Saturday, January 1, 2011

Set a Good Example With Your Food Choices

How often do you think about your food choices? Perhaps every time you eat. Seems logical, right? The question is though, from whose perspective do you make your food choices. Do you think only about what you want to put in your mouth? Or do you think about your children and the example you are setting each time you put a bite of food in your mouth?

I am not here to tell you what to do or eat but rather I will share my experiences and impressions as they pertain to my own family. It is my hope that perhaps you will begin to reconsider your own food choices in light of my experiences and lessons learned.

My kids are food magnets, there is just no two ways about it. Whenever my husband or I get a snack or eat outside of normal meal times our three children swoop in around us from wherever they are in the house and what a bite of what we are eating. With three kids one bite quickly becomes a devouring of our plate without even one bite making its way into our mouths. This is typically not an issue at all because I have learned from past mistakes and purposefully choose healthy nutritious snacks for myself. I care deeply about the food my children consume so as a result my own eating habits have improved dramatically from my "pre-kids" days.

Some examples of my mid-morning or early afternoon snacks (the pregnancy has increased my appetite beyond recognition) include:

  • vine ripened tomatoes with fresh mozzarella and fresh basil (when I have it available). Sometimes I drizzle a little EVOO and season with sea salt. Other times tis just a pinch of sea salt. For a serving of grains with my snack I will add whole wheat crackers or WASA bread; they both add a nice crunch to a soft textured snack.
  • organic yogurt with fresh fruit pieces (apples oranges, grapes, etc.)
  • fresh veggies with cream cheese or hummus
  • a light salad with a variety of toppings (I have found my kids are more open to eating a salad if they see me eating one)
  • fresh fruit with peanut butter and cheese slices (I make up a big plate of fruit slices, peanut butter, and cheese slices for everyone to share together)
Now dinner is a more difficult endeavor in our family. I do my best to prepare healthy and well balanced meals 99% of the time (we all have to splurge on dinner made with breakfast food from time to time). My oldest son will eat anything you put in front of him, my younger 2 however are more challenging. I know with time and age will come more willingness to eat a variety of foods though. Despite the challenges and reluctance at dinner my husband and I stay fast to our rule of not preparing a special meal or allowing after dinner snacks for those that refuse to eat the meal that was prepared for the entire family. My kids all know this rule and no longer argue or question us when the issue arises.

Another challenge when trying to raise healthy eaters is when eating out. The rule in our family is that you must eat the healthy portion of your meal (sandwich, meat serving, etc) before moving onto any less healthier side dish on the plate. At restaurants where they offer side choices for the kids we do not allowed fried food (french fries, etc). If there is more than one unhealthy side choice I simply let my kids know which items they can choose from (salad, fruit, steamed veggies, etc) and and stay strong to my decision. I figure that even if they only eat a few bites of their side dish that is better than eating an entire serving of the less than healthy option they have otherwise been served. Also, just like at home my husband and I prefer to choose rather healthy meal options when eating out. For example, I will request my hamburger wrapped in lettuce rather than having it served on a bun. I will also ask that they exchange the standard french fry side serving with a side salad with dressing on the side.

Am I fanatical about our food choices? Absolutely not! We have our fair share of less than ideal eats in this house. Is it a daily occurrence though? Not at all. The big picture in all of this is that as parents we need to teach our children healthy eating habits. To that end I believe those lessons begin with the food we put in our own mouths. Eating is definitely not a "do as I say, not as I do" lesson. Healthy eating is a life long decision, it doesn't happen overnight and it certainly doesn't come naturally.

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1 comment:

  1. I agree- setting an example of healthy eating to your children is very important. We don't keep "junk" food in the house, but we love to bake- so we get the opportunity to make (occasionally) fun treats with healthy ingredients.

    We also do a snack- usually it's around 10am (after we've put in a good two hours of school) and I'll put a big plate for all of us of sliced apples, sliced cheese, pretzels and veggies. I love sitting around the table and sharing as we chat about our day!

    Thanks for the post...keep it up!



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