Brigid Shaheen and family eating dinner
Photo: Jonathan Sprague
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Engage everyone. In the past, Brigid's husband, Rodger, had resisted her efforts to improve the family's eating habits. When the kids would beg for fast food or sweets, he'd give in—partly because he liked those foods himself. Katz advised Brigid to explain to Rodger that America's children are experiencing an epidemic of diabetes and obesity, and it's part of their job as parents to protect their own boys from that fate. Brigid also let her sons know that when she asks them to eat right, it's not because she's trying to torture them—it's because she loves them and wants them to be healthy and strong. She explained that the family was going to start eating differently and asked for their help and cooperation. "When everyone in the house understands why you're making changes," says Katz, "then you don't have to be the bad guy."

Upgrade the family staples. Katz advised Brigid to go through the pantry, the fridge, and the freezer, and eliminate temptation. (If you do this at home and hear a little voice in your head saying, "I can't throw out perfectly good food!" donate it to a homeless shelter.) Once Brigid had cleared out the bad stuff, she asked her family to join her on a shopping trip. "You don't have to cut out whole categories of food," Katz told her. "You just need to look for better options—like swapping white pasta for whole wheat , or choosing frozen fruit bars instead of ice cream bars."

Distinguishing healthy foods from unhealthy ones requires expert label-reading skills. And kids can help by becoming food detectives. See the four easy rules that Katz shared with Brigid .

Practice patience. "You can't expect to transform your family's taste buds overnight," Katz told Brigid. Sugary foods stimulate a release of dopamine, a brain chemical associated with both pleasure and addiction, and for anyone who's used to getting a big hit of sugar every day, it takes a while to stop craving that chemical rush . Fortunately, the less of these foods you eat, the less your brain will demand them.

Katz also told Brigid to let her kids know that she expected them to try each new food for a week. "It takes about that long for taste buds to acclimate," he says. "For example, if you're switching from white rice to brown rice, you won't like the brown rice as much at first, simply because it's less familiar. And kids gravitate toward familiar foods even more than adults do." They agreed that if the family still disliked the food at the end of the week, they'd look for an alternative.

Brigid's healthy new food plan

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