Eating Healthy with the Kids: Where to Start
On Friday, I was compelled to step out of my comfort zone and challenge us Moms and Dads to put a larger priority on eating healthy foods with our kids. At all times, I strive to provide inspiration, but based on some of my feedback, I am afraid Friday’s message may have felt more like a lecture, which no one enjoys! So big apologies to anyone who felt that that was too big of a step away from my usual tone.
This topic is, however, something that I am intensely passionate about, if you have not noticed! We owe it to our kids to teach them (and ourselves) how to embrace healthy eating. Let us spare them a lifetime of prescription drugs for preventable diseases. Let us teach them eating habits they do not have to unlearn when they reach adulthood. It is worth our highly-valued time!
Rather than seeing this challenge as a mountain staring you in the face, let go of any stress on this whole “healthy eating” thing and start simple. Simple is Good! Simple makes overall Change much easier! Wondering where to start?
1. Meal Plan, with your kids! Talk to your kids. Let them know that you want to start eating more food that makes our bodies feel good, not yucky. (Depending on their age, “yucky” may or may not be the right word!) Ask them what their favorite foods are. You can make healthier versions of kid favorites with small changes. You do not need to relearn everything you ever learned in the kitchen. But the key point here is including your children in your menu planning. They may not like everything new that you throw at them, but they love feeling like they are part of the process and that they are being heard.
2. Designate a Prep Day and bring your kids into the kitchen with you! For the wee-young ones, having them “help” in the kitchen is often not actually helpful. At all. But for most older kids (even my four year old Beast!), there are tasks they can handle. This is especially important if you are a working parent, and time with the kiddos is so precious. My kids help us on Sundays (our prep day), bagging veggies after we have chopped them; measuring and adding ingredients to the make-ahead breakfast items we prepare each week. We not only get to spend fun time with them, they are also learning great life skills! They’re learning their way around a kitchen and some cooking basics, plus essential math and critical thinking. Double-Word-Score!
3. Focus less on calories and fat, and more on ingredients and nutrients. Read those labels; minimize foods with ingredients you cannot pronounce. Choose quality, high-nutrient food, even if fat and calories are higher than what you are comfortable with. I know this goes against what we learned in the 80s and 90s, but those ideas and diets were pushed on us and we all got fatter and unhealthier. We need fat and calories in order for our bodies to function properly. Even more imporantly, however, is getting out of the “diet” and “deprivation” mentality – eat real, high-quality food in portions that fill us, not stuff us.
4. Do not worry about being perfect. There is no such thing! (Unless you are Ryan Gosling’s abs.) While my family has made big changes in the foods we eat, there is still non-organic and processed food hanging around the house. It is about Balance on that Pendulum. You do not have to buy your own cow and grow all your food in order to be healthy, but reliance on packaged foods and drive-thrus is not the answer either. Strive not to be perfect in your eating, but simply be more conscious of your food choices for yourself and the family.
So how does that sound? (Hopefully encouraging!) Do not hesitate to search the “Fit Diet” category, where you will find some recipes and pictures of food typically eaten in the Latta household. I have a whole host of meals from January and February that we tried (or I finally got around to taking pictures of!) that will be coming up in the next week or so.
What meals do your kids love? Let me know what the kids are requesting, and hopefully I have some ideas, or have already figured out, how to make those a little better health-wise. We regularly have pizza, tacos, hamburgers and spaghetti – these are family favorites, since they make everyone happy! As an added bonus, they are typically pretty easy to pull together on a busy night.