The Kid-friendly Parent's Guide to Healthy Eating

Posted On Jul 21, 2014 By Erin Kuh, MBA, RD

eating healthy with family

"We have to keep some snacks in the house for the kids."

"I don't want to have to make a separate meal for me and another for my growing teenagers."

"How do I make inexpensive, healthy meals for an entire family without breaking the bank?"

I've heard these very words come out of numerous parents' mouths. They're very real concerns, but there are ways to work around these challenges to stay fit, keep your kids happy and not become a short-order cook in the process.

Are you a parent trying to lose weight, but find it tricky to juggle schedules, work and meal planning for different metabolisms? Start with these 8 tips. (Have your own suggestions to help other parents? Post in the comments section below.)

  1. Everyone eats the same meal. Period. Find common foods that everyone, or most everyone, in your family likes. For picky eaters, incorporate at least one food at every meal that they will eat. Encourage your child to try a few bites. If they don't like it and are still hungry, offer one simple alternative like a PB & J or a bowl of cereal. And don't feel the need to clean your kid's plates! If they don't like the second choice, they can wait until breakfast to eat. It may sound harsh, but they will survive! More importantly, you're reinforcing the one meal policy.
  2. Make meals that are easy to individualize. Tacos, wraps or fajitas are easy to customize by assembling individual plates with different types of tortillas, salsas and toppings. Leave off the cheese or reduce the amount in half for casseroles and dishes like lasagna. This is an easy way to conveniently cut calories without cooking an entire second meal.
  3. Get the kids involved with meal prep or cleanup to encourage teamwork, ease up your duties in the kitchen and save time.
  4. Serve inexpensive, filling side dishes like rice, beans and whole-wheat pasta. These are easy to omit from your dinner plate if you're counting calories while your insatiable children can fill up on inexpensive nutritious foods.
  5. Skip the bun. Burgers and sandwiches are kid-friendly and can be healthy. Grilling up a patty, brat or chicken? Skip the bun to cut calories.
  6. Leave the snack foods like pretzels and granola bars for the kids. Incorporate more healthful choices like yogurt, fresh fruit and homemade popcorn that everyone can enjoy.
  7. Use veggies as the base of your meal and keep the carbs for the kids. Making pasta? Serve your meat and sauce over a bowl of steamed broccoli instead of noodles or do a small amount of noodles with veggies. How about sloppy joes? Serve on top of shredded romaine lettuce rather than a bun.
  8. Combine meat with cheaper protein like eggs and beans. Making stir-fry? Add soybeans (edamame) with chicken or white beans with pasta dishes. Use eggs to make veggie omelets for a quick cheap weeknight dinner.

While this list of tips is just a start, the most essential part of creating a happy healthy family is to be the healthy role model your kids need. While kids might complain about not getting chicken nuggets, soda, and pizza for every other meal in the beginning (if these are mainstays of their diet right now), they'll adjust. And you will too with a little extra planning.