My journey to eat better started two years ago when I was feeling really crummy and decided to complete my first Whole30. Although the changes I made to my eating habits happened quickly and have been consistent since, the road to find a healthy eating balance for my family has been more of a process that is still evolving as I learn as a mother.
Eight months ago, I decided it was time to get my kids involved with eating healthy. I had heard about the website 100 Days of Real Food. It’s not Paleo, but since I have some kids who I feel Paleo isn’t really right for anyway, we decided to take the 10-day pledge. Basically, you commit to eat real food and cut out processed food and sugar for 10 days. It sounded like a good place to start.
I told my kids about the challenge and printed out the rules. We did it for about 7 days. The challenge was really good for my family in some ways, but I was surprised to realize some things I hadn’t thought about in regards to food and teaching my children good eating habits.
The good part was that my kids were learning to think about what they were putting in their body. They were reading labels and checking for sugar. I loved this because I feel like paying attention to labels and ingredients is a life skill that will help them be healthy as adults.
The hard part came in how much anxiety some of my children had about the food “rules.” I have one child in particular that had a lot of stress about this. We quit at 7 days because I didn’t think it was worth what this child was going through emotionally.
Our experience with this challenge taught me that my kids don’t need tons of strict rules about what they can and cannot eat. I want them to learn to make healthy choices, but at the same time, I want them to know that they can eat anything they want as long as it is done in moderation. I don’t want my kids to have anxiety about eating.
I thought my journey to help my family eat healthy would end with us cutting out processed food and sugar entirely, but it didn’t and I am 100% okay with that. I am still passionate about healthy eating, but I realize that moderation and letting my kids make their own choices is important.
I think every family has to figure out for themselves what it means to be healthy. Although the healthy eating challenge wasn’t for us, we have made some changes in how we eat. This is what healthy eating looks like for my family.
We Drink Water But Soda Shows up Once in a While
We pretty much only drink water around here. We buy good, quality orange juice for breakfast once or twice a month but other than that we drink water.
We have never been big soda drinkers. I couldn’t tell you the last time I drank a soda, but my kids drink it sometimes. We typically don’t get soda at a restaurant. We don’t go through the Sonic drive-thru for soda, but, at the same time, I don’t stress about it if my kids decide to drink a carbonated beverage once in a while.
We Eat Home-Cooked Meals
We eat a home-cooked meal almost every night. I don’t want to make two dinners, so our evening meal is almost always Paleo. I have always had the philosophy that the kids eat what I make, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t allow modifications to the dinner, as long as they are easy and go with what I am already making.
For example, we frequently have homemade pasta sauce. The sauce is chock full of veggies and is very healthy. I make zucchini or sweet potato noodles using my spiralizer for the pasta sauce to go over, which makes a great Paleo meal. My kids are not fans of the “noodles” I make, so I also make a box of bow tie pasta. Because I eat Paleo, I don’t think pasta is the healthiest option, but since they are getting tons of veggies in the sauce, I don’t have a problem with adding pasta to the meal.
Lunches are Healthier
Our packed lunches have improved by leaps and bounds. I am not impressed with the health value of the meals they serve at school, so we pack lunches at home most of the time. With that said, though, my second grader gets pretty excited about school lunch on some days and I do let her buy lunch at school when she asks.
Before we started becoming more health conscious, my kids always had chips and usually some kind of dessert in their lunch. We cut out chips and crackers and opt for air popped popcorn instead. My kids like the popcorn and don’t seem to miss the chips and crackers. Desserts in a packed lunch are an occasional treat that only show up once or twice a month.
My Kids Eat Whole Wheat Bread
For years I made homemade whole wheat bread, but ironically, once I started eating Paleo and cut out bread for myself, I felt like I didn’t have time to make bread anymore because I was cooking everything else from scratch. As a result, my kids started eating store-bought white bread! I know. I can’t believe I just admitted that, but it’s true. After we attempted the 10-day food challenge I went back to baking whole wheat bread and my kids use it to make sandwiches for lunch or toast for breakfast.
We Eat Treats
We usually reserve treats and dessert for the weekend. We kind of love Oreos at our house and they frequently show up as a treat after church on Sundays. If we have dessert, it’s almost always homemade. My kids actually love homemade Paleo chocolate chip cookies. Overall, I feel like anything that I can make myself is better than something we could buy, even if it sometimes has sugar and white flour in it. In moderation, the treats we eat are fine.
I Let My Kids Make Their Own Food Choices
I’m all about teaching practical, life skills. That means that I am giving my children knowledge about the food they eat and then teaching them to make their own choices. I think that is something that will serve them well as adults.
I think it’s fine if one of my kids decides to eat cake and ice cream because it looks good to them and they don’t want to be the odd man out at a birthday party. If my daughter wants to eat school lunch once in a while, I let her. My kids eat cookies, M&Ms and root beer floats at their grandparents’ homes and I’m 100% okay with that.
I know my kids recognize that putting healthy food into their bodies makes them feel better. Just the other day my son told me he had a headache. I asked him if he was getting sick and he told me no that he had just eaten too much sugar. Consequently, he made healthy food choices for the rest of the day. I am grateful that he could realize this himself and make the changes he felt like he needed to make.
I feel like for me, teaching my children to eat healthy is a journey that I am still on. I haven’t figured it all out, but hopefully I am teaching my kids about food in a way that won’t cause them to stress out and that will help them make healthy choices for themselves in the future.
What have you done to teach your kids about healthy eating? I would love to hear what you think.
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