Eating Healthy As A Family
Nowadays, we eat more food away from home, compared to our grandparents’ generation, which is unfortunate because there are many benefits of home cooking and family meal time.
As new moms, we start off being very careful as to what we feed our babies, introducing one vegetable or fruit at a time. We enjoy the expressions on their little faces as their taste buds explode. We learn their likes and dislikes from early, allowing us to nurture them with home cooked meals as needed. Then comes kindergarten, we send them off to school and try our best to pack their lunch kits with foods that are, whole and natural. And all of a sudden, you get this picky eater who no longer wants the greens and you begin to wonder what changed, what happened?
You realise your pantry is now full of packaged snacks and juices, but have no clue as to why you had started off so well at the beginning. Was it you that changed the rules? Or was it your little ones who decided that they were getting funner food from school, either by their friends or by the fun birthday parties, Halloween or Christmas events that took place over the last year?
We get busy and fall into a comfortable routine and convenience foods become part of the family meals. Why bother to cook a home cooked meal, to hear the kids protest of eating their greens and beans? When all you want at the end of the day is to feed your kids something they will eat and like, with no complaints, and get to bed. Home Cooking and Family Meals have many benefits that become life skills that are passed on from generation to generation and nurture the child into a family oriented healthy adult.
Start Simple, when kids are young, you have the advantage because they eat at least half their meals at home. If you stock your cupboards and fridge with nutritious foods and toss out the junk, then the whole family will be eating the same healthy foods. Although adults usually decide what kids eat, we all know that kids eat what is available. Therefore, surrounding them with healthier options leaves them no choice but to eat healthier food. Sitting down to regular meals as a family is a great way to connect with one another and offers the opportunity to instil proper eating habits in your children at an early age. Dinner times are the best occasions for kids to explore new foods.
Constant snacking throughout the day can set kids up for weight gain and leave them uninterested in eating when it’s time to sit down for lunch or dinner. And if they are less hungry, they’ll be less willing to try new foods – like vegetables. As a parent, it’s important to set snacking guidelines. Try to stick to a consistent meal and snack schedule, spacing snacks and meals at least two hours apart, allowing for more than two or three snacks a day. Small changes can make huge differences and so I have 6 rules when it comes to eating healthier as a family.
Eat Fruits and Vegetables:
- Kids should eat five servings of fruit and vegetables a day.
- Serve fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables.
- Provide fruit, carrot and cucumber as great snacks in school.
- Offer 100% juice, with no added sugar. Fresh squeezed juice, smoothies are the best choice.
- Mix vegetables into dishes, like adding pureed broccoli in pasta, peas in rice or lettuce/cucumber in sandwiches.
Consume Less Sugar and Fat:
- Choose lean cuts of meat like skinless chicken or ground turkey for hamburgers or pasta sauces.
- Bake or grill instead of fry.
- Substitute coconut oil, olive oil and grass-fed unsalted butter for vegetable oil and margarine.
- Substitute water for milk, sodas or sweetened beverages.
- Consume natural sugars like honey, stevia, 100% maple syrup, xylitol or coconut sugar rather than refined white or brown sugar.
Eat Healthier Snacks
- Reduce the number of snacks served each day.
- Leave a bowl of fruit or veggie sticks on the kitchen table.
- Have kids drink water at snack times.
- Save “treats” for special occasions.
Watch Portion Size
- Kids are smaller than adults and should eat smaller portions.
- Use smaller plates for kids.
- Don’t force kids to clean their plates if they are full.
- Portions should be about the size of the back of a fist – a child’s fist for child’s portion.
- Start with a small portion. Children can have seconds if they are still hungry.
Drink Lots of Water
- Make water the #1 beverage in the house and make it always available.
- Choose a day of the week that will be only water day – no other beverage is to be drunk other than water.
- Kids should drink half their body weight in ounces. If doing physical activity, kids should drink a little more than half their body weight in ounces.
- Make water a fun drink and add slices of fresh or frozen fruit or a vegetable like cucumber.
Eat Together as a Family
- Family meals focus on eating and enjoying food and each other.
- Eating together is a chance to model good behavior.
- Regularly scheduled meal and snack times help kids learn structure for eating.
Paola Henderson born in Ecuador came to Trinidad as a child, not speaking a word of English. Now she considers herself a true Trinidadian, with a family of her own. Her inspiration to health came after her first born son, was born with a liver disease. Medically they did not see much improvement, but when she found the alternative and focused on her sons’ diet, his health improved tremendously. Paola felt the need to increase her knowledge and heal her son herself. Paola enrolled in an online program at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN), out of New York City to become a Health Coach. Not only has she been improving her son’s life, her life and the rest of her family, she is now making this her career as she sees so many Trinidadians battling with chronic disease, poor eating habits, stress, low energy and unhappy day to day lives. Her focus is on busy parents, who struggle with fitting healthier lifestyles into already packed and stressful lives, and on changing the concept of ‘tuck shop’ in schools from processed, packaged foods to healthy and wholesome options for our nation’s children.