Healthy eating for families is a popular subject these days. Are you afraid that your kids only eat junk? Worried that dad drinks too much coffee and never eats breakfast? Are you worried that changing health guidelines mean your family is not getting enough nutrition?
Clean, healthy eating is not that hard. Government guidelines and TV advertising trick us into eating the wrong foods, so it’s easy to be confused.
Let’s sort it out shall we?
Hello and welcome to Fearlessly Holistic
My name is Irma and I want to share my journey to improved health by eating whole foods, moving my body and eliminating stress as much as possible.
It is my hope to inspire you to make daily changes.
Why? Because eating fresh, seasonal food and getting some sunshine is the best way to increase longevity. But you do not want just a long life.
You want a quality long life.
My blog posts are my opinion and the results of things that I have tried that either worked for me or didn’t. My opinions are for informational purposes only and are not intended as medical advice. Medical advice should always be obtained from a qualified medical professional for any health conditions or symptoms associated with them. As well, there may be affiliate links in this post. Read more here.
Clean Eating For Beginners
I applaud you for even just reading this. I understand what it’s like when your kid refuses to eat anything except dino-shaped chicken nuggets and pasta dishes.
I used to buy so much convenience food just to satisfy my picky eaters.
But I’m over it.
A few years back, I took the hard line that if I cook it, then you will eat it or starve. No discussion.
Oddly enough, no one died during that encounter.
But we do eat healthier!
Getting your family to eat better can be done with baby steps…at first. Once the ball gets rolling, your family will be happy to help because they feel better and no longer have brain fog from processed food.
It’s not your fault! Food manufacturers add addictive ingredients to keep you buying.
You can either explain that your family is going to be eating clean…or not. It can be a fight, especially with kids. You do NOT have to tell them that it’s “healthy” if you think that will work against the plan (kids amiright?).
If it helps, merely explain that you are trying new recipes. Find the clean foods that you think your family will like and keep adding in new foods.
Let’s start with the following transition (i.e baby) steps.
Transitioning Your Family To A Clean Eating Diet
Eating clean is tough when you are the only one sticking with this particular diet. Why not get the whole family on board and become a clean food house?
It will be much easier to stick to healthy, unprocessed foods when there is no junk food in the house to tempt you. But how do you go about getting the whole family on board?
Have a Family Meeting
Start by calling a family meeting and laying the cards on the table.
Tell everyone why eating clean, healthy, unprocessed food is so important and that this is a change you want everyone to make as a family.
Tell them it’s something that’s near and dear to your heart and you need their support.
Make It A Gradual Change
If you’re getting a lot of resistance from your family, consider making small changes when it comes to family food.
For example, grill up some chicken and fix a big salad. Give the kids a small side of pasta or rice, but only every second or third dinner meal. Eventually the kids forget about the starchy sides and you can move on.
Encourage your kids to eat at least half of each new healthy dish.
Find New Family Favorites
As you try new recipes, give everyone a chance to vote on what they like and didn’t like. It won’t take you long to find a list of new family favorites.
Feature those regularly on the menu and make sure you have plenty of healthy snacks everyone likes around. Kids like dipping foods, so make a fruit dip from Greek yogurt and some mashed berries for fresh fruit. We use ranch dressing for veggie dip.
Get your kids to mix it up and/or put it in tiny individual ramekins.
Encourage the kids to eat vegetables by letting them help with the prep. Even small amounts of healthy food will add up and replace the processed junk.
Use The 80/20 Rule
It’s important to realize that every step towards clean food is a step in the right direction. There will be times when you need to eat “off” plan, like birthday parties or other social events. Try to keep junk food portions small (think cup cake instead of a big slice of cake) or one dish of potato chips.
Try to avoid going off plan at the beginning of your clean food journey, when any food addictions are still fresh.
Not all of your family meals have to be 100% clean. Aim for 80% healthy foods and 20% foods that you want to eventually transition away from.
And it’s okay if your family members indulge in some junk food here and there. The goal is to make an overall improvement in your family’s life.
How To Start A Clean Eating Family Meal Plan
If you are brand new to the clean eating diet, the following tips will help.
They help you properly plan for a clean eating lifestyle and figure out how to properly transition into the lifestyle full time.
Inventory Your Pantry
Before you begin to transition to a clean eating diet, it can be really helpful to take stock of what you currently have to work with.
This helps because you know what foods you currently eat that are allowed on the clean eating diet, but also in what areas you struggle with the most. Print off a free printable “pantry organizer”.
I used one from Premeditatedleftovers.com. There are lots of helpful printables at that link.
Put foods into categories:
Starches (rice/potatoes/pasta etc),
Veggies (canned or frozen),
Fruit items (including juice),
Meat (canned fish, chicken or ham plus fresh/frozen meat)
Junk (chips, cookies, snack foods, gummies/candy, ice cream, pudding mixes etc)
Start with one category, writing out every item that you find in your cupboards/freezer/fridge.
Only write down unopened items, unless you bought in bulk/multi-packs.
You may be surprised, as I was, on how much packaged food you have on hand. And my freezer was literally full of bread products. It was embarrassing.
If you are worried that your family will melt-down without these foods (recommended for the starches and junk categories), then you might be better off with a more gradual transition.
Switch one meal a day to 100% clean until eventually you eat through your inventory of non-clean foods.
As you run out of non-clean foods for one meal (like breakfast), transition it to clean food.
If you already eat a good amount of foods allowed in the clean eating lifestyle, you can probably transition to it a bit faster.
Begin Gathering Recipes
Once you know what you have, you should start compiling recipes.
I joined Active Low Carbers a few years back; they have an amazing assortment of creative and clean recipes.
Check online sites like Pinterest for ideas. Google “clean food recipes” and see what pops up that you think your family will enjoy.
Clean Eating Tip: When I switched us over to clean, I made a rule that anytime I cooked a new recipe, everyone had to give it a fair trial. If they didn’t like it, they had to explain why, so I could tweak it.
None of that “I just don’t like it” stuff. I want real reasons. This also helps kids learn to take responsibility for their choices.
Another good place for finding clean eating recipes is by checking out blogs specifically dedicated to clean eating.
Also keep in mind that while there are some differences, Keto and Paleo diets are pretty close, so check out blogs for those diets as well.
Related Post: Keto Basics for Beginners
I will include this video that I found on batch food prepping on a low carb diet, which is pretty clean.
Note: At around the 7 minute mark of the video, she has her kid helping with prepping food. This makes it easier for kids to get on board with eating healthy.
Start Replacing Refined Carbs
This is a good way to begin making the transition to a clean eating lifestyle, since it is only a small change but makes a drastic difference.
People do not realize that foods like white rice are quite high on the glycemic index. This means they cause your blood sugar to rise rapidly (very unhealthy).
When your blood sugar rises, your body sends insulin to bring it down to normal. If you eat a lot of “sugar” foods, eventually your pancreas cannot make enough insulin to make your blood sugar go down and you get Type II diabetes. Now you need injectable insulin.
White rice is 78 on the glycemic index, potatoes are 80 to 90, and pasta (without sauce) is 55.
For comparison, meat has a rating of zero (because it has no carbs), broccoli has a rating of 10, and blueberries have a rating of 53.
This may sound like blueberries are to be avoided but they also come with fiber, vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants and other benefits that pasta (close on the index to blueberries) does not.
With clean eating, your carbs should come from vegetables, fruit, and a bit of dairy (dairy is optional).
To do this, start preparing a second vegetable to replace starch foods. Or create a zucchini lasagna.
My kid thought zucchini lasagna would be gross, because of the zucchini. She even had that pinched look when I handed her a plate of it. Then she ate it and asked where the zucchini was. LOL.
FYI If you’ve never tried zucchini lasagna, you use sliced zucchini instead of lasagna noodles. It tastes the same.
Foods like beef stew do not require side dishes like rice or pasta. You can make it in a slow cooker with extra veggies and maybe only one potato cut small. If you start offering these types of foods, your family may not notice that starchy side dishes are missing.
How Clean Eating Cooking is Different
When it comes to the clean eating lifestyle, you are trying to reduce processed foods, cook more often, and have as many fresh ingredients as you possibly can.
This means cooking is a little different, not just in the fact that more cooking is from scratch, but that you are also changing the ingredients you are using. Keep some of these cooking guidelines in mind.
Home Cooking Requires More Planning
The first thing you need to remember is that because you are cooking more, specifically from scratch, you need to plan a little bit better. Once you find 10 or 20 meals that you think your family will enjoy, create a meal plan.
You want a plan so that you remember to thaw or purchase meat or other ingredients.
You can easily repeat a two-week meal plan, slowly replacing meals that don’t work with new items.
While not all meals are going to take a lot of time to cook, it may take a week or two to find your “groove”.
This isn’t difficult to do, but it does require a little extra time. Make sure you are really planning ahead of time.
TIP: If you can, prep two days worth of foods on Sunday. On Monday, cook or prep for Tuesday. On Tuesday cook or prep for Wednesday etc.
You Cook Everything From Scratch
As mentioned already, most of your meals will be cooked from scratch.This is not as time consuming as it sounds.
A slow cooker can help on workdays. Prep your meal the night before; dump everything into the slow cooker before you leave for work; 9 hours later you walk into your home a dinner is cooked.
One of our family favorites is stewing beef covered with beef broth and slow cooked for 8 to 10 hours. When done, renove the meat from the broth and lightly toss with BBQ sauce. Tender and tasty.
Making Meals Ahead of Time Is Helpful
In addition to planning more for your clean eating lifestyle, you might also want to begin making some of your meals ahead of time.
Prep a double batch of something that freezes well, like zucchini lasagna. Use one for meals that week and freeze the second one. Start stockpiling some freezer meals for “those days” when things go awry, as they sometimes do.
It’s nice to have nothing to do but bake and serve a prepped meal. As you get used to eating this way, you will know what works best for you in these situations.
Try to give yourself one day a week when you have time to grocery shop, meal plan, and get some prep done.
Buying in Bulk Helps to Save Money
If you need to save a little money on your grocery bill when switching to clean eating, try to buy in bulk when you can.
One word: Costco.
Whether you are clean eating or Keto, Costco is the best place to save money while eating quality food.
FYI: Costco meat is big! When we went Ketovore over the winter, I was shocked to discover that Costco’s fresh beef burger patties weighed in at 8 ounces each!
The last time I bought the pork loin chops they each weighed 12 ounces each. When I eat one of those chops, that is the only protein that I eat for the day.
There is more upfront to spend because you are getting more, but you save money in the long run. As well, Costco carries Chosen Foods avocado oil and Chosen Foods avocado oil mayonnaise. These are both clean foods.
Get A Deep Freeze
To go along with shopping in bulk, a deep freeze is super useful. It allows you to take advantage of great deals on meat. As well, you can keep frozen veggies on hand for a quick side dish.
Because I shop at Costco, my freezer is full of meat. My kid helps me divide up meat into portions, like re-packing breakfast sausages or pork chops.
I keep track of what I cook on a calendar in my kitchen. I check to see what meat I’ve been cooking, so that I rotate through my inventory and no one gets bored.
Then I go to my freezer and pull out something to cook for the next day. I try to do this in the morning, so that it has plenty of time to thaw. Tweak this depending on what time of day you are cooking as you may need more thawing time (slow cooker in the morning versus pan frying in the evening).
PRO TIP: Thaw roasts or whole chicken for at least two days in your fridge to ensure that it is completely thawed on cooking day.
Clean Eating For Kids
I shamefully must admit that I am a big part of the reason that my family is addicted to crap foods. I work full time and while I have always cooked most meals at home, there were lots of packaged pasta, instant rice, and frozen fries. Ugh.
Fast food is a big part of modern life these days, making it very hard to teach a child how he or she should eat healthy.
The cheapest and easiest foods to cook are usually the least healthy.
If you give your child the choice between healthy food and junk food, you normally won’t like the results.
So avoid giving them a choice.
Because, seriously, kid’s don’t understand how to do what’s right unless they are shown how and encouraged to do it.
I don’t mean dragging your kid to the table and forcing food into them.
I mean preparing the quality food, serving it and encouraging them to eat it. I made the rule “eat it or starve”. I had to or it wouldn’t happen. And my kid has thanked me for it because she feels so much better now.
It would only take a couple of hours before my kid decided that eating was better than starving.
Even though it isn’t possible to get a child to like all healthy foods, there are some ways to get your child to try and hopefully like at least a few of them.
Keep in mind that if you are the cook, then you are in charge.
The younger your kids are when you start, the easier. You don’t even have to explain yourself, because they just go along with it.
Another somewhat easy group to convince is teens, because if they are growing then they will eat almost anything.
For kids outside of these two groups, the easiest way to get them on board is to have them help in the kitchen.
Pop them in front of the TV while those kid cooking shows are on for even more motivation.
Let them make a veggie tray of baby carrots, snow peas or other prepackaged veggies.
Normally I would not recommend the pre-cut veggies, but you have to start somewhere.
Have them arrange the veggies on a dinner plate, give them a bowl for the center to pour dip into (i.e ranch dressing). Trust me, kids like doing “chores” like this and then they are invested in everyone trying some of “their” food.
They can also make a fruit tray for dessert. Use Greek yogurt with a bit of honey mixed in for the fruit dip.
Another helpful way to get kids eating healthy is having them help make their lunches. I use a Bento box for this.
Buy tiny cup-cake liners and cookie cutters. Put different fruit or veggie pieces into different liners, or nuts. Use cookie cutters to cut our shapes in cheese. Have your kids cut hard cooked eggs into quarters or make roll-ups with ham and cream cheese. Check this video for more ideas:
I do not believe in hiding vegetables in food unless you are trying to stretch a recipe.
Kids need to understand that fresh food is important to their health. The sooner you get them invested in the process, the easier it will be.
I hope that you are excited to bring your family into the world of clean eating. After the brain fog from processed food is gone, everyone will feel better. Moods settle down and kids do better in school when their growing brains get some quality fats. Life is good!
Holism targets overall wellness, and when we are well, we only get better with age.
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Until next time, here’s to our health!