Build a Better Family Meal

Bust out the aprons, round up the kids, and instill some healthy eating habits.
Published December 9, 2015

Does your mom ever say: "If you don't order dessert too, I'll feel like a pig?" Do your kids beg you to buy cookies when they know you're trying to cut back?

Your family could be hindering your weight-loss efforts.

"Family members often resent changes to their 'routine' way of eating," says Cindy Moore, director of nutrition therapy at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.

You might even notice that your husband isn't as supportive of your weight-loss goals as you expected him to be. Your new, healthier diet and lifestyle may make your spouse feel unhappy about his own appearance and lack of motivation to change it. If you suspect this is the problem, ask him if he'll join you in your diet to help you maintain your resolve.

"It helps to remind your family why you want to undertake a weight-loss plan," Moore continues. "Once they can understand your perspective and how much you value their help, they may be motivated to support your decision. At the same time, come up with strategies to minimize the impact of your diet and exercise regime so that it won't cause resentment, lack of control or frustration at home."

Here's how:

  1. Share what you're learning with your family. If you do most of the menu planning, teach your family about the kinds of foods you'll be preparing and why, and ask them to help you make some choices. If you don't usually plan the meals, let your spouse know that you want to help choose and prepare meals so you'll be sure to stay on Plan.
  2. Emphasize variety. Reduce the portion sizes of higher-calorie foods and add a greater range of more low-calorie "fillers," such as vegetables, salads and broth- or tomato-based soups. Your family will be unlikely to complain because they'll be enjoying even more taste sensations and choices than they used to.
  3. Have dessert. Prepare healthy treats — like prettily arranged 0 SmartPoints™ value fruit with creamy low-fat yogurt — and your family won't even notice you're on a diet.
  4. Involve your kids in menu selection. Choose several kid-friendly healthy recipes and ask them to pick which meals they'd like to try. Ask them to help you cook them.
  5. Turn exercise into a treat, and do it together. Go for a walk to a destination the kids like, such as the local park or beach. Play a game of tag with them once you get there. Or take up a team sport that the whole family can play together.
  6. Make your family a part of your exercise. Ask your kids to go for walks with you after dinner so you're sure to stick with it. Show your kids how to check your pulse rate before and after exercise. They'll likely love to be involved, especially if you tell them you're doing this for your long-term health. Plus, it'll teach them good habits.