April 17, 2014

Meals are one of the most common things to bond over, so when one person changes what they eat, it's bound to impact everyone else in their household. But this doesn't mean that you should try and force kale on your boyfriend or family-or make yourself eat a salad while they dig into pizza. Here are three easy ways to make your diet work for you-and for everyone you eat with.

1. Reinvent Your Favorites

Most people resist changing what they eat because they don't want to give up their favorite foods for ones that don't taste as good. But you can eat with dietary restrictions and still have mac and cheese, burgers, ice cream, cookies, and so forth. It's just a matter of making a healthier version that's high in flavor but low in the other things you're avoiding, like unhealthy fats or sugar. Not sure where to start? Why not make this creamy but low-calorie parmesan pasta sauce, or follow this quick trick for making a meatball sub with a fraction of the fat.

2. Adjust Your Portions

I am a big proponent of serving food family style and letting everyone choose how much to eat. Just make sure you have a number of healthy options so it's easy to balance out anything that might get in the way of your diet. For example, when it's lasagna night, limit your helping to a single small serving and fill up on side vegetables or fruit instead. The more healthy choices you make available, the better. Because many vegetables can be roasted at the same temperature, I often cook dishes of things like carrots and Brussels sprouts at the same time, giving me more options, more color, and more nutrients at every meal.

3. Find New Ways to Add Flavor

Cooking from scratch may take a little bit of practice, but the added sugar and chemicals in pre-packaged foods can make a major impact on your waistline, and not in a good way. So dump the pre-made spice mixes, sauces, and other flavorings. My homemade taco spice might require six to eight containers of separate spices rather than a single packet, but it's healthy and easy to always have on hand. When you start to home in on how things like a dash of red pepper or curry can add flavor, you'll see that a little fat and spice can go a long way to pleasing even picky eaters. So can creativity: I once served my brother, my nephew, and my boyfriend a breakfast of eggs with carrot, radish, and onion, and there weren't any leftovers!

By Brooke Randolph, LMHC, for