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Creating Healthy Foods Habits for the Whole Family

Page Medically Reviewed and Edited by Cyrus Khambatta, PhD

Creating Healthy Foods Habits for the Whole Family

Watching children grow into independent young adults, finding confidence in a career, and learning the many life lessons are just a few of the benefits of growing older. The flipside is that aging can also bring new health challenges. Aches and pains in the morning, tighter fitting clothes, and even type 2 diabetes will strike millions of adults this year alone. While this can be a difficult diagnosis, it doesn’t have to be a devastating one. Instead, it just means that certain food and lifestyle choices may need to change.

Family Healthy Food Habits

Many of us are cooking for more than just ourselves. Spouses, children, and even grandchildren may be gathered around the table at mealtime. Dining with friends or even a glass of wine on a girls’ night out can present challenges for those with type 2 diabetes. There are some small changes you can make that will make a big impact on your health, and help you manage your blood glucose levels better.

Rethink Your Drink

One of the most unhealthy sugar consumption areas in any diet hides in the items we choose to drink. Drinks such as soda, juice, and even alcoholic beverages can hide twenty to forty grams of sugar. With type two diabetes requiring a lower sugar consumption count, drinks can quickly work against the healthy living choices you are trying to make. This doesn’t mean you have to give up flavor though. Here are a few ways to enjoy drinks filled with flavor without the high sugar counts:

  • Switch out soda for seltzer water - There is a very large market now for carbonated waters that are filled with flavor without sugar. Spend some time trying out different brands to find the flavors you enjoy best. These make a great sugar-free drink option that you can enjoy more often.
  • Don’t underestimate tea - There are multiple flavors on the market now offering a variety of health benefits without the higher sugar counts. Finding a favorite tea to drink hot or over ice can offer you new flavors you are sure to enjoy. Using something like an Amla Green Hibiscus Tea can bring flavor and health benefits as well.
  • Flavored/Infused waters are another great drink option - Cucumber water, berry waters, or citrus waters can be a great way to add flavor without adding sugar. Wash produce well before adding to water. Let sit overnight in the refrigerator to get the most out of the flavor.

Keep it Simple

So often when making food choices to change our health, we go for big changes. These big changes can be daunting and leave the family feeling overwhelmed. The good news is, you can make simple changes that will have a huge impact on your health and help lower your cholesterol. Even better, many of these changes can be a natural addition to your family dynamic. Here are a few simple changes you can make:

  • Switch up your side dishes - One way you can make a big impact with a small change is by modifying the side dishes you are used to. Foods such as white rice, pasta, and fried foods can have negative health implications. Switch out your sides with items such as sweet potato bruschetta, zoodle pasta, or even a black bean stew. Switching sides can let you enjoy new favorites while making healthier choices.
  • Try something new with breakfast - Breakfast is the area where many families opt for convenience foods because they are in a hurry. Switch out those convenience foods for a delicious energy bowl, breakfast bowl, or add Amla Green to a chia seed pudding. Have flavor-packed breakfasts without working against healthy living!
  • Don’t skip the bowl meals out there! - One-bowl meals are often overlooked when moving to new eating styles. However, they’re a great place to add flavor and a variety of essential nutrients to any menu. Some examples of these meals would be a Butternut Buddha Bowl, sushi roll car bowl hydrate, or even a southwestern sauté.
  • Cook fewer options - It can be tempting to try to cook a variety of foods for every meal. It can be extremely helpful to cook fewer menu items and pack them with flavor and nutrients. By cooking fewer options you will be able to eat the portion you need and fill it with an abundance of flavor.

Clean Up Your Eating

When you think of clean eating, it can be tempting to think of all produce and hours of meal prep. This isn’t practical for everyone and that is completely okay. Instead, there are simple ways you can clean up your eating for the sake of your health and to even help prevent acid reflux that can come with processed foods. Even better, you won’t have to sacrifice as much time as you might think. Here are a few tips for cleaning up your eating for a healthier lifestyle:

  • Count the ingredients - When planning on changing eating habits, start by looking at the ingredients list on the food you currently purchase. As you read the label, some questions you can ask yourself include, “Can I easily pronounce all of the ingredients/know what they are,” and “are these ingredients going to work against my health goals,” and “is there a product similar to this with better ingredients or fewer ingredients?” Sometimes the foods you are eating have ingredients that are working against your overall health.
  • Skip the artificial sweeteners - Artificial sweeteners are in the family of simple carbohydrates that actually work against your health goals. Opting for low-sugar, sugar-free, or sugar-substitute foods can seem like a great way to enjoy something sweet while following the rules. Artificial sweeteners can be doing more harm than good. Instead, opt for natural sweet flavors found in produce that will give you the sweets you crave without the negative side effects.
  • Find alternatives to your favorites - There are some incredible food options out there to replace some of your less healthy food favorites. It can help to spend some time researching foods that will taste similar with better health benefits. Replacing foods instead of simply removing them will help everyone to get on the same page with healthier lifestyles. You could switch your favorite ice cream for mint chocolate nice cream, change it up and enjoy plant-based cookies, or switch out desserts for a smoothie bowl with added amla green.
  • Eat from nature - So often convenience foods are packed with a variety of added chemicals and addends that work against your health. Eating plant-based can help to give your body an abundance of nutrients while helping to balance blood glucose. There are some incredible plant-based recipes out there to help you eat clean without sacrificing delicious meals.

While you may be making these little changes for yourself, the whole family can benefit. Lower sugar intake and more nutrient-rich produce will also help children and grandchildren develop lifelong healthier habits. By creating healthier food habits for the entire family, everybody wins.

Page Medically Reviewed and Edited by
Cyrus Khambatta, PhD

Cyrus Khambatta, PhD, is a cofounder of Mastering Diabetes and Amla Green is an internationally recognized nutrition and fitness coach who has been living with type 1 diabetes since 2002. Using an evidence-based approach to nutrition and fitness, he first reduced his own insulin usage by more than 40%, and has educated thousands of people with all forms of diabetes how to reverse insulin resistance using food as medicine. Cyrus earned a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University in 2003, then earned a PhD in Nutritional Biochemistry from the University of California at Berkeley in 2012. He is the co-host of the annual Mastering Diabetes Online Summit, a featured speaker at the Plant-Based Nutrition and Healthcare Conference (PBNHC), the American College of Lifestyle Medicine (ACLM) Conference, Plant Stock, and has been featured on Forks Over Knives, NPR, PBS, KQED, Fast Company, and is the author of the upcoming book Mastering Diabetes.

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