People often comment on how well my children eat; how surprised they are to see my children eat fresh veggies and fruits as a preferred snack.
It got me thinking the other day about how I used to be a lot more strict about diet when I first became a parent. We needed to be strict because my first born suffered from a lot of food allergies. While we were at the start of figuring out how or why he had eczema from head to toe, we did a lot of elimination from his diet. And we had to get quite creative with his meals and snacks.
While his buddies were eating animal crackers, my son was eating frozen green peas. At the time, I felt guilty.
What I later realized was how we were actually forming great habits for my son by eliminating treats and high inflammatory foods (wheat and dairy) from his diet from the beginning. We actually formed his pallet in a very positive way. Now with my second child, whom I affectionately refer to as my “bread boy,” things are a little more difficult. But I try to call myself back to the way we treated food with my first born. I try to remember that we eat food to nourish our developing bodies and minds. And that treats are AMAZING but that they are in fact that – treats – and should be eaten in moderation.
Having a huge sweet tooth and LOVE of all things bread myself, I am still very much walking the journey. I have my healthy winning days and my “eat anything you can find in the pantry days.” But hey, all we can do is learn more and try harder, right?
Here are a few of my mottos as a mom who tries to stick to a healthy routine.
1. I eat what they eat. If I expect them to eat fruits and veggies and reduced the amounts of treats, I try to hold myself to the same standards as I hold them to.
2. I try to make fruits and veggies available and first choice as an option for snack time
3. I don’t make a big deal about finishing a plate. As long as the day is well rounded and waste doesn’t become a habit, I don’t mind when they don’t finish all their food. I mean, I know I don’t always want to finish my entire plate.
4. I try to often have a meal prepared for them that is only fruits and veggies of the rainbow — if they are hungry and processed foods or carbs are not an option, then they will eat AND most of the time ENJOY what is placed in front of them.
5. I try not to glorify candy or sweets, but I am honest about the fact that there are tasty treats in life. I try to teach that we need to eat these treats when we are celebrating or at the very least in moderation. I also teach about tummy aches and how eating too much “junk food” can really harm our bodies.
6. I pack snacks or lunches that are healthy, and I take them out of the house. One of the best times for healthy eating is when my kids have a strong appetite and we are out on a picnic. They are always excited to see what pops out of the zipper bag of goodies.
7. I don’t offer other options if they don’t want what I cooked or prepared. Sometimes that means they skip a snack or meal. But I notice taking away the option for something they would rather eat helps them to focus on whether they are hungry for food instead of just eating what they “feel” like eating.
8. I am okay when they say no to a specific healthy food. And I continue to offer that same food. I do not label foods as foods they “don’t like.” So much of refusal can be from a mood, or a time of day, or a full belly, or even the way it is cooked or prepared. So, if it is considered a nutritious food, I still offer it each time it is available. They surprise me A LOT.
9. I often talk about how my veggies are delicious. I try to be as genuine as possible, but it is in fact a show for the kids! I pretend like I am talking to myself and that I could careless if they are listening.
10. I also sometimes steal a piece of “nutritious food” from their plate. *think stealing a French fry style*
11. Some how my child has learned that the word nutritious is a good thing and I play on that. I talk about how we need to love our bodies and eat things that will helps us think better, grow stronger, and make us feel happier.
12. I let them choose from multiple healthy options. I love to make what we call “party trays” – I put a bunch of healthy snacks on the plate in the center of the table and we all get small plates and choose which ones we want. Then we can get more when we are finished with the first few that we chose. They love it!
13. I do meal prep in front of them. It is not easy to always have fresh fruits ready and available for the kids. Who has the time? Well I learned that making the prep part of the day is totally fun for the kids. We all sit at the dinner table while I peel and cut the carrots and my kids play with the peels, or they watch me cut in the BIG watermelon and enjoy a slice while I finish cutting the rest. It is very entertaining to them to see all the fruits and veggies transform into what goes onto their plate! It makes eating them more fun!
14. Last but certainly no least, SMOOTHIES! Y’all, I hide so much in those things. My kids love to hear the list of nutritious fruits and veggies I mixed up to make a tasty and easy to consume snack. I also put left overs into silicone popsicle holders and they LOVE them all over again!