- Cahla Downs
RAISING FIT KIDS - PART 1
Struggling to find the time and money to keep your family healthy? Here are a few tips from a mothers perspective.
1. MODEL THE LIFESTYLE YOU WANT YOUR FAMILY TO FOLLOW
Teach your children well. From the very beginning of their lives, when their taste-buds are first developing, until they first step foot in school, you must be in control of their diet and what food they are exposed to. It’s key for them to develop a palate rich in nutrient dense foods at home, before they get wind of what other kids are bringing to school or getting from the cafeteria.
If you wait to give them raw carrots until kindergarten, guess what, they are going to compare those carrot sticks to little Janey’s Twinky at lunch, and feel slighted. Unless they understand beforehand why those carrots are better for them, and actually like how they taste.
I’m not suggesting that somehow by doing so, you won’t still develop a choosy eater. Or that your kids won’t still come home with questions. Children are innately picky, which is why it’s important to find the healthy foods they do like, reinforce them, while continually introducing new ones. Even if they continue to refuse them.
All of my kiddos are meat eaters. They would prefer Bacon for breakfast over lucky charms any day. So we always have a good stock pile of nitrate free bacon in the fridge, I even let them snack on it throughout the day, making sure they get enough good fat and protein in their diet. One staple food which all of my children prefer is Ezekial sprouted grain bread. Yes, they are kind of bread snobs. But since they were born, we have been eating it, and for the most part, they don’t really even recognize white, or even just plain processed wheat bread, well, as bread. I count that as a win because if they take even just that one dietary preference with them into adulthood, they are much more likely to make healthy choices alongside it. At least I hope!
2. DON’T BE TOO RESTRICTIVE
Once you start venturing into the world of organics, natural foods, and healthy eating, your mindset very quickly changes when it comes to making choices about what to feed your family. It’s easy to become fearful of foods that you once thought to be healthy, or at the very least, harmless. Even so, it’s really important that you don’t go all prison guard on your kids, and completely shelter them from the reality of how great an ice cream cone tastes. If you do, they will inevitably resent you for it and you are just bound to get a call someday from a parent, maybe at your kid’s first sleepover party, because they were found hiding in a closet, devouring a gallon of Breyer’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough.
Keeping in mind food allergies and sensitivities, your best bet is to let them have cake. Let them eat chocolate. Take them to Chic-fil-A. And even give them donuts. Just do it as a treat, for special occasions, celebrations, vacations, or as a surprise. Not daily and not regularly. Just enough so they know what that sort of food tastes like, so they have a chance to experience it, and so they don’t act like tittle maniacs when they get around it.
Your children should recognize sweets and fast food as a rare indulgence and understand it stands only as an itty bitty piece of their dietary pie, not the other way around. Not to mention, there are countless alternatives out there now if you’re looking for homemade or healthier options. You can practically Pinterest any recipe or food, and find a healthy version to make at home, place to buy it, or even somewhere that will deliver it to you.
3. GIVE THEM CHOICES
My middle child is extremely headstrong, likes to do things that are her idea, on her schedule, and to her liking which, can make meal time very difficult. If I put a plate of food in front of her without her having a say in it, even if its something I know she likes, she will naturally resist it. I have discovered that the best way to get the result that I want from her, whether it’s getting dressed in the morning, picking out a movie, or eating dinner, is to give her choices. I may offer her three things of my choosing, but she can choose which one she wants. Or give her the choice of eating a carrot or not eating a carrot, but letting her know that if she doesn’t, she is choosing not to have dessert.
I try my best to parent intentionally and differently, depending on the child. Though, the one common tactic that has seemed to work really well with all of my children, is offering choice rather than relaying commands. In addition, I strongly feel that teaching them how to make good choices now, will only become more impactful in the future. Especially in their teen years, when they become acutely aware of advertising, engrossed with options, school lunch lines, and the many other situations where I will not be present. The older they become, the less I’ll be around to offer advice on the many dietary and life choices they will be faced with.
Choosing between carrots and peas may seem insignificant now. But someday, somehow, I’m hoping that will translate into making the right choice between a cigarette and gum.