Too many families are reliant on unhealthy fast food and fatty snacks to fill their bellies each day. And while there are plenty of healthier options on a fast-food menu, many people always order unhealthy burgers and fries to feed themselves and their kids, leading to bulging waste lines and potentially scary health risks. The sky-high national obesity rates indicate an epidemic of unhealthy eating. More than two-thirds of American adults and around one-third of the nation's children are considered to be overweight or obese, according to the National Institutes of Health. 

Part of a well-balanced diet means getting all of the vitamins and nutrients that you need. According to the CDC, most young people in the U.S. do not meet the dietary guideline recommendations for eating 2½ cups to 6½ cups of fruits and vegetables each day. Additionally, the CDC reports that kids eat more than the recommended maximum daily intake of sodium and that empty calories from added sugars and solid fats contribute to 40% of their daily calories. Some of the main culprits include soda, fruit drinks, dairy desserts, and pizza.

Children aren’t the only ones who are getting their fill of empty calories, however. The mean caloric energy intake of Americans has increased by nearly 300 calories since 1975, according to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. And according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Americans consume an average of 640 calories worth of added fats per person per day, per data from 2008. So the rise in obesity can be easily tracked back to the increasingly poor eating habits of Americans.

Without eating right, there isn’t much of a way to get in shape. Even if your family gets enough physical activity, without a proper healthy diet, you will always be missing something. Luckily, there are a few easy ways that parents can ensure their whole family has a healthy diet. Check out these tips on how to start eating healthier at home.

1. Cook at home.

While there is nothing wrong with going out to eat from time to time, you are much likelier to have a healthy meal at home since you can control the ingredients going into the meal. Obese adults consume over 13% of their weekly calories from fast food, while normal and underweight people consumed just over 9% of their calories from fast food, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. There is a pretty clear correlation between eating fast food out and obesity. By cooking at home, you can be in control of what you are putting into your body. Even if you are strapped for time, there are plenty of quick dishes you can whip up that are healthy for the whole family.

2. Make the right substitutions.

Once you identify some problem areas of your diet, make the steps to find a suitable alternative to those problem areas. If you notice that you and your family snack on chips after dinner, maybe try replacing them with veggies and hummus instead. Don’t replace the chips with something slightly better – but still not all that great – like pretzels or crackers, as it won’t lower your risk of obesity or improve your diet all that much. Find a healthy item you like and stick to that. You can resist the temptation of fatty foods, and your children will eat the healthy food if they see you enjoying it. Just make sure that when you make a change, you make the right change.

3. Know what you are eating.

Labels are your friend. Read the label of foods that you purchase – even if you think it is healthy, and they advertise that way, does not mean there aren't hidden fats and calories that aren’t obvious. Many granola bars and health shakes contain high amounts of sugar, chemicals, and other unhealthy ingredients, so be sure to take a closer look at what you are feeding your family before you serve it. You could be sabotaging your healthy diet without even realizing it.

4. Eat in moderation.

Portion sizes are expanding, and it is a contributing factor in the rise of obesity. When making a meal, don’t go overboard on the portion size. Eating in moderation is key to staying in shape. You can still eat unhealthy foods that you love – as long as you do so in moderation, and make up for it elsewhere. You don’t need to ban certain foods from your diet, just limit your intake of them. Keep track of your calories, so you know when you have a little room to indulge, and when it is time to cut back.