When you or another family member goes paleo or follows a restrictive diet, it can be extremely difficult to prepare healthy meals that the whole family will enjoy. In my family, my mom and I follow the autoimmune protocol, but my dad and sister still eat their gluten and dairy. My sister and I are mostly out of the house now besides holiday breaks, but here are five simple kitchen swaps our family has adopted over the years to stay healthy.
Paleo-ify your dinners.
Let your family members can eat what they want (within reason) for breakfast and lunch, but dinner can be paleo. A traditional, nutritious meal of meat/fish, vegetables, and a starch will leave your family’s bellies happy, healthy, and full of nutrient dense foods. That’s not to say that my dad and sister never have rolls, gravy, or grains like corn with dinner, but the majority of our dinners are completely paleo. (Then once your dinners are paleo, you can slowly start to attack breakfast and dinner).
Ditch the vegetable oils
Vegetable oils are full of trans-fats which can oxidize in the body and cause a lot of tissue damage. It is such an easy swap to replace these harmful oils with grass-fed butter, coconut oil, or even avocado oil in your family’s favorite baked goods. Even when my mom makes gluten-filled treats for my sister’s friends, she swaps the oil for butter. They never notice the difference. The best brownies I ever made, I used coconut oil, and my friends still rave about them. The brownies didn’t even last two hours in our apartment. Also, try out your favorite stir-fries with coconut oil!
Clean up the drinks in your house
Introduce your family to non-dairy milks like coconut and almond milk, whether it be in their cereal, smoothies, or with a chocolate chip cookie. I know almond milk freaked my sister out at first, but one spoiled cow milk experience later and she will never go back to cow’s milk. Also, try to eliminate sugary drinks and diet sodas in the house. Save 100% fruit juice for special occasions, and be sure to avoid anything with high fructose corn syrup or refined sugar.
Meal Prep: Always have healthy snacks on hand
Have more paleo foods pre-made and ready to go so your family can grab a quick and nutritious snack. Be adventurous and test out new recipes, and encourage your family to try your foods, even if it’s just one bite. Add a few paleo dishes into your family’s meal rotation, and before you know it, they will be eating healthier than ever. Soon enough, your family may start choosing your paleo foods over their gluten and dairy filled “foods.” Ever since going paleo, I have tried a plethora of new veggies that I would have never discovered if I did not change my diet. For example, I thought avocado looked gross until my friends made me try guacamole. Now I’m in love and eat avocado on the daily. My sister discovered she loves zoodles more than regular pasta, and my dad now loves my mom’s zucchini stir-fries.
Say goodbye to refined sugar
Sugar is the root of many chronic diseases (not fat), and it is hidden everywhere, whether it be in your tomato sauce, bacon, or dairy products. Skip the sugar substitutes like aspartame, sucralose, and sorbitol, as these sugar alcohols can cause much GI upset, insulin spikes, and sugar cravings, leading to weight gain. Instead, use natural sugars like maple syrup, coconut sugar, or honey in your recipes. For a bonus, honey has natural antibiotic properties. You can even swap in a ripe banana in certain recipes (check out my naturally sweetened banana bread recipe here). However, sugar is sugar, even if it’s natural, so it should be kept to a minimum. But if you’re going to eat it, make sure you chose natural sugar.
Just like it is nearly impossible to go completely paleo overnight, it is also hard for your family to completely change their dietary habits, especially if they do not have any health conditions motivating them to do so. Believe me, my sister loves her gluten and would never give it up unless she had to. And I still have to remind my dad to lose the salt, quit the margarine, and use butter instead. Making gradual changes like these are simple ways to ease your family into adopting a healthier lifestyle. I believe that eating healthier at home will help your family make healthier decisions outside the home, especially your children as they grow up and start to make more food choices.