"Mom, stop making us healthy!"

My friend's third-grade daughter uttered these words, as she spread her Nutella liberally on her white bread. The mom is making changes for the good of her family, but they don't appreciate it, apparently. What a surprise, no? john-wilhelm-nutella-hed-2014

If you've ever had Nutella (its main ingredient is sugar), you understand how addicting it is. And why a kid wouldn't want to surrender it very easily. at. all.

Let's face facts. You are going to experience some pushback from your family when you embark on a mission to "make them" healthy. Originally I was going to entitle this blog, "How to avoid fighting with your kids over getting healthy" but then I realized that I wanted to focus on the positive. Rather than addressing potential conflict, I'm going to give you tips on how to help your family enjoy the journey toward a healthier diet.

1. Have them buy in. Literally. Include them when you go grocery shopping. Show them articles (if they're old enough to read) or explain to them how healthy, happy cows, make healthy happy milk or meat. Help them understand that "junk food" is just that: junk. I've heard tell of a family whose kids would beg for the happy meal toys. The mom would go to McDonald's, order the happy meal, give the toy to her child and then throw the entire meal in the trash. Her kids won't touch fast food today. They know it has no value.

2. Go ninja.  If your kids or spouse aren't buying it, so to speak, go stealth. Don't make any major announcements about your undertaking. Take it slow, so that it's practically imperceptible. You can't expect to pry the Nutella away from them, all at once, without their noticing. (By tninjahe way, regarding Nutella, we've been there, bought that.) Make gradual changes that they may not even notice at first. Buy a cereal with less sugar in it. Or replace cereal with less processed breakfast choices, like eggs or a banana with peanut butter (if the kids are running out the door). Water down your juice. These are all ways to get a little less sugar in their diets.

If you want to get more veggies on the plate (and into your kids' bodies), check out Jessica Seinfeld's cookbook "Deceptively delicious." Her take is that you might need to sneak the veggies into some of your dishes. She has a mac and cheese recipe, for example, that calls for squash or cauliflower. While I don't agree with every aspect of her approach or diet (her recipes skew low-fat), I applaud her for her ninja style: tricking picky eaters into eating their spinach (and other such).

3. "Upgrade" at the grocery store. If you buy the pseudo/bright orange mac and cheese, switch to Annie's Organic as you transition away from the convenient little boxes. Get a different brand of chips, made with GMO-free corn. Buy your old, regular brands a little less often. When the kids begin complaining "Mom, we're still out of Nutella!" empathize (while being careful not to let a little smile cross your lips) and offer them new options: organic peanut butter with honey on sourdough bread or melted cheese on a spelt tortilla.

 4. Go home-cooked and familiar. No need to go radical with dishes and veggies the family has never heard of---kohlrabi casserole, anyone? "Healthy" food doesn't mean weird, dry, boring and yechy. Keep familiar dishes on the table that have been upgraded. My mouth is watering just thinking about the organic (hormone-free/antibiotic-free) burgers and home fries (organic potatoes cooked in lard and butter) that our family is going to eat this weekend.

5. Slow and steady wins the race! A hare at heart, it's hard for me to admit this. I am a person who likes to do things on a big scale--I love huge, dramatic change. I know I'm not the only one, if the January Facebook "detox" posts are any indication. People think they need to make up for their nutritional sins (as it were) by fasting or drinking veggie smoothies for a month. The problem with big dramatic changes is that they're difficult to maintain. And as mentioned above, they will bring about conflict, disappointment and resistance from our families.


Better to keep plodding away with incremental changes, like replacing Aunt Jemima syrup with real maple syrup or swapping out margarine for butter. These little changes can help you make inroads on your road to improved nutrition for your family.

What are some of your ideas? What small changes have you made that have made you feel successful and that are nourishing your families in new ways? Please comment below. I'm eager to hear your thoughts!