How Cooking Healthy Family Meals Can Fight Obesity

Sep 16, 2011
Veronica Brandy

Let’s start with a statement: family meals help fight obesity. Maybe you’ll find it’s a bit rough, but we will see that a healthy alimentation has a lot to do with the family aspect and heritage of fooding practices. There’s a strategy to knowing exactly how to prepare healthy family meals.

Family meals can be very beneficial in fighting obesity, especially for children. Preparing healthier family meals doesn’t necessarily mean adding more tasks to our already busy schedules like more shopping and more hours preparing meals.

How do family dinners can fight obesity

How do family dinners can fight obesity? Various studies have shown that participation in family meals increases consumption of fruits and vegetables,  and more diverse food as well as reduces snacking on fatty foods between meals.

Remember that children learn mainly from their parents. The way you prepare meals will certainly inspire them later. Many people start a diet every year and lose a few kilograms. However, many of them re-gain the weight and continue on a never-ending cycle of failed attempts to lose weight. If you constantly struggle with being overweight and obesity, there are risks that your children will grow up with the same challenges themselves.

Children learn from their parents

Children learn from their parents, and the current epidemic of childhood obesity reflects dietary choices from nutritionally unbalanced and sedentary lifestyles that have contributed to the problem.

Yet we must remember that being overweight should not be perceived as natural in humans. You might think that if you failed in your plan to lose weight or adopt a balanced diet, then you are destined to be overweight, but it is not as easy.

Societal factors

Societal factors are a source of encouragement to eat too much and do too little exercise. We live in a time when the portions are huge, food is hyper-accessible and cheap, technologies that make us burn fewer calories abound (television, computer, etc.), and we spend too much time sitting (sedentary work in an office for example).

In our modern society, it’s rather easy to overeat and do too little exercise. Television viewing, radio, advertising billboards, etc. encourage us all to over-consume. So it’s almost impossible not to be influenced by our environment, and it’s not natural.

Start preparing healthy family meals

Start preparing healthy family meals in your kitchen. Despite the barrage of prepared food, ready to be heated and eaten, restaurants (including fast food), and convenience stores at any street corner, you can really change the eating habits of your family by promoting weight loss or stabilization of healthy weight loss. The best place to start these changes in eating habits is therefore in the kitchen. But that doesn’t mean you’ll have to spend all your free time in the kitchen; consider the following strategies when preparing family meals to make your life easier.

1. Prepare for success

Plan your family meals ahead, then eat a healthy snack, then go shopping to help avoid impulse buying. You will have healthy food options you need at your fingertips when you are hungry and start cooking. Don’t go shopping on an empty stomach.

Just make sure not to snack when you store your groceries or when preparing family meals. These seemingly innocent bites you could do here and there while cooking (to taste), can be added very quickly and become high in calories. If you eat too much in the kitchen, it would be very difficult to participate in family meals without overeating later.

2. Cooking simple

The golden rule is to keep simplicity when preparing a healthy meal for your family. Avoid recipes that require many steps and ingredients. A simple dish, grilled or baked, without too many ingredients and steps, accompanied by fresh vegetables and a starch is a good option.

3. Keep meat lean

Buy the leanest slices of meat (without fat or skin) and remove any possible part of visible fat before preparing your family meals. Ground meat should be at least 95% lean. Remember that lean meats are very helpful in preparing family meals in a healthy way.

Also try the ground turkey sandwiches for a change, or replace at least a third of your beef with minced turkey breast. Be sure to buy some ground turkey breast and not the variety that contains alternative skin and dark meat, making it more fatty and higher in calories.

4. Use non-stick cookware

To prepare family meals, buy pots, pans, and cookware that are non-stick for making baked, broiled and sautéd dishes. Non-stick cookware allows you to substitute oil for healthier options such as wine, water or 100% natural fruit juice. Use and take care of your non-stick cookware according to the manufacturer recommendations to extend their lifecycle.

5. Change cooking methods

To prepare your family meals in a healthy way, try to bake, grill, roast or poach (dip food in water that is just on the verge of a boil) your protein sources. Rather than sprinkle with butter or margarine, reduce the amount of saturated fat and trans fat by basting flavored vegetable broth, white wine or orange juice without sugar. Avoid recipes that call for heavy sauces or gravies for roasting in order to keep your dishes low-fat.

6. Crumbs are important

Instead of using bread crumbs sold in supermarkets, which are usually filled with oil and trans fat, replace them with a low in sugar crisp breakfast cereal or with whole wheat flakes. Avoid cereals that provide more than 4 grams of sugar per serving. Read labels and choose cereals that also have the most fiber. When preparing healthier family meals, the crumbs are not trivial.

7. Add sugar naturally

Reducing the amount of fat and sugar in recipes does not mean giving up taste and enjoyment in your family meals. Replace half the oil with apple sauce or fruit puree to get a muffin or cake just as sweet. Use 33% less sugar in cakes. Use unsweetened dried fruit like raisins or diced dates to add natural sugar to your cereal. You can also try sugar-free syrups.

8. Choose dairy products made from skim milk

Did you know that 28 grams of whole milk contains 1 gram of saturated fat? A glass of whole milk contains 8 grams of saturated fat, which is bad for the heart. We recommend that you choose dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheese, etc.) made primarily with Skim milk (nonfat milk) to prepare healthy family meals.

Evaporated skim milk has a creamy consistency and works just as well. Condensed milk is low in calories but nice in sauces, pies, ice cream, tea, coffee, etc. Skim buttermilk can replace whole milk in many recipes. For all the recipes to prepare in the context of family meals, replace one whole egg with two egg whites to reduce fat, cholesterol and calories.

9. Reduce the desserts

Prepare a cake and eat it, but with some good replacements in line. For example, reduce calories and fat calories in desserts (eg cheesecake) by replacing whole milk with skim ricotta cheese. Or when a recipe calls for fresh cream, try fat-free plain yogurt instead. You can very well prepare healthy desserts as part of family meals by taking some precautions.

10. Double the ingredients

As you take time to cook a dish, why not try to do more to save time later in the week or month? Double the ingredients required in your recipes and freeze half of your prepared dish.

If you regularly eat lunch outside or prepare lunch for your children, you can even freeze the food in individual boxes heatable in a microwave oven. You can then just warm up the boxes at the office. This will curb the need or temptation to venture to the candy and soda machine at the office.

Be an example for your children – by cooking healthy meals you will not only feed your family well on a nutritional plan, but also show your children that small portions of meals prepared at home are the norm (not huge sweets bars or fast food bags). If these strategies to prepare family meals healthier seem difficult to put into practice simultaneously, start with one or more strategies and gradually improve your style of cooking until the food preparation becomes a natural habit.

How do you organize family meals to ensure your family stays healthy? What do you think of these 10 strategies to make a healthy meal with your family?

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