Have you been wanting to make healthier choices for your family but don’t know where to begin? Don’t worry, not too long ago I didn’t know where to start either.
A few years ago, I didn’t give a lot of thought about what went into how my family was eating. I was a mom to three boys all ages 4 and under. It was all about getting through the day to keep everyone happy. Total survival mode. We’ve all been there, right?
A family health crisis is what it took to put healthy eating on my radar. I was suddenly overwhelmed by the need to feed not just myself better food, but my children as well. Where to begin? HOW to begin? There is so much information out there about what is healthy and what isn’t. It was overwhelming to think about overhauling my pantry and fridge, not to mention our lifestyle.
That was four years ago.
I’ve learned a lot in that time, but probably my biggest word of advice to parents looking to feed their children better: BABY STEPS. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and good, permanent changes aren’t either. I thought I would share 4 tips that helped us become healthier eaters as a family.
1. Don’t focus on the finish line. All races begin with that first step.
Choose one thing you want to change. Make too many changes at once and you’ll have a mutiny on your hands. Begin with something simple. Our first step was cutting back on eating out and fast food. Even if it meant a PB & J for supper I knew it was better than a burger and fries.
2. Talk about the changes your are making and why.
The addition of a few more veggies did not go unnoticed by our boys. We talked (and still talk) about how food fuels our bodies. How we want to eat the best kind of foods so that they will grow strong and have good energy to play and learn. Let the moment present itself, don’t bombard them with too many facts. Keep it simple. As we have moved along in our journey, we now also talk about food that doesn’t make us feel good. It’s fun to see them really tune in to the effect food has on their bodies.
3. It takes 3 times to like something new.
I read somewhere, long ago, that children need to be presented with a new food three different times before they officially can say they don’t like it. So…that’s our rule. After you’ve given a new food a chance at three different meals you can officially say you don’t like it. So far, the only official dislike is broccoli. They are huge fans of kohlrabi though, something they discovered the second time we tried it.
4. It’s a little more work.
So I’m just going to say what you are already probably thinking. Yes, eating healthier is more work. At first it feels like a lot of work. This gets better over time as you become more efficient and have a good ideas on the likes/dislikes of your family. Planning ahead is key. Always have some of your favorite staples on hand. For us that means peanut butter, greek yogurt, pasta, fruits, veggies and eggs. Always have the makings for a quick, easy meal on hand. It’s when you don’t that it’s easy to slip back into old habits. Trust me, I speak from experience on this one.
Changing our diet has been one on the best things for our family. Not just for the purpose of better health, but it has brought us together as a family in conversations and around the dinner table. There are days (okay, sometimes weeks) that maybe harder than others, just give yourself a break and remember that it’s the baby steps that count. All worthwhile changes take time, and good, healthy changes are worth every minute!
Guest Post by Jenny Solar from The Happy Family Movement.
We started making the transition toward healthier eating sometime during the middle of last year. My husband, Josh, and I had just finished reading The Unhealthy Truth, and we knew that we had to make some serious changes.
At the time, our kids diets were full of artificial colors, high-fructose corn syrup, BHT, and crazy amounts of pesticides and hormones found in our milk, produce, and meat. We started on a long and slow journey toward changing our diet as a family. We’ve had some successes and some failures; so today, I’m going to share with you a few things we learned along the way!
Tip #1: Include your kids in the plan. I know it sounds obvious, but it will be a lot easier to change the things you’re eating if your kids are on board. We started having regular conversations with our three little kids about eating healthier. We explained to them exactly why artificial colors are bad. We told them why we didn’t want them eating high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). And then we taught them to read nutrition labels and ingredients lists. And we (successfully) enrolled them in the cause! Another reason to use the MOMables menus and let them pick their fruits and veggies.
Tip #2: Slow and steady wins the race. I was terrified that our kids would freak out about any changes we made to their food. Our kids are really picky, even to the extent of being brand-specific. So we started out slowly. The first thing I changed was the peanut butter. I started buying all-natural instead of the regular kind, which is loaded with HFCS. Then we switched to 100% organic fruit jelly and mostly organic produce and meats, and so on. We made these changes over 6 months; so both my family and our wallet got used to the changes one substitution at a time.
Tip #3: Don’t go crazy. One of the things Josh and I have said from the beginning is that we don’t want to take things to the extreme. Our kids still eat ice cream and cookies. If they’re at a birthday party with Cheetos and blue-iced cake, that’s fine. We recognize that the rules don’t have to apply 100% of the time—it’s more like an 80/20 thing; life should be lived in moderation. When we took the kids to see The Lorax recently, we bought M&M’s, GummieSavers, and Skittles. Then again, we go to the movies about twice a year.
What other things helped your family make the transition to healthier eating?
Josh and Jenny Solar are parents to three kids, Max, Ava, and Lia (and a basset hound named Banana). In addition to being full-time photographers, they created The Happy Family Movement in the spring of 2011 to encourage and inspire family togetherness through memorable family experiences and simple ideas for happy family living. The overarching goal of The Happy Family Movement is to rewrite the way our generation views raising kids—to seek out a happy family and find the JOY in parenting all over again.