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How to Get Your Family to Eat Healthier This Winter

By Jenny Silverstone

Keeping your family’s healthy eating on track can be particularly hard during the winter. With the gloomy weather and diving temperatures, many fruits and veggies are out of season, making them expensive or impossible to find.

Plus, when it’s cold out, many of us want to reach for hot, filling, and often high-calorie comfort foods. And with all those holiday parties, it can be hard to resist those tasty Christmas cookies, pies, and candy.

So, how can we encourage our spouses, our kids, and frankly, ourselves to keep eating healthily all winter when we are facing so many obstacles? We have some suggestions for you.

Think soups

It’s okay to have a steaming plate of mac and cheese one night during the week if you concentrate on getting tons of veggies.

One of the best ways to do that is with a steaming bowl of soup, which always feels comforting during a cold winter day. You can get nutritional powerhouses such as garlic, carrots, and onions into your main course. Even kids who don’t normally like onions might not find them objectionable in soups because they absorb the taste of what they’re being cooked with.

Try to add as many veggies in a broth-based soup as possible—like peas, cabbage, green beans, celery, and green pepper. We recommend broth soups instead of creamy ones because the calories are generally much lower.

Go for canned or frozen fruits and vegetables

The bad thing about fruits and vegetables is that many are out of season in the winter. You might not have fresh options, but you can still get frozen or canned products. Frozen strawberries can make a great dessert option after a meal.

If your local store doesn’t have a great frozen or canned fruit and vegetable selection, perhaps you should make a once-a-month drive to a bigger grocery store to stock up on a variety of products.

Sneak those veggies in

If you have picky eaters on your hands, some trickery might be in order. You shouldn’t feel bad—you’re just trying to protect their health and keep their immune system in tip-top shape during cold and flu season.

You can fool your children into eating extra veggies and they’ll be none the wiser. For example, substitute some steamed cauliflower in with your mashed potatoes—just prepare them as usual. It’s also easy to sneak pureed carrots or peppers into tomato sauce for your spaghetti without changing the flavor too much.

Make your treats contain fruits and vegetables

It’s hard to entirely pass up the treats around the holidays. You can incorporate some healthier adjustments into those baked goods.

Have you ever considered making a carrot cake instead of chocolate cake? You can satisfy a sweet tooth with pumpkin bread or banana bread, and your kids might not even miss the cookies.

Whenever you make any baked goods, it’s fine to replace any oil with applesauce while mixing up the batter. It will make your recipe moister and save a ton of calories and fat.

Bring a fruit and veggie tray

When you go to parties, you shouldn’t bank on there being many healthy options—so why not bring one? After downing a dozen cookies and multiple slices of different kinds of pies, some people might be thankful for the changeup. An easy alternative is to create a fruit or veggie tray with ingredients that are easy to find in your local market. Whichever you choose, keep a healthy dip in mind, too.

Before you let your children—or yourself—eat any sweets, be sure a serving or two of the healthy stuff is eaten first. This will dampen your appetite a bit so you can curb any overeating.

Drink plenty of water

An easy way to avoid gaining a quick 10 pounds this winter is to stay well hydrated. When the weather is colder, we often stop drinking as much water without even realizing it.

Water, even if it doesn’t seem filling, can curb our appetites, helping us eat fewer calories. Sometimes, when we’re reaching for food, it could be because we’re mildly dehydrated. We think we’re hungry when really all we need is more fluids.

Whether it’s sparkling water or flavored seltzer, try to increase your liquid intake to combat eating too much unhealthy food this winter. If your child isn’t a fan of water, try to give him or her a fancy cup filled with water and a slice of lemon or lime. It might make it just special enough that they’ll give it a try.

Don’t give up

Everyone has slip-ups in their diets over the winter. A few bad choices aren’t a disaster, as long as you work to keep them under control. After all, it is the holiday season, and everyone deserves a bit of their favorite dessert.

The key to success is a little ingenuity, some willpower, and a lot of advance planning. If you keep at it, you can optimize the nutrients you take in, keep the bad stuff minimized, and avoid a huge weight gain over the winter.