It’s inevitable: You’ve discovered the fountain of youth located in a pork belly, and your husband and children give you the side eye because you’ve announced that potatoes have been replaced with cauliflower puree and the spaghetti is now spaghetti squash. You’ve just placed weird stuff like jicama on the menu, and brussels sprouts loll around on the plate next to the sad faces of flummoxed six year olds.
Changes in life are painful. Tastes are acquired (and sometimes hard wired) and people want what they want because they want it, have lived with it for ears, or, worse yet, might not even like what you’re eating.
You expect the family to embrace cauliflower puree in lieu of mashed potatoes the first time they hit the plate. Bad idea. Cauliflower is fairly pungent, and for most people, the shock of the flavor difference is enough to create scowls, face palms and some major whining–and that’s just from your husband. It doesn’t matter if you threw gold coins into the puree; it’s still cauliflower, and few kids grew up liking those crunchy, blase florets of boredom unless it was drowned in dressing and hopes of less nagging to come.
Try working cauliflower into that pot of mashed potatoes, a little at a time. Start with a ratio of 75% potatoes: 25% cauliflower, and slowly continue to change the values over until you’re enjoying 100% cauliflower as the side dish.
You figured out the coolest kitchen combo is your fork and a just-baked spaghetti squash. The luscious strands of buttery hotness falls, steaming, into a bowl, ready to tantalize your mouth. That’s great! But try and pop that platter in front of a husband who grew up with enriched white flour, and he’s going to look at you like you’re smoking crack.
Let’s be real. It’s not spaghetti, and it never will be. Trying to convince someone that a vegetable is the same as pasta is setting everyone up for a big, dinnertime war. Peas could fly, sporks might clash, it’s not a pretty sight.
Pull the pea from your eye and try one of these tips for squashing those squash prejudices:
1. Don’t sell it as spaghetti. No one’s going to buy it anyway. Because it what’s for dinner, make sure you serve the luscious meat sauce, meatballs, or whatever the family favors, and don’t be quick to cut out the other carbs (or look for this luscious, low carb bread stick recipe).
2. Start with a pot of 75% spaghetti and 25% spaghetti squash and continue to adjust ratios until the bowl on the table is 100% spaghetti squash, especially with younger kids. Kids get used to the changes. Your husband might still think you’re taking drugs, but he’ll appreciate the slow change, as opposed to your sinking your heels in and smacking him in the head with a frying pan.
Don’t be so fast to nix all the carbs in the house. Sudden changes bring up the alarm, so take some time to plan and you’ll find much less resistance and natural, slow changes. Even if it feels you’re taking one step forward and one back, over time those changes will take hold.
Snacks first: Every kid’s a bottomless pit of hunger, so begin your change from a processed foods family into one that makes healthier choices by offering up cheese and meat trays, string cheese, Babybel cheese, olives, melon, strawberries, and vegetables. They might protest occasionally, but if they’re hungry they’ll eat it, become used to it, and learn to expect it. Higher protein choices will keep tummies filled longer.
Dinner second: Start making slow changes at dinner, since it’s the one meal per day that’s already planned around proteins and vegetables. Decrease starches slowly, offering them a couple of times per week, in limited quantities (ie, instead of a pan of 12 rolls for your family of four, try offering 8, then four); or, better yet, try using a low carb bread stick recipe as a delicious side. Once a week you can take the night off with a slightly higher carb meal, but don’t use that meal as a celebration, to quell a broken heart or for any reason that foments the emotional relationship many have with food.
Breakfasts next: With dinner a winner, move towards high protein breakfasts. If the kids are averse to eggs and bacon, move them to amazing recipes from “Breakfasts.” Breakfasts can also be leftovers from last night’s dinner, meaning that the lasagna the kids fawned over can be offered over eggs, might be appreciated more than you know.
Lunches last: Finally, change lunches into lower carb choices as time permits. With two healthy meals for the day plus snacks (see above), those lunches can be the cooperative effort of kids and parents for maximum happiness, especially since mornings are so chaotic. If they end up with peanut butter and jelly in the lunch, make sure some high protein almonds make it in, too. Or if they have to have the chocolate milk with their low carb sandwich wrap, why not? Change takes time, and kids still want to feel like kids. Making concessions isn’t going to hurt anyone, unless you’re dealing with necessary dietary changes due to allergies or medical conditions.
Desserts sparingly: If your family is fighting a sweet tooth, look to berries as an option. This cheesecake is also incredibly decadent and makes enough servings for a few days without cravings.
Take time off occasionally. Maybe a meal here, a dessert there, a snack somewhere else. While one meal shouldn’t turn into a week of Pop Tarts and ice cream, the semi rare indulgences will help foment that this is a lifetime deal, appreciated by everyone. Making a kid eat wasabi peas at the state fair when he wants a couple of bites of a funnel cone, for example, is akin to torture.
Never use the word diet.
Don’t talk about a lifestyle change.
Never try to convince someone they’re eating something they’re not.
Take criticism as it’s intended.
When something fails, try something else.
Make food choices sexy, fun and exciting.
If you eat something off-plan, share it with someone and never indulge alone. Occasionally our family shares a candy bar. We cut it six ways and we each get a taste. It’s worth a bite–but not a whole bar–and everyone feels they’ve had something naughty… without the full fledged sugar coma later.
Know that meaningful change takes time. The implementations above may take a month, or they may take a year. They may take two years. In the end, you want your family to live the food they eat and enjoy, and don’t roll their eyes at “another one of mom’s diet fads”. Obstinacy leads to rebellion, which leads to Snackers bars slipped into nightstand drawers and noshed on, so be patient, do your thing, and know your hard (and sometimes seemingly neverending) work will be rewarded.
This is no quick fix, but nothing in life worth doing is worth doing half-assed–not if you want to raise kids who will be less prone to cancer, insulin and hormonal problems, who can live a healthier lifestyle from the beginning. A healthy body is not only a leaner, lither body, it’s one with a brain that functions as full capacity due to good nutrition.
And that can be accomplished if you’re willing to take the time necessary to make these changes. Ask me how I know.
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