1. Take stock. Inventory you’re eating habits and the items in your pantry. Write down all of the foods you eat for one week and how much you eat of them. All family members must participate. Review your diaries to see what high-fat foods you eat, then seek out alternatives. Do you eat too many chips for snacks? Eat pretzels instead. Do you love ice cream? Try frozen nonfat yogurt or ice milk. You don’t have to eliminate your favorite foods. Just learn to have them less often or choose a lower-fat version.
2. Keep a journal. When someone raved about her new, slim self, for example, she wrote it down. When the family tried a new healthful recipe and the comments were, “Great! It’s a keeper!” she jotted down their reactions. If she was feeling discouraged, she’d read her journal to remind herself how far she and her family had come.
3. Learn the basics. Find a good book on how to eat healthfully. Books such as The New American Diet System or The American Heart Association Cookbook are two examples. They can help you learn how to reduce fat in your meals.
4. Read labels. Zero in on the fat con-tent of foods. For a 2,000 calorie a day diet, strive to eat less than 65 grams of fat. When reading labels, keep that total daily gram number in mind for comparison. If a food has 25 grams of fat, realize that this amount is nearing half your daily fat allowance. If this is how you want to spend your fat budget, be sure to choose low-fat foods the rest of the day.
5. Plan healthful snacks for kids. For children older than age two, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends pro-viding a diet similar to the diet recommended for adults (no more than 30% of calories coming from fat). Children over age two can eat the same lower-fat foods as the rest of the family. Just make sure to watch their weight. Children should not lose weight. They may need healthful snacks (for example, low-fat cheese and wheat crackers, skim milk and fruit muffins, or fresh fruit) several times a day to make up for their high-energy needs.
6. Plan ahead. Take it from Joani: “Things go to pot when I haven’t taken the time to plan meals.” Sit down and plan a menu for the week and make a grocery list. It will take the stress out of weekday cooking and leave less chance for running out for fast food or making less healthful meals.
7. Be realistic. It takes time to break old habits. Make your changes a little at a time. Begin eating on a regular schedule. No meal skipping allowed! Limit snacks to certain times of the day. Make a promise to exercise at least three times a week. Try cutting back the amount of margarine or butter in favorite recipes or using the lower-fat alternatives in place of foods your family likes, such as high-fat dressings or cheeses. If you’re trying to lose weight, set a reasonable goal, such as no more than 5 pounds per month. Setting your goals too high can lead to letdown and the feeling of failure.
8. Stick with the familiar. Don’t change your whole menu by throwing out all the recipes your family loves. Improve on those favorites. Cut the amount of cheese used, bake meats rather than fry them, and look for other ways to cut fat from recipes. Then, add some new healthful recipes to the menu for fun.
9. Involve the family in planning. Armed with new, health-focused cook-books, Joani asked each child to choose new recipes they wanted to try. It became fun for the whole family to try the new recipes they had chosen. If your child is old enough, allow them to make some of the recipes.
10. Expect setbacks. Nobody is perfect. Everyone has times when they don’t want to think about eating at all—never mind how healthful. That’s OK. Just
keep a positive attitude. It’s not the end of the world if you have had a less than healthful meal. Forget it and move for-ward.
11. Reward yourself and your family. Do something for the whole family. Go see a movie or save for a vacation.
12. Seek support. If, like Joani, you’re trying to lose weight as well as change your eating habits, you may need someone who can help you get started. A registered dietitian can lend you support, advice on choosing foods wisely, and guidance. If you’d like to find a registered dietitian in your area, call The American Dietetic Association.
– Marsha | Aeropean Photography