You serve a vegetarian chili, and your husband asks you not to make it again.  You decide not to buy sodas and your tween or teen gives you a stricken look.  You set a plate of “grown-up” food in front of your 5 year old and she asks for “nuggets.”

It’s discouraging.  You might even want to give up.

If any of this sounds familiar, know that you are not alone.  And don’t give up.

When I first started cooking healthier meals – less meat and more legumes and vegetables – the response was no overly encouraging.  I heard things like “I don’t like black beans” and “It’s not Monday, where’s the meat?”  and “I really don’t like brown rice.”

But I couldn’t give up.  I was the one doing the grocery shopping and cooking.  If my family was going to eat better so they could live happy and healthy lives, it was up to me.

Dinner was trial and error as I learned to prepare new foods with unfamiliar textures and flavors.  But every time I served something new, our palates were expanded.  Slowly, slowly, they started enjoying the new dishes.  Eventually they scarfed down dinner with smiles like they had before, and asked for more.

If you are trying to transition your family’s eating habits to something healthier, here are my top tips for smoothing the transition:

Add New Foods

Rather than try and overhaul family meals overnight, start by simply adding an additional vegetable or grain.

Cut the amount of meat on the plate by 1/3 to ½, and add the new side dish.  Or serve a vegetable appetizer while you finish up cooking dinner.

Your family still gets to enjoy the foods they are used to, but are able to sample something new.  They might surprise themselves and actually like it!

Use Smart Substitutes

Cut the ground meat in your dish by half and substitute beans.  Taco filling can be half ground beef and half pinto or black beans.  Cannellini beans are great in place of ground turkey or chicken.

Kids demanding soda?  Offer them an all natural brand sweetened with natural Stevia, like Zevia.

Overcome Texture Complaints

If your family dislikes brown rice, use a par-boiled brown rice which has a texture closer to that of white to transition them to regular brown rice.

If they are used to white bread, bring home a loaf of 100% white whole wheat.  White whole wheat has a lighter flavor.

If they don’t like a particular vegetable, try preparing it in a different wayParsnips roasted to golden brown deliciousness may be preferred to mashed.

The key is to keep trying.  Keeping introducing healthier foods in different ways until they grow accustomed to eating better.  It takes time.  So don’t give up!  You know your family is worth it.

Have you overcome obstacles to help your family eat better?  Share your success secrets in the comments below.