I just can’t diet anymore. Can’t do it. All my life, I’ve been conscious of my weight. Whenever I’ve gone on a diet, it’s always been with a temporary mindset: “I’ll diet till I lose weight and then I won’t have to diet anymore.”
I need a more permanent solution. I need to change the way I eat. Not just temporarily, but for the long term. I need to teach my kids about health and nutrition – without warping their body image. I want to give every single person in my family the tools they need to make smart choices when it comes to the foods they eat.
To that end, I’ve been learning about nutrition and step by step, I’m incorporating what I’m learning into our family’s meals and snacks. I’ve also been sharing what I learn with my family, so we are ALL learning healthy, balanced eating habits together. When I say “we” I mean our entire family. Even 7 year old PinkGirl. We’ve been making small (but cumulative) changes in our eating habits for a few years now. It’s slow, but steady. Since we only incorporate one new change at a time, it’s been fairly painless. We also haven’t boycotted any particular foods, we just limit them if they are “less nutritious.”
Here are some of the microactions we’ve taken our our quest to eat better:
We Buy More Fruit and Make it Easy to Eat. Luckily, everyone in our family LOVES fruit. For the last few years, we’ve been buying MUCH more fruit. We tried blackberries for the first time last summer. (YUM) Some fruits are already easy to eat. Peel a banana, grab an apple, a nectarine, a bunch of grapes or a handful of cherries. Easy. But what about melon? One change we’ve made in our house is that we cut up melon and store it in Rubbermaid in the fridge. Now we don’t throw away a rotten melon two weeks after we bought it because no one took the time to cut it up. We actually EAT it because it’s ready to eat.
We Read Labels. We limit sodium, hydrogenated fats and especially high fructose corn syrup (which is in more foods than I ever thought possible). High fructose corn syrup can spike your blood sugar before you even swallow the food that contains it (well, almost). It’s even in bread. Even in “wheat” bread. We’ve learned that when the label on a loaf of bread says it contains “enriched” flour, it’s really just “brown” bread, not whole wheat bread. After reading e v e r y single label on e v e r y different kind of bread, we finally settled on Nature’s Own 100% Whole Wheat.
As we began reading labels, we began putting different things in our grocery cart. We now buy low sugar ketchup, Smart Balance peanut butter and margarine, Smucker’s Sugar Free Jam, and Barilla Multi-Grain Pasta. We make No-Pudge brownies (SO Good!). We’ve always made chocolate milk with Ovaltine instead of Hershey’s and most of the time, we have hummus and non-fat yogurt in the fridge. Juice? Only Tropicana Healthy Kids (1/2 cup serving) and a few boxes of Juicy Juice which we only use for emergency hypoglycemic melt-downs (quickly followed by a complex carb). Soda? Not so much.
We Eat More Lean Meats. We’re always on the lookout for tasty recipes. When we do eat ground beef, we buy 97% lean and rinse with hot water it in the sink to watch most of that leftover 3% fat go down the garbage disposal.
We Buy More Whole Grains. This one is easy. When we made the switch whole grains, nobody really noticed.
We Buy More Fresh and Frozen Veggies. We used to buy mostly canned veggies, and while we still do buy some, we buy a LOT more fresh produce than we used to buy. We’re working on making veggies more enticing for FavoriteSon. He would prefer to devour an entire pan of whole grain couscous or black beans and rice. His favorite is his dad’s special paella. Poor kid, he has no idea his dad adds pureed veggies to his favorite food.
So, all this said . . . I also allow “junk food” in the house.
I want to teach my kids balance. I remember how I responded to total restriction of junk food as a kid. I snuck food. Eventually, I even snuck food when I was the one restricting myself. I don’t want to risk the same reaction with my kids. I figure, there’s junk food in the world and I want them to make good choices all by themselves. I want to teach them about nutrition and give them the power to make their own choices (FirstHusband and I have veto power). My greatest victory so far? BOTH kids – after begging for a Chick-fil-A milkshakes – THREW THEM AWAY without drinking the entire thing. I asked them both, “Why?”
PinkGirl: “I’m full.”
FavoriteSon: “I don’t want anymore.”
YES!!!! It’s working!
So, the kids are allowed some junk food – IF they also eat the healthy food I ask them to eat. When they do eat junk food, they are required to stick to the suggested serving sizes and are limited as to how many times they can eat junk food in a day. Sometimes, like today, they don’t even ask for any “junk.” Sometimes they have it once in a day. Sometimes twice. Very, very rarely, three times in one day.
What do I consider junk food? Cereal for breakfast. Chips with lunch. Cookies for dessert. Candy. That kind of thing.
But I am their mother. And I’ve struggled with my weight for years. So, while teaching them (and myself) balance and allowing some treats, how do I make sure that when they go to get these treats, they will actually still be in the pantry? How do I make sure that I, myself, don’t treat myself in a moment of thoughtless munching? I remove temptation.
When I do buy junk food, I buy what I hate.
Here’ are some kid favorites that don’t tempt me one little bit:
Ranch flavored Doritos
Funions (oops. Spelled Funyuns)
Chewy Chips Ahoy (but I LOVE the regular Chips Ahoy)
Rainbow Chips Ahoy
Basically anything MILK chocolate (but I LOVE dark chocolate)
Chef BoyRDee anything
Tom’s brand oven baked “Hot Fries”
You get the idea. Sometimes, I buy what I hate.