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Nutritional science has progressed so far in the last decade or so. We’re learning so much about the way food affects our bodies.
And the more you learn, the more discerning you can be about the food on your plate.
That doesn’t mean that everyone in your family needs a personalized menu, however. Everyone has foods their body just doesn’t like, of course… and some even have severe allergies.
But there are ways to work these considerations into a meal plan that works for the entire family. Here are five ways to get your family on the same diet:
1) Work Around Allergies
This tip might seem obvious. But unless you get a good grip on cooking around any allergies your family has, you’ll be doomed to cook two separate recipes for every meal.
I don’t know about you, but that requires more time than I have in any given day!
Depending on what the allergy is, working around it might be simple. For example, I can’t eat gluten, but the rest of my family can. So, most of our family meals exclude things like rolls, bread, and traditional pasta.
If someone else in my family wants toast or a roll, they can have it, and I simply opt for more veggies. Aside from checking for hidden gluten sources in my food, it’s a relatively simple fix.
But if the allergy in question is something like dairy or chicken—something that is used as a base in many recipes—working around the restriction will be harder. You might need to find alternative protein sources. Some of these, like mycoprotein, aren’t commonly known and might require a little footwork to find and try.
Ultimately, planning around allergies in your family comes down to prep work. Putting in research before dinnertime and planning your grocery trip accordingly will save you a lot of stress.
With the right prep work, you will be able to cook one meal that the entire family can eat. And, as you get used to the changes, you’ll find that the new recipes become just as beloved as the old ones you exchanged them for.
2) Plan Meals Ahead
You’ve heard about meal planning. It’s been a popular topic in lifestyle discussions for decades now.
And though you might be tired of the topic, there is a good reason that it has reigned supreme for so long. Meal planning can be a great way to help your family stay on the same diet together.
Meal planning’s benefits are fairly obvious, but they have far-reaching impacts that many people don’t realize. You can reap these benefits even if you only plan ahead by a couple of days or only plan out a week’s worth of dinners.
These benefits include stress reduction, fewer arguments over what to eat for dinner, and better control of your portion sizes, as well as the food you eat. And the busier you are, the more you will feel the impact of these benefits.
If you don’t plan your meals ahead, you’re going to find yourself burned out from your day by the time you have to make dinner. And when you’re staring at a fridge full of ingredients, you’re probably not in the mood for the puzzle that is putting together a recipe.
So instead of sticking to the diet you’re trying to set for your family, you might end up eating junk food, ordering takeout, or piling the family into the car and heading to the nearest drive-thru.
When you plan your meals ahead of time—even if it’s just writing down your dinner recipes for a week—you’re removing the stress of that daily decision. You’ll still have to cook, yes. But you won’t have to figure out what to cook, make sure you have all of the ingredients, and then cook.
Decision fatigue is a very real problem, and planning your meals in advance can help you avoid it.
3) Link Everyone Up
The world is more connected than ever. You’ve probably got a half-dozen apps on your phone through which you can contact people.
If you want to get your family on the same diet, at least one of those apps should be used to make sure everyone is on the same page.
In addition to the usual social media platforms, there are many apps out there designed for families to use together. They allow families to share a joint calendar, grocery list, and messaging system.
You can use the calendar to track meals, both their times and the intended recipe. And if you’re running low on an ingredient or anything else around the house, anyone with access to the app can add it to the communal grocery list!
You already know that you can use your phone for weight loss… and now you can help your entire family maintain healthy weights by allowing each family member to contribute to meal planning, shopping lists, and sticking to a specific diet.
Using family apps like this, however, offers a benefit that goes beyond their base functions. Sitting down together for meals creates a sense of community among family members. And having a special app that you only use with your family adds another layer to that.
In today’s world of hyper-connectivity, having a sort of haven for the family is a good way to make sure you’re all in it together.
4) Get Everyone Involved
Once you have a way for all of your family members to keep track of the meal plan, an easy next step is to get them all involved. Sure, some of them might be adding things to a communal grocery list, and meal plans work best when everyone gets a little input.
But your family is more likely to stick to a single diet if they all invest time in preparing the meals as well. This could include something simple like having the younger kids rip lettuce for salads, while the older kids chop the bigger veggies. Other family members can set the table and have specific clean-up duties as well.
These are small steps that, when done together, involve the whole family in making meals happen. It means that everyone can take pride in the delicious food and sense of community that is shared, even if they’re too young to know that’s what it is.
It also sets up good habits for the future. So, healthy diets that are started now can continue well past when the children are eating dinner at home.
5) Practice Patience
There are many reasons you may want to create a specific diet for your family. Someone might have an allergy, or there might be a weight loss goal set for the family. It might even be something as simple as the desire to eat healthier foods.
Whatever your reason is, you’ll have to practice patience. Changing your diet is hard.
And it only gets harder when you want to bring the rest of the family along with you for that change. No matter how frustrated you get, however, you have to remember that compassion is the best way to make the changes stick.
Practicing patience with kids is not easy, but it is so important. In the long run, it teaches them to be more communicative and trusting, while demonstrating that you’re there to support them. This is especially important when it comes to their relationship with food.
So, keep your chin up and your patience close at hand. The changes will be hard sometimes, but your family will get into the groove of things eventually.
And when they do, all of your hard work will pay off!
Getting my family onto a largely gluten-free diet was not easy. We were a family of pasta-eaters and sandwich snobs. We loved our bread with a passion. But when I was diagnosed with an aggressive gluten sensitivity, those foods simply could not be on our menu anymore.
It took time, yes. But after a few years of following the tips above, we got everyone onto the same diet. And you can do the same thing. You’re going to hit hurdles and roadblocks. But when you work together and invest the time to plan ahead, you will see the results you want!