Whether your New Year’s resolution is to lose weight, get in shape—or nothing at all, the month of January is a great time of year to set new, healthy goals for your family.
Perhaps you want to encourage your kids to eat healthier, try new foods or leave behind their picky eating behaviors for good.
Just as other New Year’s resolutions don’t happen overnight, getting your family to eat healthy requires consistency, patience and simple, yet realistic, strategies to make it happen.
Here are 10 healthy eating hacks for the new year that will make it doable.
1. Make a list
Without a grocery list, it’s easy to be tempted by processed foods and convenience foods that can easily derail you. You may also end up buying too much food that goes to waste or find yourself resorting to unhealthy takeout when your refrigerator becomes empty mid-week.
Before you head to the grocery store, try to have a rough meal plan for the week and make a list of the foods and ingredients you’ll need.
You don’t have to plan out each meal perfectly, but as long as you have a general idea of what you’re going to make for dinner each night, and what you need to stock up on for all of your other meals, you’ll have plenty of options.
2. Prep ahead
If you can carve out an hour or two on the weekends to wash, prep and store your aromatics and fruits and vegetables, it will save you a ton of time during the week.
3. Take shortcuts
Buying pre-chopped ingredients may cost a bit more, but if doing so means you’re able to make healthy meals faster, then it’s totally worth it.
Most grocery stores have pre-chopped mirepoix, garlic, cauliflower “rice,” spiraled vegetables, and shredded Brussels sprouts that can shave off a ton of time making healthy meals.
4. Batch cook
I work full-time, write this blog and have two kids but I still manage to get dinner on the table (almost) every night.
I’m not a super-mom by any stretch of the imagination or a pro chef, but with bath cooking, I’m able to pull it off.
On Sunday and a few times throughout the week, I make large batches of vegetables, rice, quinoa, lentils, beans and hard-boiled eggs that can be used for healthy school lunches and dinners throughout the week.
5. Use an appliance
Cooking healthy meals can be time consuming especially if you have to chop vegetables or wait for rice to cook, for example. Luckily, there are so many appliances like the Vitamix, Instant Pot and slow-cooker to make it quick and easy.
6. Make sheet pan meals
When you’re rushing to get dinner on the table, you need fast, fuss-free meals.
Instead of using multiple pots and pans and making meals that require multiple cooking methods, make sheet pan meals. Choose your vegetables, add a protein, and roast everything together to cut down on cooking and clean-up time.
7. Assemble meals
Don’t like to cook? No problem. You don’t have to use a single appliance to pull together healthy meals.
Instead, assemble pre-washed bagged salad or try a salad kit and add a protein and healthy fat for a quick, easy and no-brainer meal.
8. Rely on frozen foods
Many types of frozen, microwave meals are high in calories, sodium and trans fat and low in fiber and overall nutrition, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use your freezer to get a healthy dinner on the table.
Make large batches of stews, soups, bean burgers and casseroles or double a recipe that can be frozen and reheated.
Also, stock your freezer with quick and easy options like frozen shrimp, vegetables and peas that can be used in several different meals. Frozen fruit can also be used in smoothies, added to yogurt or served as dessert.
9. Stock your pantry with canned food
When you’re short on time, canned food can be a great alternative to fresh.
Canned salmon, tuna, sardines and beans are all healthy, easy and versatile protein sources that can be paired with a salad or cooked vegetables.
10. Rethink dessert
Bribing kids with dessert to eat dinner or take a few bites of their vegetables may be effective, but it puts a sour taste in their mouths—so to speak.
When kids are told they’ll get dessert if they eat the healthy stuff, a tactic Dina Rose, PhD calls the dessert deal, it teaches them that dessert is more desirable than their meal.
A workaround is to let your kids have dessert but consider offering dessert choices that you can live with. In our family, dessert is usually fresh fruit but it can also be dried fruit, yogurt, or a homemade muffin, for example.