Changing the family diet – an update 2017

Today’s post answers a back to school reader question. You can read previous answers to readers’ questions here.

This week I am answering the following question from a reader and of course it goes without saying that what I share below is not nutritional advice, I am simply sharing my experience:

Can you provide an update on how you feed the family since you last made changes?

To give this question some background in 2013 I completely changed the way I ate. this post Changing my plate – my journey goes into details about the when, what and why, but basically I went from a highly processed diet with lots of white carbs (white bread, white pasta) and a solid addiction to diet coke to a whole foods approach with a solid love of green tea and kombucha!

While I have no known allergies to gluten or dairy I absolutely feel better for not having them as part of my diet. There are times when I choose to eat foods that contain either gluten or dairy and while I don’t have a massive reaction to them, I certainly notice a difference in how I feel afterwards.

Then in 2014 I started working on making changing to the family’s diet. It was never my intention to make the family follow exactly the approach to eating that I take, but I really wanted to make some changes to foods that they ate on a regular basis. I knew some of the eating habits that we had developed where not optimal and I documented these changes in a series of posts:

  • Changing the family diet – breakfast: I stopped buying commercial cereal and the kids went to cooked breakfasts, homemade cereal or smoothies for breakfast
  • Changing the family diet – lunch: Switched to real butter (not the spreadable stuff which has so many additives to it), started making extra food at dinner so my husband and the kids could have left overs for lunch and made sure the kids (older boys in particular) had a main source of protein for lunch.
  • Changing the family diet – dinner: Dinner was the easiest to change. I started making my own seasonings, sauces etc from scratch. Reduced how often we had pasta down to only once or twice a month, changed the oils I cooked with to coconut, avocado, macadamia as well as olive oil (no vegetable oils).

There have been only minor changes since I did the major overhaul:

  • I make more food from scratch eg curries, sauces, salsa, dukkah etc
  • I no longer use any vegetable oils or canola oils in any cooking or baking
  • To appease the masses (see notes below about complaints) occasionally on school holidays etc I will buy tinned spaghetti and cup of soups for them to have.

Making these changes has certainly increased the amount of time I spend on cooking and shopping. I am completely okay with this because it is super important to me and I am in a position where I can do this. By no means do I make judgements if other families do things differently. We all do what works for our families.

When I introduced these changes there were a few complaints from the older kids, but it was all pretty okay. Since then, as the older kids have grown even older, I do get more complaints from them. This forms the key part of advice I give to parents about making changes to the way the family eats – it is so much easier to do when they are younger! I know some of you will think how could that be possible, when you are dealing with a fussy four year old, but believe me I would rather deal with a fussy four year old than a hungry complaining teenager!

The complaints tend to come when they are hungry and they open the cupboards or fridge and feel that there is nothing they can grab quickly to eat. In reality what they are saying is there isn’t something as convenient for them to grab to eat like a bowl of cereal or a packet of chips. For the record I still do buy things like chocolates or ice cream for dessert, chips and soft drink for special occasions, but they are just not the type of food I want in the house all of the time for general snacking. There is almost always home cooked items of some variety for them to eat, nuts, a selection of rice cakes, crackers that are not loaded with additives etc. in the cupboards for them to eat and fresh fruit and veg in the fridge.

The older kids do have jobs outside of the house at different times across the year and they are entitled to spend their money how they wish. This does mean they will bring fast food, junk food etc into the house and the eldest does have a penchant for energy drinks 🙁 . I have made the decision to not argue with them about what food they buy. I feel the best thing I can do is role model good eating habits. They are smart enough to know that these types of food and drink are not optimal for health.

As a parent I need to reflect back on what it is like to be a teenager. It took me until I was over 40 years old to change to a whole foods approach to eating, so I cannot expect miracles from the older kids. Like everything with family life, how I feed the family is a work in progress. We are far from perfect but we are all healthy and well fed and this gives me a great base to keep working from.

Have you made any changes to the way your family eats? I would love to hear what your experience has been!