I’m convinced! Now I have to convince my family. How do I change our diet most effectively?

Did you ever hear the riddle, “How do you eat an elephant?” Actually, I’d prefer it to be “How do you eat a watermelon?” In either case, the answer is “One bite at a time.” And that’s how I’d like you to look at converting from the typical American diet to one that is centered on fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes. You need to make this a family project, and that includes winning over your spouse who may prefer meat and potatoes.

Begin by serving the same foods you’ve always made, but cut out the oils and sugars whenever possible. If you’re serving steak and French fries, make the piece of steak smaller, and for the fries, substitute a baked potato. Replace the sour cream and butter with yogurt and chives, and add a colorful vegetable to the meal. Gradually, move to rice and pasta dishes in which the meat is more of a flavoring than a major ingredient. If you take it slowly and don’t shock their sensibilities, even the most dedicated meat muncher will begin to enjoy the new foods. By the time he realizes you’re doing something different, he’ll feel much better, and he’ll think it was his idea in the first place!

You’ll find there are tastes that your children don’t like. Broccoli or cauliflower may not cause them to cheer when it first shows up on their plates, so try combining them with other tastes. Add the new vegetables to a familiar salad or pasta. Remember that fresh vegetables always taste better than canned or frozen. Keep them crisp and not mushy.

You can do the same sort of substitution over time with foods like chili. Gradually reduce the meat, increase the beans, and perhaps add vegetables until no one really notices the difference.

It’s up to you! Just don’t restock the greasy snack foods when you go to the store. Buy more from natural food and health food stores and less from the supermarket. Replace mayonnaise-laden egg salad with a flavorful tabbouli made with grain, green onions, tomatoes, vinegar, and a little olive oil. You can find the complete mix in a box at most grocery stores. Instead of French onion dip, have hummus ready as a dip for carrot sticks and zucchini slices. In place of a bowl of oily potato salad, provide cold pasta with seasoned low-fat dressing. For dessert, serve a plain baked apple, stuffed with cinnamon and raisins, instead of a fat-laden apple pie.

You can convert your family from the old ways to the optimum diet. It’s going to take a little effort on your part but the rewards will be greater than anything else you could wish for your family: optimum health and well being.

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