Losing weight involves a lot of changes. At least it did for me.
One of the most significant changes I had to make was in how I cooked and prepared food. If you have read my book, you know that when John and I first got married, I knew absolutely zilch about making meals. The only thing I could make was dessert. Truly. So he and I went out to eat a LOT and I gained a lot of weight during those early years of our marriage.
Once the children started coming along, we lessened how frequently we went out to eat and I had to learn to cook. And I did learn. I didn’t do a lot of fancy things in the kitchen, but I could make a good chicken casserole, decent potato salad, and buttery biscuits. Even though I learned how to cook, I didn’t cook very many “weight loss” friendly meals.
Most of the meals I prepared were relatively high in calories, had a lot of processed ingredients, and were not nutrient dense. I served canned vegetables with the main dishes, did a salad now and then, but for the most part, I cooked to get dinner on the table and be done with it. I also made dessert almost every night.
Although I dieted constantly during the 10 years that I was morbidly obese, I never worked very hard at learning to make healthier meals at home. I tried to lose weight by eating less of the unhealthy stuff but that never worked for long. Or, I tried to lose weight by making myself a different meal than I made the family. That never worked for long either.
During my last weight loss experience, I made a radical shift in my thinking. I decided that I needed to change the way the whole family ate and not just change the way I ate. I also made another really important decision. I decided that I did not want to feed myself different foods than my family was eating.
I needed to cook for my family (and myself) and still lose weight.
The best thing about that decision was that I lost weight, but the next best thing was that I learned a lot about healthy cooking techniques, changed the types of foods I was feeding my family, and developed habits that helped me maintain my weight for all these years.
If you struggle with how to cook for your family and still lose weight, I want to encourage you to figure it out. This is one of the most important lessons to learn. Real life weight loss looks a lot like real life maintenance. If you cannot cook for your family in a way that enables you to lose weight, then you might need to make a change.
Think about it this way: Good food for weight loss is often good food for families.
Here are six tips to help you cook healthy for your family and still drop the pounds.
1. Find Healthy Substitutions - Look at your favorite recipes and identify those unhealthy ingredients. Find better and healthier substitutions such as making your own condensed soup (recipe here), sautéing in water instead of oil, and reducing the amount of cheese or other high calorie ingredients in foods.
2. Try One New Recipe a Week – Don’t change everything at once or you may have a rebellion on your hands. Try a new healthy recipe each week while at the same time “lightening” up the old ones.
3. Involve Your Family – It doesn’t matter if there are just two people in your family or nine like in mine. Get them involved in the planning, cooking, and preparation of meals. It makes a difference in how enthusiastically they will eat it if they’ve helped prepare it!
4. Be Enthusiastic - If you serve a new dish with a sheepish look on your face and say, “This is a new recipe and it’s supposed to be really good for you,” your family will immediately be on guard. Believe me, I learned this lesson first hand. Instead, when you make something new, present it with flair and confidence.
5. Find Your Sneaky Side – I’m not sneaky by nature, but when it came to losing weight and changing how we ate, I found my inner sneak. If I added flax seed to casseroles or used Greek yogurt instead of sour cream, I told no one. And no one ever knew. Be sneaky when adding healthy ingredients to the foods until your family is more on board.
6. Watch Portions for You and Everyone Else – Children are obese all over this country and it’s probably not just from school meals. As a mom, I have a responsibility to make sure the kids have the foods they need in the right quantity. I serve from the stove most nights and give each person the amount they need. If they want more food they can have it, but they have to eat all their vegetables/salad/fruit before they can have more of the main dish or bread.
I know this was a long post, but cooking for my family is something I’m passionate about. It is so important to cook for yourself so you can meet your weight loss goals and also cook for your family. The two do not (and should not) be mutually exclusive.
Do you have tips on cooking for your family while losing weight? Was it a struggle to get everyone on board with eating healthier? Diane