There was a time in my life, in the not so distant past, when grilled cheese crusts and cold french fries made for one of my favorite meals. While I liked it, something tells me it won’t be the next celebrity diet craze. As a mother myself, I can personally attest to the fact that getting the whole family together on the same “healthy eating” page can be quite a feat.
So, how is a mom supposed to get rid of the baby weight, and keep her young children happily fed and growing while Dad’s cholesterol levels stay in check? When thinking about meal time, trying to balance busy schedules with wholesome foods that satisfy picky eaters or special diets can lead even the most patient and organized of parents to just throw up the their hands and order a pizza.
We’ve all dreamed of being the famous Norman Rockwell image of the happy family sitting down together for a healthy and congenial meal filled with nutritious foods and happy eaters. Is this image merely a fantasy or is it an achievable goal?
On Solid Ground?
Think of this: from the moment you start feeding your child solid foods you are laying down the foundation for a healthy lifestyle.
Elizabeth Blessing, co-founder and chief nutritionist for Green Bean Delivery has excellent advice for families with young children.
“There are two important steps you can take to help your children eat healthy. First, be a good role model. Kids do not have bad eating habits; rather, they learn bad eating habits from their peers. Parents must set a good example so their children will learn what healthy eating is. Eat as many meals as you can with your children and eat the same foods at your meal. If you are eating leafy greens at dinner and enjoying them, it is only matter of time before your child will try them.
Always offer a variety of fruits and vegetables, and keep offering your kids healthy foods. When your child’s a toddler, ask how he wants his vegetables prepared? Tell him, ‘We are having spinach tonight. Do you want yours sautéed like mommy and daddy or do you want yours raw?’ This gives him options, but the most important decision is already made: we are eating spinach for dinner.
Second, involve your child in food decisions. Bring him to the store and let him pick out produce. Take him to farmer’s markets and do the same. Have your kids help in the kitchen by bringing ingredients to you or helping with the prep. If you can connect your kids with a garden or a farm, a lot of times something will click for them. It is amazing how many kids I have seen try new things because they took part in growing or harvesting it. They need to be educated on where food comes from and how healthy food and unhealthy food ends up on their plate. Education is key.”
MOMMY TRAP #1
Kids snack frequently during the day and are offered lots of things like crackers, cookies, cereal and candy when they are on playdates or at parties. If you’re with him, it’s tempting to join right in and eat snacks, too. Keep a stash of healthy snacks in your bag so you can keep away from a desire to snack on what he eats.
Preschool and Beyond
Luckily, what is good for kids is good for us, so eating the same meal together can satisfy everyone’s dietary needs.
“Because kids are growing so rapidly, they need a higher percentage of daily protein, which is used to build body structures,” Blessing says. “This doesn’t mean they are eating more protein than an adult; it just means a higher percentage of their daily calories go towards protein sources. Animal proteins, such as meat, eggs and dairy are excellent choices for kids because they are high in protein and contain healthy fats for growing kids. It’s important that children eat fruits and vegetables at every meal and get a daily source of high-quality fish oil supplement, such as cod liver oil, and calcium, vitamin D and vitamin K2 is good for bone health.”
Getting the whole family involved in lunch packing, meal planning and cooking helps develop a healthy food culture at home plus good lifelong eating habits rooted in nutrition.
But say you’ve served up a wonderfully balanced meal and your child barely touches his plate?
MOMMY TRAP #2
CLEAN UP CREW
It’s hard when kids take one bite of their dinner and leave the rest completely untouched. Moms often find themselves eating their kid’s leftovers to prevent it from going to waste or grazing on it just because it is there. Be aware of this temptation — get leftovers covered right away!
If They Won’t Eat Veggies
My experience has been that sometimes a little stealth and deception is required with kids who are being finicky about eating. Blessing suggests making hash browns with sweet potatoes, adding shredded carrots and zucchini to meatballs, veggies in sauces, and putting them in scrambled eggs and omelets, too. You can even hide vegetables in smoothies. Personally, I like to add pureed pumpkin to pizza sauce and my picky eater likes it. Of course, I’m sure the cheese on the pizza helps that along.
These changes, depending on how your family eats now, can be pretty major, so it’s okay to start small. Introducing one of the above strategies to begin with is a good way to get the ball rolling, then add more and more as you go along.
Eating healthily has many benefits for the whole family. It is associated with a decreased risk for many of the leading causes of death including cancer, stroke, heart disease and diabetes (cdc.gov/healthyyouth/nutrition/facts.htm). This, along with the hope that mealtime is a source of enjoying good food with the family, act as motivators for continued efforts toward eating well.
There will likely be difficulties sometimes, as goes life, but eating healthy is a worthy endeavor. So, let’s raise our carrot sticks to the sky as we toast to our continued efforts to eat well while encouraging and helping our families to do the same.
MORE MOMMY TRAPS TO AVOID
MOMMY TRAP #3
BUYING KID FOOD
Foods marketed to children can be extremely deceptive. Don’t assume that it is healthy because it’s packaged for tots. Drink boxes and packaged snacks are often filled with sugar and artificial coloring to attract kids.
MOMMY TRAP #4
Poopy diapers, sleepless nights, and you bet you want that macaroni and cheese. Eating is a quick and easy way to obtain momentary pleasure, so do your best to have healthy options around that please you as much as mac and cheese does!
MOMMY TRAP #5
HOME ALL DAY
If you’re home a lot with your kids, it’s easy to spend time just hanging out with them and never even changing out of your PJs! Clothing helps us to be more aware of you body. The way your clothing fits is often your first clue that you are gaining or losing weight.