March is National Nutrition Month and the perfect time to think about ways to improve your family’s eating habits. We can always do better when it comes to feeding our children and ourselves. My husband and I have experimented with various ways of eating in the past, but now that we’ve added children into the mix, meals (and eating in general) have definitely changed.
When it comes to feeding kids, I often find what’s easy is often what they have. When one child is crying and tugging on my leg, one is in the bathroom needing assistance, and the other is at the table ready for food, I want to just grab something quick and call it dinner. Our eating habits are no where near perfect so instead I am working to be more intentional with all of our eating. My kids are pretty good eaters but can be picky at times (especially dinner). At snack time, you know they would prefer something from the pantry and generally carbs. So, we’re trying to make a few changes…
Instead of often filling up my three children with crackers or something of that variety shortly before dinner, I have begun giving them “fridge snacks” – fruits, veggies, hard boiled eggs, string cheese, etc. This way I know that my kids will at least be filling their bellies with nutrition (instead of just carbs) leading up to dinner. Not only do they eat more at dinner (generally speaking), but I don’t have to grill them to eat their dinner/veggies as much. I don’t know about you, but my kids are MUCH more willing to eat raw veggies than cooked. It’s so easy to throw cooked veggies into meals, but they don’t always eat them so raw it is at our house (plus within the meals).
I do have one child that eats just about anything, one that loves just about everything except most meats (ugh), and another who is quite picky mostly when it comes to dinner time. So, loading them up with foods I am happy about before dinner, makes us all happy.
While trying to get them to eat better, I am also eating much better. I sometimes don’t give vegetables a fair shot, but many of them are really good. I’ve even tried to get creative with some veggies and have had great results. Raw or cooked zucchini, red pepper, and spaghetti squash are all great substitutes for noodles in chili, spaghetti, etc. I also have a spiralizer and have made many delicious dishes with spiralized vegetables. I have realized how very sweet and delicious fruits are as a replacement for desserts/sugary snacks. Plus I really do feel so much better snacking on produce and not eating as many empty carbs.
Here are some areas I am focusing on to make sure my family & I eat better –
I stock our house with lots of fruit! My kids love it, it’s a nice “sweet” alternative for me, and I know it’s good for us. Weekly Costco trips help stock our fridge with plenty of berries. I always buy apples, bananas, grapes, and any other fruits on sale/in season. It helps IMMENSELY if I prep them in advance – cut pineapple, wash grapes, etc. Anything we can grab quickly helps us eat well.
This is another thing I fill our home with! Again, my kids like raw vegetables so I buy lots of baby carrots, cucumbers, colored peppers, snap peas, etc. My kids also like frozen peas and corn straight out of the freezer. I add plenty of veggies to our meals as well by adding extra vegetables to soups, sauces, etc. (just have to work on convincing ALL of my children to actually eat those meals…). My children also LOVE smoothies so I load those up with spinach for even more greens.
Once you start reading labels, you quickly realize sugar is in just about everything! We really try not to give our kids much sugar, but it generally means making more homemade items, eating at home most of the time, and again, REALLY reading labels. An added bonus is that my kids don’t seem QUITE as wild when they don’t eat much sugar.
My sense of portion control went out the window early on while breastfeeding since I was ALWAYS hungry. So, I am now working on eating a smaller portion of a “main dish” and more veggies with it during meals.
Meal planning used to be something I despised doing. It was such a chore and obviously had to happen EVERY week. Now that I’ve streamlined the process a bit for my family, it’s much more enjoyable. And VERY necessary. If I don’t plan ahead, we don’t eat well. Planning is definitely key at our house.
If it’s in our house, we’ll eat it. If it’s not, we can’t choose to eat it. Making better choices in general and keeping “junk” out of the house makes a big difference. Plus, I can’t expect my children to eat well if I am not also modeling that behavior.
I know our diets won’t be perfect, and that’s okay with me. We try to eat well most of the time so we can also have treats in moderation. I also like to experiment with desserts for my family to make “clean” foods that often are also gluten free and sugar free. We have had many successes with alternatives that don’t contain added sugar like black bean brownies (trust me, you don’t taste the beans), fudge, muffins, coffee cake, etc. The internet is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to finding recipes!
The bottom line is that honestly I just feel better when I eat well and my kids do too! I know I have the will power to eat well since my husband and I have been pretty strict in the past, but I want to enjoy eating and model that behavior for my children. I want my kids to enjoy eating healthy too! What works for my family may or may not work for yours too. Plus you may have different goals. Eating is a very different experience for everyone based on appetites, likes/dislikes, allergies, seasonal foods, location, cultures, time, etc., but we all should try to nourish our bodies the best we can!
I am in no way an expert on nutrition – just a mom trying to nourish her family. I would love to hear how you do this as well. What are your tips for staying on track with healthy eating? Any secrets to getting your kids eating healthier? Hoping these healthy habits now stick with them as they get older.
For information on National Nutrition Month, check out eatright.org to find out how to “Put Your Best Fork Forward.”