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Welcome to episode 37; Top 12 Tips for Raising Healthy Eaters
This episode feels especially relevant as we emerge from the holiday season and all the goodness that comes along with them. The exceptional meals and sweets, the change in family and daily rhythms and all in all, everyone I have talked to feels exactly as I do. So grateful for that slow and special time of year but so excited to jump back into regular life.
Culturally there is a lot of pressure to set goals for the New Year. As we jump into this episode I would like to reframe the idea of setting goals and instead, focus on identifying and cultivating habits that align with your values and long-term vision for yourself and family. This allows you to make progress towards your aspirations in a sustainable way, rather than trying to achieve everything at once and potentially feeling overwhelmed or discouraged. Additionally, by focusing on building good habits, you can often achieve your larger goals naturally as a byproduct of consistently working towards them. I would like to give you permission to set the pressure of hefty goals aside and sink into cultivating habits.
Your natural instinct as a mama is to nourish your child. Even beyond your breastfeeding years that maternal instinct never goes away and should be embraced. By being intentional about teaching your children healthy eating habits, you can nurture their natural desire to make nutritious food choices. Embrace your maternal instinct and empower your child to make healthy choices. This could be a beautiful habit you commit to cultivating in 2023.
In this episode I am going to share some strategies for promoting healthy choices as a family and provide practical tips for implementing them in your daily life. First, we will discuss ways to encourage healthy habits in your family, and then I will share some actionable steps you can take to make those habits a reality. We are going to cover a lot today and I want you to get the absolute most out of this so I have created a free PDF download for you so you can save all of these tips to your phone for quick and easy reference anytime you need. You can grab that now or after the episode.
We are all here to learn more about how to support and promote gut health and balance. One crucial aspect of living a gut-healthy lifestyle is making healthy eating habits a consistent part of your rhythm. By creating a habit of nourishing your family’s bodies with wholesome, nutritious foods, you can support the overall health and well-being of your gut and therefore your whole body. But a lot of times this can feel really overwhelming and defeating. Here are my top 12 tips to help encourage your children to eat healthy:
- Go with the natural law of out of sight out of mind. To promote healthy eating in my family, I keep packaged snacks for special occasions or emergencies and instead have a variety of washed fruit and veggies available for my children to choose from as a snack. We keep a lot of delicious dips in the fridge that they can grab anytime. Hummus, peanut butter, cashew dip and guacamole. By keeping unhealthy options out of sight, my children are more likely to make healthy choices. While it does take some effort on my part to make sure unhealthy snacks are not present in our home, it ultimately helps my children develop healthy eating habits.
- Make mealtime fun: Invite your children to help with meal planning and join you in the kitchen to make messes, memories, and meals that everyone will enjoy. Research has shown that children are much more likely to enjoy foods they have helped prepare. This can be a great opportunity to bond with your children and teach them about the joy of cooking and healthy eating. You can find pinterest photos of elaborate meals with vegetables cut like rainbows and dinosaurs and while all of the ideas are so beautiful and fun, you can keep it simple. Your children want to be like you. Keep it simple and invite them into the kitchen the way you enter and enjoy the kitchen. No big whoop extravagant preparation needed.
- Be a good role model: Children are more likely to eat healthy foods if they see their parents and other adults doing so. Make sure to include healthy options in your own diet. You children are always watching and studying you. Because again - they want to be just like you. This can feel like a lot of pressure OR it can be a wonderful opportunity and I invite you to see it as the latter. Motherhood is the beautiful opportunity to become our best selves.
- Use language that promotes positivity. In our family, we focus on cultivating a healthy relationship with our bodies and minds through nourishing habits. One way we do this is by using language that promotes this relationship, rather than labeling foods as "good" or "bad." Instead, we refer to foods as "growing foods" or "not growing foods," which helps us focus on the positive aspects of nourishment rather than negative judgements. This approach can be a helpful way to encourage a positive and supportive attitude towards food and nutrition in your family.
- Teach the habit of eating when you are hungry, and finishing a meal when you are full. Don’t create hard set rules, simply tune in with what your body wants and needs and let your body be your guide. This will cultivate a healthy relationship with food. Of course you will need to set boundaries and expectations as children oftentimes want to play and run around during meal time and confuse that desire with not being hungry. In our family we have a rule that you can be done whenever you are full but everyone stays at the table until everyone is finished.
- Don't force it: If a child refuses to eat a particular food, don't insist that they eat it. A helpful rule we have in our family is that you must try something before you decide you don’t like it. But once you try it and you genuinely don’t like it you don’t have to eat it. For me, I put those foods on my mental list to try offering again at a later time. It can take up to 12 exposures for taste buds to adapt and learn to like certain foods. Eventually your child’s taste buds may come around. It's all about patience and persistence.
- Always be prepared. It's important to always be prepared when it comes to food. By carrying snacks with you and planning ahead, you can avoid the temptation to make unhealthy food choices out of convenience. After I share these tips with you I will share some weekly habits that can help you feel prepared.
- Be really mindful about sugar. There are many foods that can be high in hidden sugars. Some common sources of sneaky sugars include:
- Packaged snacks, such as granola bars, fruit snacks, and crackers
- Condiments, such as BBQ sauce, ketchup, and salad dressing
- Flavored yogurts
- Flavored oatmeal and breakfast cereals
- Fruit juices and smoothies
- Sports drinks and energy drinks
- And of course bakery items, such as muffins, croissants, and doughnuts
It's important to read ingredient lists carefully to identify sources of hidden sugars in the foods you offer your child. Some ingredients to look out for include high fructose corn syrup, cane sugar, sugar and corn sweetener. Keep in mind that foods that are naturally high in sugar, such as fruit, do not fall into this category. Fresh fruit is a wonderful option to keep on hand and offer in abundance.
- Make mealtime a family activity: Eating together as a family can help promote healthy eating habits. Make mealtime a special time for everyone to sit down and enjoy a healthy meal together.
- Take a moment to check in with yourself. Do you find yourself feeling resistant to making growing food choices for your children? If so, it's important to recognize that your mindset plays a critical role in the success of your efforts. If you worry that your children will never eat healthily, you may be projecting your fears onto them, which can create resistance and make the process more challenging. Instead, try to adopt a positive mindset and believe that eating healthy is important and achievable with commitment. This can help you approach the task with more confidence and enthusiasm, which can make it easier to encourage healthy habits in your children.
- After you create your weekly menu plan and shopping list with your children, go shopping solo. If this isn’t possible for you, embrace instacart or ask your partner to do the shopping and to please only purchase what is on the list. This leaves less room for those tempting unhealthy snacks to make their way into your home.
- Always offer growing foods first.
- Ohhh gosh! I have one more. Here is my bonus tip. Embrace the concept of balance and not strive for perfectionism. It's okay to indulge in foods that are not necessarily the most nourishing from time to time. Life is all about finding balance, and it's important to prioritize what matters most to you. In this case, honoring your maternal instincts and nurturing healthy habits with food is a top priority. However, it's also important to leave room for indulgences and not put too much pressure on yourself or your family to be perfect. Remember that progress, not perfection, is the key to success.
Now I am going to share a few practical strategies or weekly habits that will help you feel prepared. We already addressed some of these in the tips but I will emphasize them here as they all go hand in hand.
It is helpful to keep things simple. While it can be fun to experiment with new recipes, it's important to find a few reliable options for breakfast, lunch, and snacks to fall back on until you feel comfortable with your new habits. Using simple dinner recipes from my cookbook and rotating through them every few days can also be a helpful strategy. I will attach my cookbook in the show notes.
- Meal plan: We went over this in one of the tips but I cannot emphasize the importance of this step enough. Take some time to plan out your meals for the week and make a grocery list based on those plans. This will help you stay organized and ensure that you have the ingredients you need to make healthy meals.
- Stock your kitchen: Keep your pantry and refrigerator stocked with a variety of bulk and fresh foods. This will give you the flexibility to make any recipe and ensure that you always have healthy options on hand.
- Meal prep: Set aside some time each week to prep your meals in advance. This can include cooking grains, washing and chopping produce, and soaking nuts and seeds. By doing this, you'll be able to quickly assemble meals when you're short on time."
Okay! This was a lot. Again, you can grab the free accompanying PDF so you can save all of these tips to your phone for quick and easy reference anytime you need. It is available in the show notes.