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 or 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 can’t change their eating habits; missing comfort foods, can’t live without treats, lack of time, worrying that colleagues or classmates will judge new healthier lunches or simply fear of change.
There are approaches to getting around these barriers to help to bring your reluctant family alongside, 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. Start by telling them about the foods that they enjoy and the differences in how they could be produced and sourced.
Find your local farms that prioritise animal welfare, by raising free range cruelty free stock. These are better for the animals, our environment and the foods taste better.
Try to cook with or around your children and let them see you using real ingredients. Give them the opportunity to feel, touch, and experience foods 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 so that they can look after themselves as adults. Increasing their knowledge and experiences could just help to win them over quicker and to start to enjoy different meals and snacks.
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 creating options and normalising healthy choices.
Start by making favourite family dishes with upgraded ingredients; replace regular meat with grass-fed organic free range beef, make your own Mayo, dips, gravy and sauces. Trade up from factory barn eggs to organic free range eggs or keep your own hens! 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 dark chocolate drops.
Let your children pick out fruits and veggies at the market and have a say about which veggies they’d like with their 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 a ‘two bite’ challenge, 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 salads and vegetables. Beans are easy to grow in a tub, salad leaves window boxes, tomato plants in their bedroom, there are so many options even a sprinkle of cress seeds 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
If you are the main shopper in your home you can choose to walk by the crisp isle, or swap the sweets with healthier treat foods instead, such as fruit bars, which can be very high in natural sugars but still better than sweets.
Your family 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.