Have you been thinking about getting on the “real food bandwagon” for a while now? You want to, but you are worried about how your family will respond and/or you have no clue where to start making the change for your crew. Is it even possible at this stage of the game?
The answer is yes. Heck yes even. Transitioning your family to a more “real food” is absolutely possible and one of the best things you can do for your family’s future.
Image Credit: Emily Rochelle Photography
Changing up what I ate and how I lived was, hands down, one of the most amazing life-changing things I have ever done for myself. My body functions with ease and I feel alive from the inside out. The fact that my husband, Ken, and I are raising our young daughter with healthy wholesome foods as the foundation of her blossoming eating habits just makes the healthy living journey that much better.
I remember when Ken and I decided we truly wanted to switch our diet to include more whole foods and plants, the idea of where to start making such a huge change left us baffled and intimidated. But we took it day-by-day and now eating, cooking, and living a veggie-loaded life is now second nature to us.
People often ask me for words of wisdom about transitioning a family to a real food way of eating, and here is what I always tell them:
1. Figure out why you are wanting to make a change.
Is it because you are feeling sluggish all the time? Or a medical issue in the family has called for a major wake-up call? Are you concerned about the eating habits your children are developing? Or is it some other reason?
Whatever your motivation behind wanting to transition yourself and your family to a healthier way of eating, define it! Even if it’s just to yourself, your partner and/or your family…say your reason for wanting to transition out loud.
And as you make the little changes that can add up in big ways, take note about how they make you feel. Noticing how these changes make you feel will be the best motivation of all.
2. Start with baby steps.
It’s tempting to want to jump into a 100% new way of eating once you have found the motivation, but be careful about burning you and your family out with so many major changes all at once! Figure out small sustainable steps and add them into your life one week (or one month) at a time! It’s not a race to health, but creating long-term habits that will last a lifetime that is important.
Not sure what small steps to start with? Here are a few of the steps my family and I took when we were transitioning. I suggest pick one new thing at a time to add to your life. Once that new thing becomes habit, add something else!
- Introduce veggie-loaded smoothies at breakfast. Literally the first thing I did with our family was simply adding a smoothie to breakfast. We kept eating our other breakfast favorites, just added a smoothie so we were starting the day with a belly full of fruits and veggies.
- Pack lunches for school/work
- Aim to have veggies & fruit are part of all meals (yes, even breakfast) and have them take up 50% of the plate.
- Drink your daily required water to be sure you are staying hydrated and encourage your kiddos and partner to do the same!
- Give yourself and family grace. Perfection and immediate change isn’t the goal (or realistic). This isn’t a race. Find what works for you and your family and get okay with what simply won’t. “Healthy living” is something that looks different to different people, so be careful not to compare your family’s journey to anyone else’s.
3. Set yourself up for success!
Hit Pinterest and meal plan! Grocery shop! Stock your house with fruits, veggies, and other whole foods so you and your family will reach for those when it comes time to eat! Do some simple food prep to make throwing together nourishing meals that much easier.
At the end of a long day, it’s tempting to hit the drive-thru or order pizza if you’re staring at an empty fridge or simple feel exhausted by trying to decide what to cook. So set yourself up for success by being as prepared as possible for this transition.
With that said, there is nothing wrong with the occasional delivery pizza or drive-thru dinner. Just think of it more of a treat verse something that feels like your own option. We still very intentionally enjoy takeout once a week and usually opt to save it for a fun weekend treat!
4. Educate yourself and decide what balance will look like in your home.
I became knowledgeable about what I wanted to stock my fridge with and what I wanted to have less of in our life by doing a lot of reading! I read books and scientific journals. I started looking the labels on the foods I bought. I also started noticing how my body felt after certain foods (the good and the not so good). Once I started figuring out what “healthy” meant to me, I could figure out how to talk to and support my family in this journey together.
My husband and I have lots honest conversations about how we wanted balance to look like in our house. Would we still be okay with takeout? What about sweets? What were things we simply didn’t want to give up and what were we feeling the need to clean out of our house and lives?
And we also included in our daughter conversations. We talked about how spinach was a “fueling” food that gave our body lots of stuff and that cupcakes were a “fun” food that we loved eating…..and both had their time and place in our home. She helps pick veggie-loaded meals to make and joins us often in the kitchen to help prep food (or do the dishes). She is not only being fed whole foods, but she is learning the value of them and learning the skill of how to make them for herself.
5. Start cooking!
I think this is the step that intimidates the most people. We are a busy society and the idea of having to hustle into the kitchen to be chained to a stove at the end of a crazy day stresses us out.
I get that. Truly. But you don’t have to make a fancy 5 course dinner from scratch to be healthy! Healthy can be a simple slow cooker chicken with a salad for dinner or lentil soup you made during meal prep and rewarm for dinner after a busy day! My slow cooker and Instant Pot have became my kitchen gadgets of choice for making sure a healthy dinner came together easily for my busy family. Figure out what works for your lifestyle and family and run with it!
6. Don’t let the “haters” deter you.
People are going to have opinions about the changes you are making in your life…and some will feel it is their place to share those opinions with you. Some will find your changes inspirational. Others may try to sabotage your efforts with remarks or judgments.
Don’t listen to those Negative Nellies! Remember why you are making these changes and believe in them. You are walking your own path. Sometimes people say negative things about others lifestyle changes because they might feel insecure about their own choices or simply don’t understand why it is important to you.
In turn, be mindful not to impose your new views onto people who might not be ready to hear them. Regardless of if it’s your sister, best friend, or father-in-law, remember not to judge their journey. Lead by example and be open to sharing what you’ve learned with them when asked. Chances are, if they don’t feel judged, they won’t judge your life choices either.
Congratulations! Simply by reading this, you’ve taken the very first step in transitioning your family’s life to a real food way of eating! You’ve obviously thought about doing it or are in the process of trying to if you’ve read this far and now is the time to act! You’ll be amazed how great your body feels and functions when it is fueled with veggie-loaded and real food. Pretty soon, cooking a meal or throwing baby spinach into your grocery cart will feel like second nature to you too. It’s a beautiful healthy life before you! Enjoy!