We all know the challenges of staying committed to healthy eating. Couple that with looking after your child’s nutrition and it adds to the challenge. A vacation here, a birthday there, the next thing you know you’ve fallen back in to the black hole of junk food. Given that March is National Nutrition Month, why not use this month to discover strategies that make healthy eating easier for you and your family?
For starters, healthy eating has got to be easy. People typically avoid changing bad habits because the idea seems overwhelming. Better to stay safe than healthy, right? Wrong. Your best strategy to embrace healthy living starts with these simple words, Consistency, Creativity and Color. The three C’s are all that you need to simplify the process of healthy eating.
As a parent, we know the importance of consistency with rules. Nutrition is no exception. Eating well, especially in today’s fast food environment is tough. With overbooked schedules and little time for meal prep, choices are often compromised. Further, if you’re touting the importance of healthy eating as you pull in to Burger Heaven, it’s a mixed message.
Eating well must be consistent in order to be successful. Start by keeping healthy snacks in your home vs. cookies and chips. If you’re short on time and trying to fit in dinner before a soccer game, try peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and fresh fruit, it’s nutritious, easy and cheap. Remember children are keen observers. How you eat will have a lasting effect on their future eating habits.
Do keep in mind however that consistency does not guarantee compliance. In that I mean, there will be a time (teenage years) when kids will not want to do anything you want them to do, so there may be a revolt at some point. Just continue modeling healthy habits and they’ll come around. Remain steadfast, hold to your beliefs about health and they’ll get back on the wagon when the rebellious years pass. That’s the hope anyway.
Getting a family to eat healthy can be boring. The fact is that kids don’t want a salad as a meal and their palettes are often tainted by the high fat, high salt fast food choices they’re used to. So, you’ve got to be creative in order to get any buy-in at all. Here are some suggestions:
• Get a cookbook that offers easy, healthy family meals.
• Allow your kids to participate in picking out menus and then find healthy recipes.
• Let your kids help in the kitchen. I had 4 kids in 6 years so I know how chaotic it can be. But the sooner they’re participating in the kitchen the more they’ll be willing to explore and enjoy different foods.
• As you cook, talk about the benefits of foods and different ways you can prepare them.
• Start a garden when and where weather permits. No better way to get a child to eat more fresh vegetables then a garden.
When it comes to food, it’s all about the color. The more colorful your food choices, the more nutritious they will be. (M&M’s don’t count) Many Americans follow a “beige” diet, which includes, pasta, bread, crackers, processed cereals and meats. Less color=less nutrition. Think about foods with gorgeous color, they are loaded with nutrition and flavor. Apples, bananas, snap peas, zucchini, cantaloupe, blueberries are just a few examples of colorful foods with a nutritional punch. Teaching your kids about colors will encourage more healthful choices. Here are a few ideas to get your family on the color bus.
• When your child is learning colors, let him select foods based on colors they are learning in school.
• For older children, challenge them to select three different colors of food to go with their sandwich as they pack their school lunch. For example, tomato, lettuce and yellow pepper. If they’re not sandwich eaters, roll-ups using a whole grain tortilla is always a good option.
• The internet is full of resources. Print out a list of healthy fruits and vegetables and challenge your family to eat at least 2-3 different colors per day.
Many of our meals our eaten by rote, we rarely pay attention to what we’re feeding our children much less ourselves. By following the three C’s, it’s an easy way to stay on top of feeding you and your family a healthy diet on a regular basis. What will you do today to create a healthier you tomorrow?