1. At breakfast, think outside the boxed cereal.
Yes, cereal is easy, but a chocolate and banana smoothie isn’t THAT much harder. (This recipe calls for blending a frozen banana, dates, non-dairy milk, vanilla extract and cocoa nibs, but feel free to experiment on your own.) On mornings when you have a bit more time, try some mini quiches made in a muffin tin.
2. Make your favorite takeout at home.
Even pizza is healthier when you make it at home (and this recipe is designed to be made with kids).
3. Trade out beef for more fish, chicken, or beans.
4. Cool down with frozen fruit treats instead of sugary ice cream.
Just throw the ingredients in a food processor, pour into a popsicle mold, add sticks, and freeze. Mango Pops recipe available here.
5. Incorporate fruits and vegetables into your kids’ favorite foods whenever possible.
6. Take advantage of kids’ natural love for dipping.
7. Variety is the spice of life, so switch up your kids’ packed lunches.
Here are 15 easy, meatless sandwich ideas to get you started.
8. Choose non-processed after-school snacks like homemade cookies or, even better, fruit.
9. Make a healthy snack more fun by making it irresistibly adorable.
10. Talk about how good food tastes instead of how healthy it is.
Children reject healthy food and assume they won’t like it just because they know it’s good for them, according to a new study from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. So don’t tell them how healthy that apple is, tell them how sweet it is instead.
11. Look for recipes that your kids can help you with, like sandwich sushi and make-your-own-pizzas.
It’s not just a fun activity: A 2012 study found that kids who help prepare their foods make healthier food choices.
12. Eat dinner as a family when you can.
Family dinners mean having more real conversations with your kids, controlling what and how much they eat, and lowering their chances of smoking, drinking or using other drugs.
13. Encourage your kids to take a stand: A teenager’s 2012 petition got PepsiCo to drop brominated vegetable oil from Gatorade.
14. Plant a family garden this spring.
Kids involved in growing their own food are more likely to eat healthier, according to a 2009 study. (Here’s a basic how-to guide, a list of the 10 easiest vegetables to grow, and tips from Martha Stewart to get you started.)
15. Convince them that ordering off the adult menu makes them cool and fancy.
Where are all the vegetables? Oh right, on YOUR menu.
16. Take a field trip to a local farm and then sign up for its CSA.
Visiting a farm connects your kids to the farmers growing their food and joining its CSA allows them to explore new tastes every season. Find a CSA that meets your needs.
17. Teach kids to eat when they’re hungry and stop when they’re full.
Don’t enforce the “Clean Plate Club” rule: It can have negative consequences down the line. One study found, for example, that when boys were required to clean their plates at home, they asked for larger helpings when they ate somewhere else.
18. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
It can take a few attempts before a child starts to like a new taste.
19. Learn about what’s in your food.
20. Don’t let cartoons tell your kids what to eat (even if it sounds healthy). That’s your job.
Beware of foods with mascots!
21. Ignore the marketing claims on the front of packaged foods and look at the sugar content instead.
Processed sugar has no nutritional benefit, says Kylie Deppen, Holistic Health & Nutrition Coach, AADP, and founder of Joyful Health and Wellness. But if you must buy a processed snack or cereal, heed the following advice. “It’s wise to look for foods that have no more than 6-8 grams of added sugar per serving and anything more than that should be avoided,” she says.
22. Look for sugar’s nicknames when scanning ingredients lists.
Familiarize yourself with sugar’s other names so you know what to look for when you scan the ingredients on processed food.
23. Don’t allow soda in the house.
You probably already know that soda’s full of sugar and has no nutritional value. But did you know that it also increases the chances of stroke and contributes to behavioral problems in children? And by the way, the diet stuff is no better.
24. Feed them homemade food as often as possible: Cook double what you need and freeze half. When you don’t have time to cook, reheat and serve.
Not all foods freeze equally, but casseroles, chilies, soups, and stews can last for two to three months in the freezer without losing their luster. Try this easy Baked-Eggplant Parmesan.
25. Keep plenty of frozen vegetables on hand so that you’re always ready to cook up something healthy.
Frozen produce lasts nearly forever and has all the same nutrients as the fresh stuff. Buy it bagged at the super market, or freeze your farmers market surplus yourself.
26. Don’t treat dessert like a reward.
“When we reward with food,” says the Yale Rudd Center For Food Policy & Obesity, “we increase liking for that particular food.”
27. Organize with other parents to campaign for healthier school lunches.
Lots of schools are switching to healthier lunches, is yours?
28. Make sure YOUR diet is healthy.
Need help jumpstarting your own healthy eating? Try the BuzzFeed Clean Eating Challenge.