A Year of Eating Healthier: One Family's Journey

Meet the Rebucci family, from Chester, New Jersey! Over the course of 12 months, Regina Ragone, Family Circle's food director/registered dietician, will guide the Rebuccis onto the path of better nutrition.

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Meet Lisa Rebucci


Age: 47

Favorite Foods: Lisa has a sweet tooth so cookies, cakes, chocolate and pies are her weakness.

Healthiest Habit: She dropped 15 pounds last year by focusing on portion control and drinking a lot more water. Now the whole family fills up on H20—you won't find soda or juice in their house. Lisa also cooks dinner nearly every night, so no high-calorie take-out or restaurant meals for them.

Needs Improvement: "I love to cook, but I'm probably cooking with way too much fat and butter," Lisa says. "I'd love to go through my recipes and slim them down." She would like to drop another 20 pounds.

Workout Regimen: At least three times a week, Lisa grabs her iPod and goes for a walk. Since she does dog walking and pet sitting for a living, she gets in extra steps with her job. Lisa belongs to a gym, but hasn't made a visit in nearly a year.

Long-Term Goal: "I'd like to learn how to cook healthier and look at recipes in a different way," Lisa says. She hopes the entire family will become healthier together, and aims for herself, Marc and Kyle to lose weight.

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Meet Marc Rebucci


Age: 51

Favorite Foods: "I love soup—I'll have soup any time of the year," Marc says. Lobster bisque, French onion, gazpacho and lentil soups top his list. He's also a big meat eater.

Healthiest Habit: Marc stays active by going to the gym and doing lots of yard work.

Needs Improvement: He takes medication for blood pressure, acid reflux and high cholesterol, so he hopes that he'll be able to get off these meds by shedding pounds and adopting a healthier lifestyle. Another challenge is that Marc eats out frequently for his job—as much as four or five times a week just for lunch—so he needs to learn how to make healthy choices at restaurants.

Workout Regimen: Two or three times a week, Marc hits the gym before work in the morning for 45 minutes and mostly lifts weights.

Long-Term Goal: "I want to be more conscious of what I eat and how I eat," Marc says. He hopes to adopt a better workout routine to reach his goal weight and gain energy. "I just want to be able to wake up and feel better."

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Meet Kyle Rebucci


Age: 11

Favorite Foods: Quite the carnivore, Kyle loves chicken—and every other meat. But he's pickier when he sees green. Spinach is his least favorite, and "I've never really had Brussels sprouts but they just sound bad so I don't like them," he says.

Healthiest Habit: A big breakfast. Mom makes a hearty kickoff meal every morning, typically with homemade banana smoothies and pancakes, waffles or scrambled eggs.

Needs Improvement: Kyle always eats the school lunch and picks from pizza, tacos, chicken nuggets, hamburgers, hot dogs, Italian subs, chicken patties, french fries and chocolate milk—no veggies. Translation: the meals are big on calories and low on nutrition.

Workout Regimen: As a member of his school's cross-country and lacrosse teams, Kyle has practice at least twice a week.

Long-Term Goal: Like his dad, Kyle is prone to weight gain. Lisa and Marc are hoping he'll drop a few pounds and learn how to be more aware of healthy habits.

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Meet Jack Rebucci


Age: 13

Favorite Foods: He enjoys snacking on Cheerios.

Healthiest Habit: Like his bro, he eats a nutritious breakfast. And they both have a wholesome after-school snack, like an apple, string cheese or yogurt.

Needs Improvement: Jack eats the same school lunch as Kyle. "It's bad for us," he admits. "It's kind of unhealthy, but all the kids eat it."

Workout Regimen: He's on the cross-country and lacrosse teams as well, and since he takes running seriously, he'll even sometimes hit the track on days he doesn't have practice.

Long-Term Goal: Jack is naturally thin, so his doctor recommended adding a few pounds to his slim frame. He says, "I'd like to learn more about nutrition since I'm a runner."

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Pantry Raid


Make sure you have the right ingredients to cook healthy meals.

—Read labels—many convenience products are high in sodium. Since you shouldn't be consuming more than 2,300mg of this mineral per day, opt for fewer processed foods.

—Forgo high-sodium prepackaged rice mixes (a staple for the Rebuccis), and cook grains like brown rice, quinoa and barley from scratch, then add your own seasonings to control salt.

—Stock up on herbs, spices, fruit and vegetable juices, nuts, dried fruit and vinegars to flavor foods instead of using salt and fat.

—Have ingredients on hand for go-to meals: whole-grain pastas, tomato sauce, beans, reduced-sodium soups and no-salt-added vegetables.

—Don't forget snacks like air-popped popcorn, portion-controlled packs of nuts and dried fruit, peanut and almond butter and baked crackers and chips.

Originally published in the January 2011 issue of Family Circle magazine.

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