How do I get the FAMILY CLEAN?

You may be saying,  “Okay, I personally enjoy (most days) eating clean.  But what about my family?  How in the WORLD do I begin to help them to make the shift??”

Unlike the “culture shock” that we put our POWER girls though in our 30 days clean eating challenge…I would say SLOW AND STEADY is the BEST option! 
Over the past 3 years we have made a 180 degree shift with our family and their nutrition. Here are a few “dos and don’ts” that I would suggest.  We have seen the good, bad, and UGLY when it comes to clean eating as a family!  (Feel free to chuckle or commiserate with our families’ meal madness and battles with the “gag reflex”!
EDUCATE.   It helps for them to know a few of the “whys” behind the shift.   Don’t just say, “because MOM says so!”   Give them stats of childhood obesity.  Tell them food is fuel and explain when you go to the gas station it is important that you don’t put garbage in your car…it would not run!  If they are old enough have them watch Food Inc., or Super Size Me, etc.  
Include them…Take them with you to the grocery store and local farmers market.  Tell them they can pick out ANY vegetable they want to try.   Allow them to help cook.  Eeek!    Sometimes if they help prepare it they are more likely to try it!
Introduce 2-5 clean meals a week.  This depends on your level of family’s “buy in” and your ability to get family friendly clean meals on the table.   
Give Choices…we often have 3 vegetables and tell them they must pick 2.  Or ask, “do you want Quinoia or Cous Cous with your dinner tonight?”  When THEY are in the drivers seat battles are often diffused.    I have even had a “Tuesday Try It” with a huge “buffet” of raw veggies and different types of hummus that they can pick from and try.
Take out the worst stuff:
Go through your cabinets and THROW AWAY (or GIVE AWAY):
Anything with high fructose corn syrup, white sugar and white flour, additives, colors, preservatives, and foods high in sodium and fat. 
(Just as it is a process to change your palate…it is tough for theirs to change if Fruit Loops, and Teddy Grahams are begging to be eaten each day.)  It creates more of a fight and drama than you want.  We say, “our home is a DRAMA FREE ZONE”.   
Make them take a “POLITE BITE” (thanks Cathy).  No one wants dinner to be a battle zone but it will become “understood” if you stick to your guns. 
Throw them a bone.  At each meal I tried to ensure that there was SOMETHING on the plate that they would eat.  A fruit for dessert, a type of bread or protein that they liked, etc.  If it is ALL new it will bring about an automatic fight and empty tummies.  The amazing thing is that as they get better and their palates change so do the “bones”.  Our bone tonight was kale chips.   
Give incentives…
Bribe my kids to eat clean??  YEP.  Once a month my kids earn a dime for every bite of NEW food they eat.  WE choose the meal.  Usually it is one we know could become a new favorite but because it is new we suspect resistance!  You would be surprised how much of the plate will be clean with just a few dollars out of OUR pockets!  I also know Janine has had her teens receive a “point” per day and there will be substantial rewards at the end of the week/month for their clean days.  We only started this recently…I would not do this right away…you do not want them to associate every “clean” meal with pay outs! 
Do not b.s. (be specific).  If you use the ingredients names to tell your children what they are eating:  they THINK they hate everything that is new including lentils, Brussels sprouts, or butternut squash.  Get creative…think of new names.  Don’t lie but maybe tell them what it is similar to—or focus on the color…tonight’s Butternut Squash and lentil soup was “Halloween” soup.
Do not quit!      It can be discouraging when they “balk” at your attempts!  It can take as many as 10-12 INTRODUCTIONS to a new food before children’s palates adapt or change.  Some of my kids least favorite last year, are their favorites this year!   One day they DO wake up and like a veggie or fruit that they refused before! 
Do not tolerate disrespect.   Yelling, “GROSS”, “DISGUSTING” is unacceptable.  This is wonderful wholesome meal that you found, shopped for, sweated in the kitchen and served.  It is worth repeating, do not tolerate disrespect.  
I can easily type these dos and dont’s because it has been a huge game of trial and error.  Some days are better than others.  The BEST eater in my house is my 3 year old.  He downs olives, black beans and just about any vegetable placed in front of him.  Let’s do the math…yep, he has really not known life without clean food in it.  This makes it easier.  He is not perfect—but is the least resistant to new things and that is certainly because he has been exposed to this type of food the longest.  The sooner you can get your kids on board the better!  The sooner you can make a few healthy shifts the better. 
Here are a few extra resources if your kids are older or your hubby is not on board:
Here is my favorite blogger she has some great thoughts on creating “clean teens”! 
These are also good thoughts when it comes to encouraging your hubby:
Check out the utube interview with Chris, who was ANTI-Clean and ANTI-vegetable until just 3 years ago!   He has some good thoughts and words of encouragement!
I am PASSIONATE about this subject because it has been a very intentional undertaking for the past 3 years.  Shifts CAN be made. Hang in there…I continue to say YOU are WORTH this shift…YOUR FAMILY IS WORTH IT TOO! 

2 thoughts on “How do I get the FAMILY CLEAN?

  1. I have one more tip to throw out there. Unfortunately a lot of my children's teachers use candy as a “prize” for various things, ie correct answers, good participation, behaviour, etc. My kids don't want to eat it but still want a reward, so they know if they bring home the “treat” they won I will “cash it out”, usually for a new app or song from itunes! Works out great! They still feel rewarded and I feel great about what they're putting into their bodies! win win for all! 🙂


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