Here are some easy-to-follow tips to improve your family's nutrition.

Reviewed by James Brann, M.D.

Tired of trying to get the family to shape up? Take charge, take control and take action. Here's how.

Do you ever get tired of nagging the family about the foods they eat? Maybe you've noticed your husband's up a waist size, some extra weight on your teenager, or a little bulge here and there when you look in the mirror. Time to take action and take control. Here are some easy-to-follow tips to improve your family's nutrition.

Shop Smart
  • Good family nutrition actually begins in the supermarket with the foods you buy. Obviously, if you don't buy foods loaded with empty calories, your family won't eat them.

  • Start by making your usual, weekly shopping list. Next, cross off all foods that contribute little in the way of sound nutrition, but deliver a pack of calories. These include things like cookies and cakes, sugary juices and sodas, chips, snacks, candy, ice cream and other hi-cal goodies.

  • Instead, replace these foods with lower calorie alternatives: air-popped popcorn, fresh fruits, sugar-free cereals (shredded wheat, oatmeal, etc.) and lo-cal popsicles. Also, eliminate as many prepared foods as possible - frozen dinners, vegetables with rich sauces, frozen waffles and so on.

  • If you expect a revolt on the part of the family, make the transition from a harmful to healthy diet a gradual one, replacing one or two items each week with healthy substitutes. It will lessen the shock to their systems and give you some relief from complaints.

Cook Smart
  • Instead of frying foods, bake them. Frying adds extra fat. Baking actually removes fats from meat when the meat is baked on a rack. No one will complain about a nice, baked chicken or a baked potato.

  • Replace high-fat ingredients with low-fat substitutes. If the family's favorite raisin cake calls for a whole stick of butter and 2 cups of sugar, adapt the recipe. Replace one-half stick of butter with low-fat milk and add some extra raisins for sweetness to cut out half the sugar.

  • Make a lot. If you're going to eliminate most prepared foods, better have something in the fridge for a light lunch. So, make a big pot of pasta, drizzle on a little olive oil, toss in some freshly chopped tomatoes and some chopped basil. Whatever's left over from dinner becomes lunch tomorrow - and it'll taste better than any frozen food you could buy at the store.
Serve Smart
  • Move supper back a half-hour. If you normally eat supper at 6:00, push it back a half-hour, or, if the family doesn't faint from hunger, move the dinner hour to 7:00. This way, they'll be whole lot less snackin' goin' on.

  • Use portion control to cut calories. Don't put serving bowls on the supper table. Instead, serve each family member a little bit less than usual. And, put each meal on a smaller plate. It fools the eye and the appetite.

  • Lower the status of food in your home. Don't talk about what to have for dinner tomorrow while you're eating dinner tonight. If you make food important, it will become important to your family. Take the importance off of food and remember:

Eat to live. Don't live to eat.