The 30-Day Healthy Eating Challenge
By Liz Weiss, MS, RDN
Trying to get your family's diet back on track? With our 30-Day Healthy Eating Challenge, your crew is just one month away from better eating habits!
It's summertime and the livin' is easy, so now's the perfect time (since you've got more time!) to start eating healthier as a family. Our Healthy Eating Challenge features a month's worth of smart but totally doable habits, from adding an extra serving of veggies to your daily diet to focusing on eating a "rainbow" of colorful foods. Every day and every change is designed to make families healthier. Want to join the adventure? Take part on social media with the hashtag, #HealthyEatingChallenge and share your success stories as you go.
Cook with your kids: Invite your kids into the kitchen to help with meal prep. Even something as simple as a snack of sliced veggies with Easy Homemade Hummus can set kids up for a lifetime of healthful eating. Kids love hands-on activities, and cooking is no exception. Things might get messy, but just think of all the fun you'll have with a tiny sous chef or two by your side. Need ideas? Check out these 33 Recipes to Cook with Kids.
Add extra fiber to your diet: Does your family get the recommended 25 to 38 grams of fiber each day (19 grams for 1 to 3 year olds)? Fiber is good for digestion and keeps blood sugar in check, but despite the benefits, most people don't consume enough. Boost your intake with everyday foods like 1/3 cup canned black beans, 1/3 cup almonds, 1 cup broccoli, 1 small pear, or half of a medium-size avocado.
Start your day with a serving of fruit: Before you butter your toast or pour a bowl of breakfast cereal, eat some fruit. You'll get one step closer to the recommended 1.5 cups daily for women ages 31-50. Try a bowl of mixed berries, juicy orange sections, a wedge of watermelon, or a banana. Heck, a quarter cup of dried cranberries even counts. This "fruit first" approach is delicious, nutritious, and best of all, it's easy.
Shop your local farmers' market: Do your kids know where carrots come from? Have they ever tried a fresh-picked watermelon radish? Take your family to the farmers' market to sample fresh produce plucked straight from the farm, and let everyone pick a new fruit or vegetable to bring home. To make your trip even more of an adventure, download this Farmers' Market Scavenger Hunt.
Start a container garden: Are you a green thumb, or does everything you plant literally wither at the vine? Now's your chance to find success as a back-yard gardener with a simple container garden. Start small with a flower pot, some soil, and fragrant herbs like rosemary, thyme, basil, and parsley—and invite your kids to help with planting, watering, snipping, and incorporating your bounty into recipes like this basil-topped Double P Pizza.
Eat ugly produce: Did you know that 40 percent of the food produced in the U.S. goes to waste? There are numerous reasons why food gets tossed, and being ugly is one of them. Show misshapen tomatoes and gnarly carrots some respect by purchasing ugly produce. To learn more, check out the Ugly Fruit and Vegetable Campaign.
Replace sports drinks with plain 'ol water: What's your favorite way to quench a thirst? A 20-ounce sports drink can have 8 or more teaspoons of added sugar, so water is your best bet. To make it more flavorful and interesting, fill a pitcher or re-usable bottle with water and then doctor it up with cucumber slices and mint, citrus slices, or a mix of fresh berries. Chill and have at the ready for a delicious flavor-infused sip.
Grocery shop with a list: Get in the habit of shopping with an aisle-by-aisle list to avoid impulse purchases or last-minute trips to the supermarket for forgotten items. Spend an hour each week planning meals and taking stock of what's already on hand in your pantry, and then check off only the ingredients you need. You'll save time and money.
Eat More Pulses: Beans, dry peas, lentils, and chickpeas are affordable, versatile, sustainable, and they're packed with fiber and protein. Put pulses on your table with homemade chili brimming with kidney or pinto beans; try savory split pea soup; buy a tub of hummus (it's made with chickpeas!); or toss a salad with a yummy salad dressing (we recommend Ken's new Simply Vinaigrette line) and top it with cooked lentils.
Self-serve dinner: Serve dinner family style in large bowls and platters so everyone at your table can pick and choose what appeals to their taste buds and appetites. It's fun for kids to follow the lead of adults and older siblings by serving themselves. Pre-plating may be a bit less fussy, but it "tells" a child what and how much they "should" be eating versus listening to their own tummies.
Skip Dessert After Dinner: Add a sweet ending to the evening meal by taking a family walk, tossing a ball in the back yard, or playing a board game. Or start a new dessert tradition by setting out a festive fruit and nut platter filled with sliced apples, pears, dried apricots, and crunchy toasted walnuts or pecans.
Make a Green Smoothie Bowl: Swap your kids' usual smoothies with a gorgeous green smoothie bowl. Fill a blender with plain yogurt, orange juice, frozen sliced bananas, chia seeds, green or golden kiwifruit, and a handful of baby spinach or kale. Decorate the top with coconut chips and fruit (it's a work of art), and serve with a spoon. No straw required!
Eat good bacteria: Trillions of good bacteria live in your gut and play a role in everything from regulating your immune system to the health of your brain. (Fun fact: If you lined up your good bacteria end to end, they'd reach the moon!) Keep your gut in tip-top shape by adding one or more bacteria-rich fermented foods to your diet including yogurt, kefir, fresh pickles, or kimchee.
Set up a build-your-own bar for dinner: If you thought Legos and blocks were fun, you'll love this new way to ring in the dinner hour. With build-your-own dinners, everyone in the family can customize the evening entre to their liking. Try it with pizzas, tacos, twice-baked potatoes, pasta, and protein bowls.
Try a new recipe for dinner: Enjoy a taste adventure by trying a new recipe for an entree your family already loves. Grilled chicken for dinner again? Why not take that bird to Mexico and serve with a fresh salsa, or taste travel to Italy by topping grilled chicken with capers and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Here are a few more chicken dinners to try.
Make half of your grains whole grain: Add the nutty flavors of brown rice or whole grain bread to your menus today. Make sure that half of your grain food choices are made with whole grains. Add whole grain pastas and crackers to your pantry and discover whole grain side dishes such as quinoa or wild rice blend.
Try one new vegetable: Plant a new vegetable on your family menu by discovering the taste of a veggie you might not have tried before or haven't purchased in a long time. Kohlrabi is a farmers' market darling that you can slice and serve with a dip. Sliced radishes add crunch and a refreshing peppery note to tossed salads. And why not roast a whole butternut squash, dice it up, and add to the salad, too?
Read the food label: Federal law requires that every packaged food contain a Nutrition Facts panel complete with calories, sodium, saturated fat, nutrients like calcium and iron, and more. Put your sleuthing skills to the test by reading the label on every packaged food you eat for the day. You may be surprised how quickly some of those numbers add up.
Eat a rainbow: Eat produce in every color of the rainbow today. Color is a cue for health-promoting phytonutrients inside fruits and vegetables—and typically the darker the better. So choose a variety of vibrantly hued produce to add to your plate today, from bright orange sweet potatoes and deep green spinach to colorful berries, cherries, and grapes. White produce counts too, so add a few "clouds" to your rainbow with mushrooms, onions, or cauliflower.
Try one new fruit: Branch out of your typical fruit rotation and go a little tropical. Try mangos, papaya, or passion fruit in a fruit salad or blended into a smoothie or smoothie bowl. Or slice up a starfruit and delight your kids with a star-shared snack. If your kids aren't quite as adventurous, simply try a familiar fruit in a different color: Swap a golden kiwi for the usual green, or buy yellow cherries instead of red.
Get a new kitchen gadget: Streamline dinner prep by introducing a new gadget or small appliance—you may discover new family favorites enabled by the equipment. Splurge on an Instant Pot, try a spirializer, or get a mini food processor to make your own hummus, pesto, and salsas. An apple corer, cherry pitter, mango cutter, or pineapple corer can make it easier to eat more fruit.
Go meatless: Join the Meatless Monday movement and build your meals around plant-based foods instead of meat. It's good for your health—and the planet's! Check out convenient meat alternatives at the market, including burgers and ground meat substitutes, and use them for veggie tacos, spaghetti sauce, or lasagna. Or make vegetable-forward meals, such as cauliflower "steak," a bean-filled chili, or a pizza topped with mozzarella and vegetables.
Shop in the center aisle of the supermarket: That's right, no need to only stick to the perimeter of the grocery store. You'll find lots of convenient and wholesome options in those center aisles–from canned beans, canned pumpkin, and boneless skinless salmon to hearty soups (watch the sodium), whole wheat pasta, oats, nuts, and super seeds like chia, sunflower, flax, and hemp.
Plan your weekly meals with your kids: Be the captain of the kitchen today by enlisting your tiny troops to help with meal planning. You set the rules—healthy; at least one veggie with dinner; something easy—then get busy prepping and cooking. When kids get a say in 'what's for dinner,' they're more likely to get excited about trying new foods.
Try a new veggie preparation: Steamed vegetables can get ho hum after a while, so shake up your veggie repertoire by playing around with different veggie preparations. Roast cauliflower and broccoli florets; serve less familiar vegetables like radishes, kohlrabi, and snow peas with a Greek yogurt dip or a drizzle of a dressing (one of Ken's Simply Vinaigrettes would work here, too); make sweet potato chips; and fill a grill basket with mushrooms, sweet potato wedges, and colorful diced bell peppers.
Eat Mindfully: Slow down and savor the flavor, aroma, colors, and texture of every bite, and unplug from TVs and cell phones. Eating mindfully fosters a healthy relationship with food because it helps to reduce overeating and binge eating. So challenge everyone at your table tonight to chew each bite a few extra times and pause between forkfuls. Just think of all the extra time you'll have for engaging conversation.
Eat together as a family: Thirty percent of families eat together every night. Let's get to 100 percent today by sitting down to a delicious family dinner! The benefits to children of shared family meals include everything from improved eating habits and a healthier body weight to stronger academic performance in school. Make mealtime more manageable by planning ahead, being creative (a picnic at the park totally counts!), assigning kitchen tasks to every member of the family, and placing a realistic limit on evening activities. And speaking of planning, how about one of these 30 Minutes-Max Dinners tonight?
Nix packaged snack foods: Unless, of course, it's a package of nuts, dried fruit, or a whole grain like popcorn. Packaged snack foods are often a red flag that what you're buying contains a lot of sodium, saturated fat, sugar, and hard-to-pronounce ingredients. Commit to a whole-foods approach to snacking with fresh fruit, veggies served with hummus, homemade trail mix, or baked corn chips with homemade guacamole.
Replace (some) white flour with whole wheat: The next time you bake up a batch of muffins or gather ingredients for pancakes, consider replacing a quarter to half of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour. Whole wheat flour has more fiber and nutrients like folate and B vitamins. Baked goods made with whole wheat flour will be heavier and denser, so start slow and experiment as you go. You may need to add a few extra tablespoons of liquid to compensate.
Say goodbye to soft drinks: Today is your day to go cold turkey on soft drinks. Swap sugar-sweetened beverages for a homemade fizzy drink made with seltzer water with 100% orange, grape, or pomegranate juice.
Liz Weiss, MS, RDN is a mom of two with a specialty in family nutrition. She's the voice behind the family food blog and podcast, Liz's Healthy Table and author of the playful new coloring book series, Color, Cook, Eat!