Healthy eating is probably one of the biggest motherhood struggles. It stresses them out. Moms go into healthy mode and look up recipes on Pinterest. They save them to their board and wipe out the kitchen from all the ‘junk food’ and vow to never let their kids breathe chocolate or candy every again. That lasts for a few days…if you’re lucky. Then it’s back to the old eating habits. Those Pinterest recipes get forever stored on your board and you look at them every once in a while when you feel like going on that health kick again. But come on. How many of us actually end up making these recipes?
I bet many moms can relate; so, I’ve put together six ways to get kids on board with your healthy eating kick. But first: this shouldn’t be a kick. Not for you and not for your family. It should be something that you embrace as a family. We’ve all heard that you shouldn’t go on a diet but make it a lifestyle when trying to shed those few pounds. The same goes for your kids. Don’t put them on a temporary diet but get them to embrace it as a lifestyle. This attitude shift makes a world of a difference.
1) Explain Why You Eat The Way You Do
Kids are super smart. They’re exposed to so much that you would be surprised at the things they understand. Especially when it comes to food. I always explain to my kids why we eat the way we do. We talk about what poor food choices could do to their bodies and their health. We’ve always talked about making better choices when eating. For younger children this can be tricky, as some of them may not quite understand why mommy is saying no to chocolate. I find it’s best to avoid bringing them into the house in the first place. Offer them lots of healthier choices at home and get them use to fruits being their dessert. I’ve established this habit in my children. Dessert after dinner is whatever fruit they want. The is to make sure you have lots of fresh fruit options at home all the time
2) Get Them Involved in Meal Planning and Preparing
I have a hard time with this one because I like my kitchen spotless. But honestly, if they’re involved in meal planning and prepping, they’re more likely to try eating it. For example, over the weekend we made chocolate chip cookies with chickpeas. Here’s the link if you’d like to try: http://www.thesugarpixie.net/2010/03/02/deceptively-delicious-chocolate-chip-cookies/. I got the kids involved in making it and they actually loved it! But I know if they weren’t involved in the process they would’ve been more hesitant to even try it after hearing chickpeas. Ask them what they would like to eat when you’re planning your meals out for the week. If they’re old enough to handle a knife, get them to chop some veggies for you or even make a simple meal from start to finish. I use ‘Deceptively Delicious’ & ‘Double Delicious’ cookbooks by Jessica Seinfeld. They’re great cookbooks with kid favorite recipes that have been modified to create healthier dishes.
3) Grab Your Favorite Recipes and Remake them in A Healthier Version
Do your kids love pasta? Get whole wheat pasta instead of white. You can find pasta that’s white, but has all the fiber in the whole-wheat version. That way, you can incorporate more fiber in their diet. Try to make the sauce from scratch instead of buying ready-made ones (those contain tons of sugar). Or, for example, in cakes, replace oil with applesauce. There are so many ways to cut back on the sugar and fat. A little research and work in the beginning will pay off in the end. Especially if your kids have a sweet tooth like mine.
4) Compromise ☺
A lot of people in the diet/fitness/health industry talk about the 80/20 rule. You try to choose natural whole foods 80% of the time and the other 20% of the time you treat your self to anything you may be craving. Do the same with your kids. We try to take the kids out to eat every once in a while. Not an easy feat, but they love it. My kids know that juice is not allowed in this house. So when we go to restaurants they know that that is the only time they are allowed to order juice. (Again, don’t just say something isn’t allowed but explain to them why).
5) Indulge Every Once in A While
Special occasions come up, parties happen, and camping trips get planned. Simply, life happens. Let your kids enjoy those moments. Don’t go running after them telling them to eat this and not to eat that. Let them be and let them enjoy the moment. Over time, you will find that your kids will make wiser food choices on their own. You just have to keep encouraging them and talking to them about the choices they make.
6) Out of Sight Out of Mind
Some kids can resist. Others simply can’t. Just like adults, some have incredible will power and can resist that tempting piece of chocolate fudge cake while others will inhale it at first sight. When trying to establish a healthier lifestyle in your home, get rid of all temptations. Don’t have the bags of chips and boxes of cookies lying around. Your child will go back and forth staring at it and whining or will just eat it without bothering to ask you. As the whole family works on improving their food choices, you can slowly start buying these things and keeping them for treats or certain occasions. And best of all, you are their role model. So if you’re hitting the drive through and getting the sugary donuts and then saying no to chocolate for your kids, you’re giving them mixed messages. You need to hop on the wagon so that your kids will too.
In the end, while sweets and junk food are foods we all love, we must try to eat them in moderation and teach our children the importance of moderation. Over the years, there’s been an increase in childhood obesity, diabetes and a list of other diseases all because of the poor food choices we’ve been making as a society. The Prophet (pbuh) warned us about the dangers of overeating. He advised us to fill our stomach with one third food, one third drink and one third air. The Prophet (pbuh) also said, “No human ever filled a vessel worse than the stomach. Sufficient for any son of Adam are some morsels to keep his back straight. But if it must be, then one third for his food, one third for his drink and one third for his breath.” (Ahmad, At-Tirmidhi) Remember: our bodies are an amanah (trust) from Allah (swt) and we must take care of them and teach our children to take care of theirs.
Angie Daouk is a mother to three girls and one boy and lives in London, Ontario. She is passionate about food, health and promoting healthy eating around close family and friends. She’s a stay at home mom who’s put her nutrition career on hold but continues to instill it in her family. Angie loves spending quality time with her husband and kids and is known as an exercise enthusiast among her friends.