How to avoid real food battles at home. Parents looking to increase the healthy nutritious foods in their family’s diets can often come up against a battle of wills, as children, and even partners, resist changing from their familiar foods to healthier whole foods.
I have heard so many reasons from mums whose kids or husbands initially don’t want to give up their unhealthy diet only to come round full circle to being big advocates of healthy eating. Reasons include; not wanting to give up favourite junk or comfort foods, can’t live without treats, worry that colleagues of classmates will criticise new healthier lunches, because the healthy foodie seem too wholesome and different or simply out of fear of change.
There are approaches to getting around these barriers to bring your reluctant family alongside so that they are supportive and interested in real foods, instead of battling you at each step.
Here are my top tips to avoid real food battles and to develop a LOVE of real foods:
1. Educate Why do you want to make changes? Think about what information, learning and experiences have developed your interest and positive attitude to trying more real foods and explain that, drip by drip, to your family.
Real food is food that is grown and harvested as naturally and sustainably as possible. Real food is nourishing, wholesome, awesome, delicious and supports your community but does your family know this?! They may be resistant as they don’t understand these concepts and feel that the decision is being taken for them. Explaining what real food is, where it comes from, the differences between regular store bought foods and the upgrade foods that you are planning, how organic foods are free from the harmful chemicals of regular fruit and veggies, organic milk is free from antibiotics and other nasties. Start by telling them about the foods that they enjoy and the differences in how they could be produced and sourced.
Small organic local farms that are look after animal welfare, sustainability raise free range cruelty free stock are better for the animals, our local environment and their foods taste better and are better for our health.
Alway cook with your children and let them see you using real ingredients and foods. Give them the opportunity to feel, touch, and experience foods and ingredients and to try different types of cooking. These are essential hands on life skills that will allow them to develop their own interest and knowledge and to be able to look after themselves as adults. Increasing their knowledge and experiences should help to win them over quicker and to start to enjoy the real foods journey!
2. Local farms, markets and producers
Taking your family along to shop locally at the markets and smallholdings, butchers and grocers, delis and farmers markets, they can meet the producers, meet the delivery person and put the shopping away. They will get to see the beautiful vibrant interesting foods, build up a knowledge of ingredients, meet the people involved, can chat to the passionate people involved in producing great real foods.
Take them to the local farms, not just the tourist farm parks, but the real local farms to buy direct. By learning where where food comes from, how it is grown, seeing the animals, even helping out with some farm activities they will be on their own rich journey of discovery that will start to be reflected in their food knowledge and choices.
3. Trade up
If your family are not open to the idea of the full pantry overhaul on day one then start with the small battles and take things one step at a time. Instead of removing everything unhealthy try introducing new healthy ingredients into each dish and as side dish options, so you’re normalising the good healthy choices.
Start by making favourite family dishes with upgraded ingredients; replace regular meat and dairy with grass-fed organic free range beef and organic grass-fed butter, make your own Mayo, dips, gravy and sauces. Trade up from factory barn eggs to organic free range pastured eggs or raise your own chooks! Small changes that can make a big impact on your family’s health and they will hopefully be seen as positive changes by the rest of the family.
You could go very slowly if preferred, trading one conventional product for a whole food version each week, so that your family detoxes of the unhealthy preservatives, cheap unstable fats, refined salt, sugar and additives in processed food. The aim is to encourage them to notice the positive differences in taste, texture, variety in the real foods.
I don’t dictate to my family as I believe in personal choice and besides telling someone what to eat just doesn’t work longterm. We want our children to build up their knowledge, interest and love of real foods so that they can make their own empowered decisions. They will sometimes choose unhealthy options, but the majority of the time my family chooses healthy real foods because they enjoy the taste, because they are normal to them and so they are their natural default option.
When transitioning to a whole food diet it can be very helpful to give your children new choices to replace their old favourites. Offer Fluffy Almond Cookies or favourite smoothie to replace an old processed snack, instead of sweets from parties I offer the option to swap with something else such as 85% organic dark chocolate drops.
Let your kids pick out fruits and veggies at the market and to have a say about which veg to accompany meals.
5. Try it
Start with a trial period or challenge, such as the Leafie Eczema Diet Challenge, so that your family know that the changes wont be forever and may be more excited by doing something different for a set time.
Forever is a scary word. If you begin your real food journey as a trial of a few weeks then it is a lot easier to convince reluctant family members to commit to trying new things, knowing that if they don’t like it, they can go back to their old habit, or not!!.
Some families have adopted the two bite rule where everyone in the family agrees to take two bites of a new meal or ingredient before they decide that they don’t like it.
6. Grow and raise your own
Encourage your children to cultivate their own, beans are easy to grow in a tub, salad leaves window boxes, tomato plants in their room, there are so many options even a small back of cress could be enough to get them started. Provide them with the tools and space and allow them to manage their own plot. Kids love to try something that they have grown or picked themselves.
I highly recommend keeping hens if you have the space to. They are great little personalities to have around, gentle with children and are relatively low maintenance, as long as they have decent food, shelter and water they will repay you with delicious, nutritious eggs for your new recipes.
7. Don’t buy junk
I do restrict foods, but mainly because we don’t buy unhealthy convenience foods. We don’t have a snack cupboard battles because there is no snack cupboard in our house. We do eat treats, but they are generally homemade or well sourced alternatives to processed sugar laden confectionary.
If you are the main grocery shopper in your household you can choose not to buy the very unhealthy biscuits, sweets, crackers, cereal bars, sodas, pop, crisps you may initially opt to replace with less unhealthy options such as fruit bars, very high in natural sugars but better than sweets. Your children and your partner may then choose to continue to buy certain snacks and treats for themselves, but as you are not supplying these as a normal food shopping item, so you’re making a distinction between healthy shopping choices and unhealthy.
Find healthy and delicious snacks and comfort foods that you will all enjoy, so that your family dont feel the need to reach for a chocolate bar as their sweet fix has been satisfied. Try Leafie’s Deeply delicious guilt-free raw chocolate mousse or Yummy Healthy Green Smoothie Ice Pops.
8. Support network
When so many people around you may not eat healthily and might discourage your progress at work, school, family gatherings or outings it is very important to have a supportive community that are also trying to improve diet and eat well. Join a local food ordering group, farm park, allotment and / or online food communities. You will have support sourcing foods, share recipes and tips and discuss topics, which importantly will help you to continue to learn and develop your knowledge.