they love them too, we’re SO GLAD we made the change. We promise, with a little perseverance, you’ll get there too.
If you’re looking for a more structured approach, check out our guide, Simple Secrets to Getting Your Family to Eat Healthy Foods.