Busy Mom’s Cheat Sheet – A Guide for Healthy Parenting
It is possible to cook meals that support your health, help you achieve your ideal weight, and your kids will love. Get your kids (and perhaps partner) on board with your healthy eating plan with less stress, less tantrums and without having broccoli flung across the room. Lilly Cadoch, author of the Busy Mom’s Cheat Sheet, shares her best tips for raising happy healthy kids. Yes it is possible for your kids to eat well and live well with these few simple tips.
- Lead by Example: The healthy choices have to start with you. Want your kid to eat more vegetables? Eat more vegetables. Be excited about food and enthusiastic about your meal. You should be just as excited for spinach as you are for brownies. When you send the message that health food is boring and junk food is an exciting treat, how can you expect you family to be pumped for a typical healthy meal? Lead the charge and show that healthy food is delicious and satisfying. You’ll be supporting your personal health goals and eventually everyone else will get on board.
- Start Them Early: The best time to introduce your kids to fruits and vegetables is as soon as they start eating solid food. You want to incorporate foods that are common in your home, with an emphasis on vegetables. I’m a big fan of baby lead weaning where you skip purees and cereal and feed your baby directly from your plate (hello time saver!). The real benefit of this style of weaning is that your baby is exposed to the foods and flavors your family enjoys. Instead of developing a taste for prepackaged mush, your baby develops a taste for your cooking. Too late for that? There’s no time like the present to start incorporating more healthy food into your child’s diet. The sooner you start, the better it is for your health and theirs.
- Fruit and Vegetable Smoothies: Think your kids won’t drink a vegetable smoothie? Think again. Create power packed fruit and vegetable smoothies that are full of nutrients, bright green and absolutely delicious. When you first introduce these smoothies, go heavy on the fruit and light on the greens. Gradually increase the leafy greens until you’re using over 50% vegetables. Add in flax and chia seeds for an extra burst of fiber and protein. When your child sees you drinking the smoothie, they will want to drink it to. If they still aren’t into it, try rebranding the smoothie to something they relate to. Think about their favorite shows and name the smoothie after a green character from one of those (because who can turn down a Bubble Guppies smoothie?).
- Everyone Gets the Same Meal: Does this statement cause you stress and anxiety? If your dinner table is melt down central, listen up. First and foremost, dinner time should be about reconnecting as a family over food. If you haven’t established the routine of sitting down with your kids and eating together, now is the time to start. When they see you laughing, eating and enjoying the meal and the company at the table, they will want to laugh, eat and enjoy the meal too. This connection is enhanced by everyone eating the same food. Sure you can add extra spice to yours but generally speaking you should all be having the same food experience. If they don’t like it, invite them to at try at least a bite of every item on the plate. Still don’t like it, no worries, don’t force it. Offer them a heathy snack like cucumber, carrot or banana, something that doesn’t require you to whip up a whole new meal and can be served quickly. Save their plate so if they ask for a snack later you can offer it again. Also, remember that your child may have to try something 10 timesbefore they develop a taste for it, so keep trying.
The practice of sitting down to dinner also helps you be more mindful about your eating. We often rush to get dinner on the table and then we rush through eating without even realizing. When you sit down at the table, take a few deep, calming breaths before you dig in. This will help you slow down and really enjoy (and chew) your meal.
- Have One Thing on the Plate You Know they Love: This is where we compromise. Yes, you’re going to cook a healthy meal and it’s going to be delicious. You also want the meal to be comforting and familiar. If you’re trying to introduce a new vegetable, introduce it next to something they already like. Maybe you pair oven baked fries which they love with zucchini cut and cooked in the same way. This is less intimidating and might make them more interested in trying it. Plus if they don’t eat it, more zucchini fries for you!
- Ban Ingredients that are Terrible for Everyone: There are a few common cooking ingredients that are bad for the whole family and should be banned from the kitchen altogether. These won’t be things your child misses and they likely won’t even notice they’re gone. Swap vegetable/canola/soybean cooking oil for organic virgin coconut oil. Swap table sugar and artificial sweeteners for maple syrup or honey. Swap deep fried for oven baked. Swap sugary cereal for simple granola. Swap white or whole wheat bread for Ezekiel or sprouted grain bread. Swap conventional for organic when possible taking the Dirty Dozen into account. Buy responsibly raised meat and organic dairy. These swaps are not only good for your health; they also set the rest of the family on the path to health as well.
- Be Okay With it Not Working Out: Sometimes none of this is going to work, and that’s okay. Parenting is a messy, wild and amazing experience. Some days are just better than others. Some days you might only get tears, while other days your kids will be psyched to chow down on kale. When you only have healthy food options in the house, you are less likely to eat something unhealthy and the same is true for your child. If there are cookies, why on earth would they want to eat broccoli? Get the junk out of the house so that the alternative to whatever is on the table is still a healthy choice. If they don’t want dinner but are happy eating three bananas, cool. Don’t stress out about it. Food is meant to be enjoyable and fun so make it enjoyable and fun (as often as you can!).
Hopefully these tips help you initiate and maintain healthy routines for yourself and your family. If you want more from Lilly be sure to check out her book, Busy Mom’s Cheat Sheet.