The art of persuasion: getting your family on board with healthy eating

We're re-sharing a popular post from the archives this week. Perhaps you, too, might enjoy some suggestions on how to get your family on board with healthy eating? Enjoy!

You might be all fired up about healthy eating… but what if your family’s not?

You’ve had the wake up call. You jumped on the scale and the numbers staring up at you were a little too high. Something slapped you in the face about how you are feeling (hello!), or your doctor sprung unhappy news. We can tell ourselves, I should eat healthy, I should eat healthy… but many of us need a jolt to make the shift.

What if you’ve made the shift, but your family doesn’t wanna? I’ve talked to many frustrated people in my culinary confessional who say, “My family’s giving me a hard time! They don’t want to participate.” Just because you’ve had the epiphany doesn’t mean your loved ones are ready to come along. How can you persuade them?

I recommend the back door.

Don’t ANNOUNCE there’s going to be a big food change, just start cooking GOOD food. Don’t make a big deal about it. No preaching allowed! Preparing and offering food that tastes good is the quickest way to get your loved ones to the table. It’s not about deprivation -- it’s about all the tasty things you CAN have. Taste buds don’t lie!

I wrote a lot about this in my book The Cancer Fighting Kitchen. Instead of proclaiming, “We’re cooking clean!” or “We’re going on a cleanse!” just start doing it.  Less fanfare and more flavor yields more positive results. Nobody is going to turn their nose up at something that tastes good! No one will stop eating because it tastes good and they find out that it’s healthy!

I always come back to the power of YUM.

Great taste and great nutrition don’t need to sit on opposite sides of the table. Here are some STUNNER, no-fail, can’t-miss recipes to help you captivate your family with healthy yum!

Sweet Potato-Coconut Soup

Starting with one of my popular creamy, cashmere soups could be a great strategy. When people taste something new that’s colorful, fresh and delicious, they’re bowled over! Our tastebuds are programmed to gravitate toward the freshest tastes, and no amount of processed foods can take that away. It’s embedded in our DNA. That’s your secret weapon!

Brandon’s Roasted Broccoli

This one’s from the new kid on the block -- my 8-year old grandson, Brandon!

He has such a discerning palate he doesn’t even like junk food. He likes vegetables, and he likes to be involved in the kitchen. From a very early age, his mother and father had him up on a stool stirring, washing, and helping assemble meals. When we shop together, we cruise the produce aisle, not the middle of the store, and I have him choose what he likes. He’s developed curiosity and confidence! He brought the broccoli recipe into second grade for show and tell and they all made it, and they all ate it! Roasting brings out the sweetness.

Here he is with his second grade teacher! They added carrots, too.


Braised Chicken with Artichokes and Olives

Sometimes I cook for friends or family and I’ll add an unexpected herb like mint in a dish, whether in a salad or this braised chicken. They love it! Our tastebuds LOVE surprises. They’ll ask what my secret ingredient is. You get to watch that involuntary spasm of vocal delight when your family or guests say, yummmmm!

My 8 top tips for influencing family and friends of all ages to eat healthy:

  1. Don’t say, “Let’s eat healthy!” Go through the backdoor, and cook good food.

  2. Nobody likes being lectured to. Taste speaks far louder than words :)

  3. Don’t assume your kids or grandkids don’t like vegetables. Remember Brandon and the broccoli.

  4. When you see your spouse or partner eating bad stuff, shut up! You’re not their jailor. There are things you can do, however. (See below.)

  5. Make it taste GOOD. This should actually be #1.

  6. Make it pretty. Food tastes better arranged beautifully on a plate, with a flower on the table and a nicely chosen piece of music. Go for it!

  7. Keep trying. Kids may need to be exposed to a new food 8 times! If at first your don’t succeed, don’t despair. Experiment with textures and flavors, and offer a little bite here and there.

  8. Don’t take it personally! This is hard for cooks. But if a member of your family is a super picky eater or super sensitive taster (a DNA thing), you may need to have super patience. Do your best, and remember to breathe!

Pushing doesn’t help. I encourage you: Trust that if you are cooking with intention and quality ingredients, and you’re cooking for big flavor, JUST the taste of good, home-cooked food will propel people in a healthy direction. Just do it!