With all the available fast foods, packaged foods, busy schedules, and false advertising that now consumes our food market, it is harder and harder to keep our children healthy. With childhood diseases skyrocketing and mass production of food filled with all the chemicals, additives, GMO’s, preservatives, sugar, fat, and dyes, we need to take a proactive approach to giving kids nutrition. Without completely keeping your child in a bubble, there are some simple easy rules you can follow to help them on their path to health. Here are 10 simple no’s to adapt in your family that can help make a big difference:
1) No soda. This one is crucial. Children today have entirely way too much soda. The amount of chemicals, sugar, and dyes that they are ingesting, not to mention the calories, is truly the sole reason I feel that many children are overweight at such young ages. It is crucial to get them away from soda. Several ways I have found to do this. You can purchase natural sodas from a health food store. These sodas do still have calories, but at least they are healthy sweeteners and natural dyes and no chemicals. Flavored water is an incredible thing to swap for soda. You can buy flavored water that is sweetened with stevia or a natural sweetener. Mixing juices with at least half or more water is another great substitute for soda. Many juices are so sweet on their own, the water is hardly noticed. Of course, the best substitute would be water.
2) No butter. Let me fill you in on a wonderful secret..olive oil is so delicious and tasty and can be used in place of butter for many dishes. Olive oil is great for cooking vegetables, meats, and I even use it when baking. Cooking stovetop, baking in the oven, or even light frying with olive oil will add delicious flavor, keep meats moist, and believe it or not, can make brownies and pumpkin bread extremely delicious. Start substituting olive oil for butter today.
3) No self-service snacking. If they want a snack, ask them what they want. Then you take a proper amount for a snack and pour into a separate bowl and put the rest away. Many make the mistake of thinking you can’t snack. That doesn’t work. You should allow the snacking, but make it a proper amount that would be considered a snack. Make them drink a big glass of water with every snack. This helps water intake, and fills them more.. two benefits in one!
4) No automatic feedings when hungry. Just because a child says they are hungry does not mean they should eat. There are certainly times when they may think they are hungry, yet might just be bored or tired. My child is super healthy and certainly very active. She has nothing to worry about with calories, however when she gets on a growth spurt there are times when I will feed her two dinners two hours apart. While I am ok with smaller portions and actually encourage them, there is still a time and place for when enough is enough.
5) No flat out restrictions. I am a firm believer in a little bit…goes a long way. If your child is used to eating certain things, you cannot go and change everything all at once. Instead start with portion size, and let them still have their snacks. I happen to be a cake lover. No matter when or where, if someone is offering cake, I will have some. But what I have learned is to just have a little bit at a time. A taste is all you need. I take this lesson from the French. Rich foods are ok, fat is ok, but again, portion size is so important. So allow the rich, flavorful, (but fresh) foods when you crave them.
6) No empty mornings. My daughter has recently started attempting this. She is sleeping in a little later and moves very slow in the mornings. First I complied and we tried having breakfast in the car. After a few weeks of this, I decided this was not for us. Not only have I really never allowed eating in the car, I don’t like the habit that it was forming. Plus it tends to give a rushed, meaningless approach to eating which is not a good idea. So that ended. I then decided to buy easy and quick healthy meals that we can eat in the mornings that really don’t take a lot of time. Healthy bars, fruits, even healthy frozen waffles or bagels do not take a lot of time. Sitting down to eat at a table or counter allows for better digestion and is peaceful. She is much more focused with proper food in the mornings. Make sure breakfast is treated well and is healthy.
7) No school lunches. Before you totally roll your eyes and skip this one, please understand that the majority of school lunches are mass produced quantities of food, and this typically means lots of chemicals, additives, GMO’s, preservatives, and dyes. It is completely unhealthy. Lunches and snacks during the day are crucial. Lunch should really be the largest meal, and a hungry child, or malnourished one will not have the right amount of mental focus and physical energy needed to excel at school and in activities. If you can’t make a lunch for every day, start with every other, or at least pack healthy snacks so that a portion of their intake is controlled and healthy. I have gotten into the habit of making lunch the night before while I’m making dinner. Many times I can set aside a portion of the dinner, or at least not have double cleanup etc. This seems to work well. Find something that works for you, school lunches are not healthy.
8) No late night eating. With our busy schedules, it is sometimes hard to eat dinner at a decent hour. With after school activities and sports, it is just common to be home at a time when it really isn’t best to eat a huge amount of food. Some ways to combat this are keep healthy snacks in the car. Apples, healthy protein crackers, and dried fruit and vegetable chips are all great items that can curb hunger and alleviate eating large amounts once finally home. Packing an extra snack for after school will also help curb appetites. If you are getting home late on a regular basis, at least try and eat first. Time for chores, homework, and other things after to allow for digestion before lying down. Eating right before bedtime is not a good idea on any level.
9) No large meals at any one time. Our bodies simply cannot handle that a large amount of food at once and it just sends everything into congestion. This can cause stomachaches, gas, indigestion, and weight gain. I know it makes it hard to have more meals, but it doesn’t mean you have to cook that many more meals, it simply means you may be washing a few more dishes. But your health will thank you.
10) No negativity. When it comes to food and trying to get your kids to eat healthier, do not make it a negative issue. Be positive, encourage, make it fun! When you are trying a new type of food that is healthy, encourage and speak positive about. You can also try a fun sauce or syrup and make a smiley face with. Spray whipped cream on fruit if you are trying to use as a dessert over a more unhealthy choice. Keep it positive and don’t make your kids dread the word ‘healthy.’
You will find that children are easily adaptable. Don’t underestimate them. They will eat what you make, and they will not starve. Be proactive, set good examples, and explain to them the difference between being healthy and not. Explain to them the types of medical problems that can occur if you eat unhealthy. They are smart and will surprise you! Good luck on your road to healthy!