Children learn from their parents
According to March, more than 50 percent of Americans start a diet each year and lose a few pounds. However, many of them regain the weight and continue to start and stop an endless cycling of
unsuccessful weight loss. If you are in a constant struggle with your scale, there's a good chance your children will grow up with that same battle. Children learn from their parents, and the
current epidemic of overweight children reflects the poor food choices and sedentary lifestyles that have led to two-thirds of Americans being overweight or obese.
Being overweight is not natural
You may think that your failed attempts at dieting mean you are destined to be overweight, but March has a different opinion. She points to societal factors as a source of encouragement to eat too
much and exercise too little. "We live in a time of huge portions, cheap food, and technology that contributes to our burning fewer calories and…we spend so much time
sitting…it's quiet easy to overeat and under-exercise," she says. "Television, print advertising, radio and billboards all encourage us to overeat. So it's nearly
impossible to not be influenced by our environment…and I don't accept this as natural."
Start in the kitchen
Despite the barrage of processed, packaged foods, restaurants and convenience stores on every corner, and strategically located drive-thru joints, March says you really can change your
family's eating habits to promote healthy weight loss or maintenance. The best place to start is in your kitchen -- and this doesn't mean that is where you'll be spending all of your time.
From cooking methods to the type of pans you use, here are some sensible strategies for family-friendly nutritious meals.
1. Prepare to Succeed!
Plan your meals in advance, eat a healthy snack, and then go shopping to better avoid "impulse" purchases. You'll have the healthy options you need at hand when
you're hungry and actually start to cook. Just be sure you don't mindlessy munch as you are putting groceries away or preparing meals; those seemingly innocent bites here and there can
quickly add up.
2. Cook simply
The recipe rule: Keep it simple! "Avoid recipes with too many step and ingredients," suggests March. "A simple grilled, broiled or baked dish without too many components and
processes, a fresh vegetable and a starch is your best bet." Look for 30-minute meals or healthy recipes with a short ingredients list.
3. Keep it lean
Buy the leanest cuts of meat and trim all visible fat before cooking. Ground meat should be at least 95 percent lean. Try ground turkey burgers for a change, or replace at least one-third of your
ground beef with ground turkey breast. Be sure to buy ground turkey breast, as the alternative variety contains skin and dark meat, making it higher in fat and calories.
4. Stick to NonStick
Stock up on nonstick pans for baking, grilling and sautéing, and even for soup. Nonstick pans allow you to avoid using oil in favor of healthier options like cooking spray, wine, water or
fruit juice. Use and care for your pans according to manufacter's directions to extend their life.
5. Modify your cooking methods
Bake, broil, grill, or poach your proteins. "Rather than basting with butter or margarine, cut the saturated and trans fat by basting with flavorful vegetable broth, white wine or orange
juice," the nutrition expert explains. "Avoid recipes with heavy sauces and gravies to keep your menus low in fat."
6. Crumbs Count
Instead of commercial breadcrumbs, which are usually full of oil and trans fat, substitute a low-sugar crunchy breakfast cereal such as Grape Nuts or organic wheat flakes. "Avoid cereals with
more than four to six grams of sugar per serving," March warns. Read labels and opt for cereals that also have the most fiber.
7. Sweeten Naturally
Reducing the amount of fat and sugar in your recipes doesn't mean forsaking taste and enjoyment. March suggests, "Replace half the oil with applesauce or fruit puree for an equally
moist muffin or cake; use one-third less sugar in cakes or cookies and use dried unsweetened fruit such as raisins or diced dates to add natural sweetness to cereal." You can also experiment
with sucralose (Splenda) for baking, and give some of the excellent sugar-free syrups and low-calorie pudding mixes a try.
8. Dairy Do's
Did you know that whole milk contains one gram of saturated fat per ounce? A serving of milk is eight ounces, which translates into eight grams of heart-harming saturated fat per glass. March
recommends switching all dairy consumption to nonfat or one percent, including milk, cheese and yogurt. "Nonfat evaporated milk has a creamy consistency and works well as a lower calorie but
pleasing condensed milk substitute in sauces, pies, ice cream, and, of course, in tea and coffee," says the registered dietician. "Low-fat buttermilk makes a good substitute for whole
milk in many recipes. In all recipes, substitute two egg whites for one whole egg to cut the fat, cholesterol and calories."
9. Just Desserts
You can have your cake and eat it, too, with a few diet-friendly substitutions. For example, reduce calories and fat in decadent desserts like cheesecake by substituting low-fat ricotta cheese for
whole-milk, or when a recipe calls for sour cream, try lower fat Greek-style, creamy plain yogurt instead.
10. Double up
Since you are taking the time to cook a meal, why not make extra to save you time later in the week or month? Double the recipe ingredients and freeze half of your completed dish. If you regularly
eat lunch away from home or pack your children's lunch, you can even freeze food in individual microwave-safe containers that can be reheated at the office or cafeteria. This will ward off
the need or temptation to raid the vending machine or convenience store aisles.
Setting a healthy example for your children by cooking healthy meals will not only keep your entire family nutritiously fed, it will teach your children that modest portion sizes of homecooked
meals – not supersized candy bars and bags of fast food – is the norm. If these kitchen strategies seem a tall order, start with one (or a few) and gradually improve your cooking style
until health-conscious cooking becomes a natural, healthy habit.
More ways to raise a healthy family