Molly Sambor

Molly Sambor

“Finish your vegetables!”

“Put those cookies back in the pantry!”

“No, we are not ordering pizza again tonight!”

For parents, loved ones and spouses, keeping their families healthy can be a full-time job.

Do you ever feel like preparing meals for your family is complicated and overwhelming? The only vegetables that Cody will eat are corn and peas, Beth doesn’t like meats other than chicken, and Amanda asks for pizza five out of seven days of the week.

When your fitness clan also happens to be your family, it may be challenging to get everyone excited about cauliflower and kale.

It is now estimated that two-thirds of the nation’s adults are overweight or obese, and about one in six children or adolescents in the U.S. are obese.

Research shows that basic actions can help your family consume more nutritious foods and maintain a healthy weight.

We are at the end of June, and summer is a great season to get started.

Garden and farm-fresh fruits and vegetables are at their peak, and their flavor is especially scrumptious. Involve the whole family in planting a garden. This is a great learning experience for kids and gets them outside doing something active.

Don’t forget to plant some herbs! Fresh herbs can be used to flavor a meal without adding significant calories like store bought condiments. Make your weekly trip to the farmer’s market a family affair, and let the kids choose a vegetable that they would like to prepare that week. Cody chooses kohlrabi because he thought the name sounded cool. You don’t know what it is or what to do with it, but you’re just thankful that it’s something other than corn or peas.

After you stock up on fresh produce from the market or pick it from your own garden, chop up a bunch to have readily available for snacking and packing. You may not think of Pennsylvania as being a great state for locally grown foods, but you’d be surprised the variety of fresh crops besides sweet corn that is grown nearby. A few you may not be aware of are asparagus, lima beans, cantaloupes and nectarines. Experts say that keeping ready-to-eat fruit and produce on the counter can improve your family’s snack choices.

Besides fruits and vegetables, make sure you have other healthy snack options available at home at all times. This prevents you from feeling the need to run to the store or grab something less than healthy when you are short on time.

Select snacks that provide 100-200 calories and contain some protein, fiber or healthy fats. Mixed nuts, hard-boiled eggs, cottage cheese and lean meat sticks are a few options to have on hand to hold you over until your next meal.

It’s Thursday, and Amanda insists on having pizza for dinner for the third time this week.

Instead of ordering out, try making homemade pizza with all fresh ingredients and whole wheat dough for the crust. This is a great way to get the whole family involved with helping in the kitchen.

Believe it or not, placing heaping bowls of food on the table at mealtime inevitably leads to overeating. A study published in an obesity journal found that when food is served family style, people consume 35% more over the course of their meal. Alternatively, keep food on the stove or counter and out of sight, and portion it out onto plates prior to eating. When a person has to leave the table to fancy their cravings for a second helping, they tend to consider their hunger levels more carefully.

You may already be limiting the amount of salt you use when you are cooking, but putting the saltshaker out on the table may be disrupting your efforts to decrease everyone’s sodium intake. Instead of salt, consider setting out fresh cracked pepper, a homemade blend of herbs and spices, or lemon and lime wedges to add a punch of flavor to their dishes.

Take advantage of your freezer. There are many ways to utilize your freezer to help simplify healthy eating.

When preparing a healthy meal, double it and freeze half for a day when you don’t have time to cook.

Since Beth is only interested in eating chicken every night of the week, cook and shred a bunch of chicken and freeze in portioned-out freezer bags so that it can be heated up throughout the week.

Lastly, cook batches of sauces, smoothies, salsa, and dips and freeze for later use. This way you know that only simple ingredients were used, and preservatives were not added.

Avoid labeling a food as “bad.” Discuss with your family why some foods may be healthier than others, and communicate that you can enjoy any food in small amounts now and again.

After dinner, make it a family routine to go for an evening walk. I’m sure Lily, the family goldendoodle, will appreciate the extra activity, too.

Remember, if you are just getting started, incorporate changes into your family’s routine slowly. Start small, with one healthy change at a time.

Molly Sambor is a nurse practitioner in surgical associates and gastroenterology with Chan Soon-Shiong Medical Center at Windber.

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