A Household That Eats Healthy Stays Healthy
When someone makes the decision to have bariatric surgery they are ready to make significant dietary and lifestyle changes. Unfortunately, sometimes patients find that one of the biggest obstacles to making those changes is their family members. It might be a spouse that continues to bring home sugary snacks or a child that never learned to enjoy vegetables and insists on eating macaroni and cheese every night. It’s not fair for someone that is trying to lose weight to be tempted with junk food all the time, and it is very difficult to plan, shop for, and prepare more than one dinner each night according to everyone’s dietary demands. While it’s not necessary for the whole household to make changes in order for the patient to be successful, it certainly makes things easier if they do.
The time leading up to and after bariatric surgery should be looked at as a time of change for everyone–a chance to try new foods, cook together, and become healthier as a family. Below are some suggestions for getting both you and your household on board with eating healthy.
- Get the kids involved. Children love cooking! Small children can help prepare meals (think washing fruits and veggies, stirring, mashing, weighing, and breading). At the grocery store, tell your little ones they can choose a new fruit or vegetable each week to try. Older kids can prepare the meals themselves! Provide them with the MyPlate guidelines (www.choosemyplate.gov) and allow them to search for a recipe they would like to make, provide you with a shopping list, and make the meal themselves. With some basic kitchen safety and hygiene skills, teens and pre-teens can be in charge of one dinner a week. Teaching your children how to cook provides them with life, math and science skills, self-esteem, and above all – bonding time with you!
- When trying to get your family to try new foods it helps if your kids are actually hungry at meal time. Try to stick to a routine each day–eating 3 meals and 1-2 snacks around the same time of day. Don’t allow your kids to graze all day on non-nutritive snacks and limit the amount of juice they drink. This strategy will also benefit you; making sure you eat often enough will help speed up your metabolism and prepare you for the diet after surgery.
- Sit down and eat breakfast with your children! I find that many parents prepare breakfast for their kids and then use that time to do other things: prepare lunches, take a shower, etc. This can lead to skipping breakfast, which will only slow your metabolism and possibly lead to overeating/making unhealthy choices later in the day. Prepare the kids’ lunches the night before and in the morning sit at the table and enjoy a meal with your children. It’s a time to communicate with your family and of course get that first important meal of the day in. It also sets a good example for your kids.
- Make things easier for yourself. Meal planning takes time, so anything you can do to save time helps. Consider at home grocery delivery. There are more services available now, including ones that deliver to more rural areas. Check out Amazon Fresh (for Prime members only), Peapod (Stop & Shop), Shoprite, Whole Foods, and Walmart, all of which offer at home grocery delivery and/or online ordering and pickup at the store. There are additional service and delivery fees; however, the extra cost means more time to actually prepare your own meals.
- Bring your family members to your dietary visits. This will allow them to ask questions about healthy eating and better understand what you’re going through and why eating healthy is so important for the whole household.
- Make healthy food more visible. Put a fruit bowl out on the counter; put healthy snacks in the refrigerator and pantry at your family member’s eye level.
- Be patient. Just because you’re ready and dedicated to making all necessary changes today doesn’t mean your family is. Ask your children to try one or two bites of new foods–tell them they don’t have to like it but they should try it. If you’re consistent (and patient), they will find new foods that they enjoy.
- Use incentives. There is no shame in using rewards to get your family to eat healthy. Create a weekly chart and keep track of how many days your child tried a new food. If they get 5 days out of 7, consider rewarding them with a toy or a monetary reward (this works with spouses too!).
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