Tell me if you can relate: You’re serious about being healthy, you’ve gotten rid of the processed food and stocked the fridge full of fresh produce, and you’ve just made a super nutritious meal for your family to enjoy together. Unfortunately, no one else is impressed. Your kids don’t want to eat veggies, your husband doesn’t want to try anything new, or maybe whomever you’re sharing a meal with just has really different tastes than you.
I've been there. When I first started dating my husband, we would often make dinner together. We both liked to cook, the problem was we had totally different ideas of what “good” food was. I was used to making simple, fresh meals. Admittedly, my cooking might have been a little bland, but at least it was healthy. He liked to make really decadent meals, usually full of cheese, breading and butter. Delicious and impressive, but not healthy. It took some work, and lots of conversations about food, but over time we have both adjusted our styles a bit – I make meals that are a little more hearty and flavorful, and he’s gotten pretty creative with vegetables and healthier ingredients.
I often talk about this issue with clients who are working hard to improve their health, but face opposition from their family or significant others who aren’t quite ready or willing to embrace change. It’s hard enough to stay on track without the added stress of fighting over what's for dinner or having to make separate meals for everyone, right? Right.
Well, I'm here to help. I promise, there IS a happy medium somewhere. I’ve put together some super helpful ways for you to have your veggies, and eat them too! This isn't about trying to convince others to eat like you, resisting peer pressure, or what to order when you're eating out (all important topics, but I'm trying to stay focused here), it's about finding a way for you to make and enjoy nourishing food, without alienating yourself at your own dinner table. You can still stick to your healthy diet and keep the peace at dinnertime.
6 Ways to Eat Healthy, Even if Your Family Doesn't
1. Make customizable meals. Everyone loves to top their own pizza and make their own tacos. The key is to provide a variety of options so there’s something for everyone. For pizzas, try adding pineapple, olives, mushrooms, spinach, fresh tomatoes and bell peppers to the menu. For your taco bar, include fillings like black beans, roasted cauliflower, sautéed onions with bell peppers and even an alternative taco “meat” from tofu or tempeh. Toppings like tomatoes, shredded cabbage, cilantro and avocado are more nutritious additions to the usual cheese and sour cream.
2. Make satisfying meals with protein and healthy fats to increase the “hearty” factor. Even though a salad can fill you up, lots of people have it stuck in their head that healthy food just isn’t filling. Prove them wrong by including protein like beans and whole grains, tofu, or pastured eggs, and healthy fats like avocado, olives or olive oil, nuts and seeds for a satisfying and hearty meal that is still really good for you.
3. Swap traditional ingredients for healthier alternatives. You can still make your classic stand-by meals that everyone loves, but upgrade some of the ingredients for a healthier version. For example, swap burgers for portobello mushrooms, zoodles (spiralized zucchini) for pasta noodles, and brown rice or quinoa for white rice. They might even like these new versions better!
4. Don’t skimp on flavor – Many people don’t like vegetables because they haven’t been cooked properly or are bland, thrown on the plate as an after thought instead of getting the attention these disease fighting, nutrient dense plants deserve. Adding lots of dried or fresh herbs, spices, garlic, ginger and simple sauces like the pesto recipe below can transform boring veggies into tasty treats. Experiment with different cooking methods such as steaming, sautéing or roasting, to see which your family likes best.
5. Give over some control – Allow your dinner dates to pick one ingredient or aspect of the meal. For example, if you tell your kids they have to eat a vegetable, then they get to pick which one it is. Or maybe your dinner date wants steak, but you serve it as a steak salad. It’s about finding a compromise that allows you to stay on track with your healthy eating while letting others still have a say in the food they’re eating too. When people feel included in the process, they are more likely to enjoy the outcome.
6. Lead by example – I am firm believer that you can’t control anyone or anything but yourself. People change when they are ready, not because we want them to. Remember that you are taking care of yourself first, which allows you to show up the best you can for others. Nobody else has to agree with, or even understand the choices you're making when you know what's right for YOU. I've noticed that when you are healthy and happy, people notice, and naturally want to follow in your footsteps. Soon you’ll be hearing, “I’ll have what she’s having!”
As mentioned above, here's a delicious and easy to make zoodle recipe. Some whole wheat pasta once in awhile isn't necessarily unhealthy, but swapping for zucchini provides more water, fiber, and nutrients, without the refined flour and gluten of wheat noodles. This will leave you feeling satisfied, without the heaviness of blood sugar spike of traditional pasta. And zucchini are still in season for about another month!
Zoodles with Kale Pesto
Gluten Free, Soy Free, Vegan
2 medium zucchini
1 1/2 cup basil leaves
1 cup kale leaves
2 tbsp. raw pumpkin seeds
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. nutritional yeast
2 cloves of garlic
A pinch each of sea salt and black pepper (or to taste)
Additional options: Fresh or sun dried tomatoes, toasted pine nuts, chopped greek olives, sauteed greens like chard or broccolini.
Blend all pesto ingredients together in a food processor or blender.
If you have a spiralizer, use for the zucchini noodles. If not, you can use a vegetable peeler, just discard the center core with the seeds.
You can lightly sautee the zoodles for just a few minutes in a bit of olive oil and pinch of salt, but they are good raw too! Top with the pesto and any other desired toppings. Enjoy!
Try these suggestions out, and let me know how it goes! Or if you've found any other methods that have helped, I'd love to hear your experience. I hope this helps you to have a happier, healthier meal time with loved ones.