I was driving our younger kids to school this spring when they started chatting about the typical contents of a school lunch. I remember feeling heavy hearted hearing what we are feeding our kids. While processed foods and snacks in our kids’ bellies may not show up physically today, we know with certainty that these eating habits will rear their ugly heads as adults with diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and other chronic illnesses. We know that 80% of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes and 40% of cancer can be prevented and what we eat is a huge part of that prevention.

As part of my new practice in integrative medicine, I run food programs guiding people through a four-week program designed to change their relationship with food. It’s not a diet, it’s not a cleanse, it’s a reintroduction of what real food is and an elimination of what food is NOT. It is a way for me to live my mission of helping my patients and clients fuel themselves with food and break free from standard American diet (SAD).

One of the recurring themes I find in my food programs is people wanting their family to jump on board with this new way of eating. My patients and clients feel better both physically and mentally and naturally want to share this with their loved ones.

Here are my tips for getting your family on board with clean eating:

  • Lead by example. The most critical part of making successful changes in your family are in first making them yourself. This is a time to be selfish, focus on your own eating habits. Your family will inevitably follow your lead.
  • Talk about what you are doing. While I don’t advise people to force clean eating down their family’s throats, I DO encourage them to be vocal. Talk about why you are drinking that green smoothie. Discuss why you are choosing a healthy food over an unhealthy option. I like to throw in scientific facts, like “I eat carrots because they are good for my eyes.” Education is key.
  • Keep the crap out of the house. One of the first steps in my food program is a pantry fridge clean-out. This is my favorite step as I watch people clean out the unhealthy processed foods from their pantry and fridge and then refill with a rainbow of healthy foods. Our kids are surrounded by treats and unhealthy foods every day when they are out of our homes. Make your home a haven of healthy foods.
  • Give them alternatives. When you remove the processed and sugary foods from your house, replace them with healthy alternatives! Make healthy trail mixes, teach them how to make ants on a log with celery, peanut butter and raisins as a healthy snack. Keep plentiful amounts of fruits and veggies available for snacking.
  • Get them in the kitchen. My kids have loved getting their hands in the kitchen and it makes me so happy knowing that these skills will follow them for life! One of my kids favorite “treats” is our homemade “spritzer.” In place of soda, I buy 100% fruit juice and sparkling water and they make their own drinks to enjoy on special occasions.
  • Focus on things other than food. Food, like alcohol can tend to be the focus of many of our social gatherings. Change it up! Play more games, play music, tell stories. These are the real things that create joy. Let our food be the backdrop to our experiences.
  • Consistency is key. Live this life of clean eating. Don’t go about clean eating as a short and quick diet, go about it as a lifestyle change. Start slow, start small and stick with it.
  • Don’t expect perfection! Life is about balance. It’s not about getting rid of summer evenings at the ice cream stand or not eating birthday cake at the party. Its about eating clean MOST of the time and allowing yourself time to “fall of the wagon.