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Tips for Creating Healthy Meals the Whole Family Will Enjoy

You can’t please everyone—or can you? When it comes to creating healthy meals that the whole family will not only eat but actually enjoy, creativity and easy options for modification are key. This can be especially tough when dealing with a picky eater (the good news is that most picky eaters will expand what they eat as they grow older). Meal planning is the first step, and it’s absolutely essential. Planning meals a week in advance but also allowing for flexibility (because things happen!) can help keep you on track and avoid reaching for easy-to-make meals that usually mean processed and not that healthy.

First, assess your family’s tastes and preferences. If you do have a picky eater, consider what it is exactly about certain foods that turn them off. Children who have experienced trauma are more prone to picky eating than others, but it can really affect anyone of any age. Some picky eaters dislike certain textures while others turn up their noses at certain kinds of tastes. You may be able to work around picky eating by offering a dip they love that will “coat” the taste to some degree or easily modify the preparation to achieve a more pleasing texture. For example, smoothies are the perfect healthy breakfast and retain the fiber of fruits and veggies while vanquishing what some might consider an unappealing texture.

Working Values into Family Meals

Prioritizing healthy meals is one of your values, but you and your family members might have additional (or contradictory) values when it comes to food as well. For instance, maybe one person in the family is vegan. It’s possible to support this decision without shaming them, definitely without “tricking” them by hiding animal products in meals, and also without disrupting mealtime. Always having at least one vegan option available isn’t just an act of kindness and compassion, but also a way of challenging your entire family to eat a little less meat and dairy.

The same goes for picky eaters. You probably have a list (albeit maybe a short one) of healthy-ish dishes your picky eater will have. Always having their “safety dish” at mealtime allows them autonomy over their meals. It’s okay if sometimes that’s all they eat. Peace at the dinner table is just as important as health, and ideally, you can balance both. 

Take Advantage of Meal Delivery or Prep Services

COVID definitely introduced households to food delivery at a quick pace. Maybe you had never ordered groceries online before, but now it’s become your staple. There are some well-known food delivery apps in high demand, but don’t overlook more specialized apps that focus on healthy and/or local options. Maybe you can sign up for a community vegetable co-op and get fresh, local produce delivered to you on a regular basis without breaking the bank. Spend some time exploring all the delivery options available and pay special attention to regional options close to you.

Having the privilege to sit at home and order your meal prep items for the week also gives you more time to make healthy choices. This isn’t like being at the supermarket and being tempted by the not-so-healthy choices on end-caps or as you wait in line. Make mindful decisions, and if it’s helpful, create lists full of thoughtful choices that you can easily reorder. One of the benefits of ordering groceries from home is that you can take as much time as you need, and any pop-up recommendations are usually based on your browsing and shopping history—not on what the store wants to sell.

Health from the Start

It’s a little too late in the year to start planting your own garden, but you can certainly get started if you’re not too picky on what’s planted. There are many vegetables you can plant right now for a fall harvest (depending on where you live), including radishes, turnips, collard greens, brussels sprouts, and much more. Nothing is more satisfying than prepping a meal using the ingredients you grew yourself. It’s also a healthy hobby and something you can enjoy with the entire family.

Finally, when it does come down to meal prep, establish some best practices. Always read nutrition labels and steer away from products with more than a couple of ingredients. Products with no ingredients lists (such as produce) are always best. Freeze prepped meals if you’re busy during the week, and welcome the kids to help in every step of the process to make it a teaching moment as well.Most importantly, enjoy your food and your time together. Try to sit down for a meal with the whole family at least once per day.