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"Eating Healthier as a Family: Ten Small Changes that Can Make a Big Difference"

Article written by Laura Plunkett
February 20, 2007

Changing a family's diet requires two crucial elements: patience and persistence. Keep in mind that this is a long-term project so go at your own pace. Decide upon a change and stick with it. Don't let them see you waver.

1. Explain that changes in your family's diet benefit everyone's overall health, not just the child with diabetes. Eating more vegetables, fruits, and whole grains while avoiding sugar, white flour, and processed foods pays healthy dividends for everyone.

2. As we struggle with our own eating impulses, we know how hard it is to deny ourselves without support and encouragement. Think of your family as an organization like Weight Watchers. Your job is to keep a close eye on your child's ups and downs, set limits, and offer constant praise and encouragement.

3. When you shop, concentrate on the outer edges of the store where you find fresh produce, meat, fish, whole grain breads, dairy, and frozen fruits and vegetables. Avoid the cookie, cracker, juice, candy, and soda aisles.

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4. Each time you place an item in the shopping cart, consider whether it has nutritional value. If it doesn't have vitamins, minerals, protein, or fiber, leave it in the store.

5. When you get home, wash and cut up the fruit and vegetables and put them on a shelf in the refrigerator so that they are the first thing your children see when they open the door.

6. Place a snack plate of green pepper, carrots, cucumbers, celery filled with peanut butter, and some ranch dressing next to your children when they are watching television, playing computer, or doing homework. Over time, add pieces of raw broccoli, cauliflower, baby tomatoes, red peppers, snap peas, green beans, or celery filled with cream cheese. You can add chunks of cheese, rolled up cold cuts, and fruit as well.

7. A salad at dinner gives everyone raw, enzyme-rich food. Serve it before the meal when your children are really hungry.

8. Feed your children at home before parties. This will help them limit themselves to one or two slices of pizza and a small serving of cake or ice cream. Feeling full, they may be able to skip the frosting, the cookies, and the candy.

9. Save dessert for special occasions rather than keeping sweets in the kitchen. A walk to the ice cream store makes it a treat and less accessible than reaching into the freezer.

10. Take your time and take small steps. Picky eaters need to taste foods many times before they will accept them. You can move from white bread to a slightly darker oat bread before introducing a hearty whole wheat bread. Just when you are ready to give up, you may find your child is ready to give in!

Laura Plunkett is a columnist for Diabetes Health & and an expert on She speaks around the country on "The Challenges of Childhood Diabetes: Strategies for Raising Healthy Children and "Raising Wholesome Children in a Fast-Food World." The Plunkett family has been featured on television and radio as advocates of improving nutrition, increasing exercise and working as a team. Laura and her mother are co-authors of the book, “The Challenge of Childhood Diabetes: Family Strategies for Raising a Healthy Child.” Laura can be reached at: