Healthy Meals for Family Dining

Eating with family is something we all look forward to. Whether it’s celebrating birthdays, promotions at our jobs, even new additions to the family, dining together with family will always come with endless laughter, chatters, and memories over the delightful spread of food.

If you happen to be hosting a family dinner, why not put your own spin to it and make the feast healthier so that you and your loved ones can enjoy these moments for longer? Here’s how we can move our family dinners towards a more health conscious direction without compromising the flavours and taste we all love!

Why Go Healthier?

Some of us may be a little reluctant to substitute the ingredients to our favourite cuisines for fear that it might affect the taste. Truthfully, the taste and flavours will always be different depending on who makes them, how they are made, and what ingredients are used. However, that does not mean it can’t be just as delicious and tasty. 

Keeping everyone’s health in check

When having the entire family together to celebrate and eat, it gives room to cater to everyone’s needs if the menu is healthier. We would not have to worry about certain medical conditions or dietary restrictions of some family members. Although some healthy ingredients can cause allergies like nuts and soy, healthier ingredients are generally accommodating and allergens can always be excluded.

Some family members, especially our elders, may have digestive issues. Healthier foods that are lower in fat will also be easier to digest, allowing us to have enough time in between different courses. This is because fats take longer to be digested and require a good amount of stomach acid to break it down. If your body does not produce enough, you will end up with indigestion issues.

As shared by Dr. Wong Ann Mei of Sengkang Community Hospital, “Add fibre to meals by including raw vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Eat a variety of these whole grain foods, especially brightly coloured produce, as they are richer in antioxidants.” These are some foods that will be quicker and easier to digest. 

How to Make Family Dinners Healthier?

While some recipes call for specific ingredients that may not be the healthiest, not everything is set in stone. You can always adjust the recipes to fit the nutritional values you want the dish to have. Here are some ways to help make your feasts a little healthier but taste just as good.

 

Swap your carbohydrates & fats

One of the easiest ways to help you make your feasts healthier is to swap out your carbohydrates. For us as Asians, rice seems to take centre stage in our daily lives and most of our celebratory feasts. How about swapping out the white rice grains which are simple carbohydrates to complex carbohydrates like Brown Rice or Mixed Grained Rice for a more wholesome dish.

You can also cut down on other simple carbohydrates like white sugar and use healthier alternatives like Coconut Nectar that is lower in GI. Complex carbohydrates are better for our health, especially our heart health. They are richer in fibre which are digested slower and releases energy at a more gradual pace. This helps you stay full longer and you won’t overeat. 

When it comes to fats and oils, remember to be mindful about what and how much you use. Choose healthier options like canola oil, sunflower oil, or olive oil that are rich in good fats or monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These are known to lower LDL, which are considered bad cholesterol levels.

Amp up your fruits & veggies

Using more vegetables and fruits in your menu would definitely supplement you with more essential vitamins and fibre. Try to incorporate fruits and vegetables in all courses of the dinner. You can serve cut up fruits about half an hour before the main course begins. It helps us not to overeat and according to an article by Jec Paras, “It is during this time that several enzymes are produced in order to speed up digestion. The sugar in the fruit is readily absorbed and metabolised, ensuring that the body receives the greatest amount of nutrients, fibre, and minerals.”

Vegetables can also be a great entrée when served as salads. When you fill up on vegetables before the main course, you won’t have to worry about getting sufficient vegetable intake during the dinner itself.

Incorporate superfoods & alternative sweeteners

When shopping for ingredients for your feast, try and look out for options that are healthier. For example, going for ingredients like yoghurt to replace coconut cream for your curry will help you cut down the calories within the dish.You can also try using alternative sweeteners like Coconut Nectar that is low in GI to make delicious desserts or drinks. This way, you can still enjoy the sweetness without worrying it will impact your blood sugar levels.

Tips For Healthier Eating Habits

 

Sometimes, not everything can be totally changed. There will be some dishes that will be kept true to its original recipe for nostalgia sake but, as long as there are healthy options available, your family gathering feasts can still be both delicious and healthy. So here are some tips for eating habits you can cultivate to help you stay on that healthy path.

Be mindful

When preparing your plates and picking out what to eat, be mindful of what you eat first or more of. The goal is to be full without too many calories. According to an article on The Straits Times, “My Healthy Plate outlines the different food groups and serving sizes that people are recommended to consume daily in order to achieve a healthy, balanced diet. It recommends filling a quarter of your plate with wholegrains, a quarter with meat and other proteins such as tofu and eggs, and half your plate with fruit and vegetables.”

Mr. Tan said in the article “It is a simple and easy-to-follow visual guide for making healthy eating choices. In the event that I am unable to follow My Healthy Plate at a meal, I will eat food from all food groups.” This is a good habit to practise to help you be more mindful of what you put and how much you put on your plate.

Eat slower. According to the same article on The Straits Times, “The brain needs about 20 minutes to receive signals from the stomach to tell you that you are already full.” So to avoid overeating, it is recommended that you consciously lower the speed of eating.

Look out for lower calories first

To help you keep your calorie intake in check, try going for lower calorie food first like salads, soups, and stir-fried vegetables. Lower calorie foods will help you to minimise your hunger or maybe even keep you full before you start indulging in richer, creamier or sometimes sweeter foods.

 

 

Making our meals healthier does not require huge adjustments or drastic changes. In fact, little steps can lead to great changes in our and our family’s overall wellbeing.

Nothing means more to us than our families. That is why they will always be the first people we would want to celebrate good news with, share our joys, and be better for. Whenever you have the opportunity, why not bring everyone together through a healthy and delicious meal?