By Kathryn Trudeau
The New Year is the perfect opportunity to say goodbye to bad habits and hello to healthy habits. One of the most common New Year's resolutions is to lose weight or clean up less-than-ideal eating habits, but there’s no reason why adults are the only ones who can benefit from these resolutions.
Of course, little ones don’t need to worry about losing weight, but they can join in on these family-friendly healthy eating habits.
1. Ditch the processed foods
This tip probably goes without saying, but it definitely falls under the category of “easier said than done.” Processed food is basically anything that comes in plastic wrap and is shelf-stable. This includes things like fruit snacks, granola bars, and instant noodle cups.
These foods tend to be hard to give up because they taste good and they super convenient. Unfortunately, though, most processed foods are loaded with bad-for-you ingredients and preservatives.
Use these tips to make this process easier:
- Stop buying processed foods (if they are not in your pantry, it’s a lot hard to eat them!)
- Make your own versions of your favorites (i.e. make homemade granola bars)
2. Swap your Snacks
Snacks are not bad. In fact, you need snacks. I repeat: snacking is good! Snacking can help you stave off hunger, provide you with energy, and help keep your blood sugar levels stable. In order words, snacks prevent you from getting hangry. Depending on your own individual needs, you may need two to three
The key is to choose only snacks that are nutritious, nutrient-dense, and appropriately sized. This means that snacking on the whole bag of chips is not an option. This also explains why the first tip (ditching processed foods) had to be first on the list. With processed snacks out of the picture, what can you snack on?
Healthy snack ideas that your whole family will love:
- Fresh cut veggies and hummus: For younger toddlers, cut cucumbers, bell peppers, and carrots into long thing spears so it’s easier to dip into the hummus
- Cottage cheese and cantaloupe or berries
- Greek yogurt drizzled with raw honey and crushed walnuts (omit the honey for babies under one year of age)
- Cucumber spears and tzatziki
- Apple slices and nut butter (choose fresh nut butter or a brand without added sugar)
- Sliced roasted chicken and cheese cubes (just keep your portion small so it’s not a “meal”)
- Rice cakes topped with cream cheese, alfalfa sprouts, and salt and pepper
- Healthy trail mix: dried fruit, nuts, and seeds (skipping the chocolate keeps this healthy)
3. Sneak in more vegetables and fruit
In the not-so-distant past, Americans were encouraged to get enough fruit and vegetables by counting grams and servings. However, the guidelines have since changed and we are advised to watch our intake in terms of cups- not grams. Depending on your age and gender, aim for 1.5-2 cups of fruit each day and 2-2.5 cups of vegetables each day.
Yikes! So how do you get all of that produce in your family’s diet? You sneak it in, of course! One of the best ways to get in more vegetables is to make a tomato or curry sauce. You can pack a lot of vegetables in a tomato sauce! You can use to top pasta, but you can also ladle that pasta sauce on anything from meatball sandwiches to omelets.
4. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
The next healthy habit has everything to do with the beverages you choose to drink. Your body craves and needs water so naturally that should be your number beverage of choice. If drinking water is hard for you or your kids, try adding fresh fruit (or fresh herbs) to a giant pitcher of water. Cucumber lemon mint, basil pineapple, and lime cucumber are a few fan-favorites in our house.
Being realistic, you’re probably not just drinking water so let’s cover a few tips for other beverages you may like to drink:
- If you drink coffee, skip any artificial sweetener. Either switch to a natural sweetener or forego the sweetener all together.
- Swap out your kids sports drinks for coconut water. Coconut water provides all of the electrolytes without any of the added food dyes or artificial flavors.
- As recommended by the American Dental Association, dilute juice and even then offer it only occasionally to children (too much juice contributes to tooth decay)
- Avoid soda and energy drinks
- Tea and milk can be good choices but they should never replace your water intake
5. Jump on the smoothie bandwagon
Smoothies are trending, and there’s millions of Pinterest recipes to prove it. What’s so good about smoothies anyway? For starters, there are super easy to make, easy to drink on-the-go, easily customizable, and the perfect platform for loading up on essential nutrients. Smoothies are especially helpful if you have picky kids because you can add supplements to smoothies to make sure your child gets enough nutrients.
New to smoothies? Keep these tips in mind:
- If your recipe calls for a banana, freeze your banana first. This makes your smoothie colder and creamier.
- Need to boost your smoothie? Try these: grass-fed gelatin (for joint and skin health), chia seeds (loaded with omega 3 fatty acids), protein powder, and wheatgrass powder
- Need a base recipe? Try this: one frozen banana, one scoop of protein powder, and one cup of your favorite milk/milk alternative
6. You can still have your sweets
If you’re anything like me (or my husband or my kids), then you have a sweet tooth and that can definitely get you in trouble! When you’re cleaning up your menu, you don’t have to say goodbye to sweets forever.
Keep these tips in mind:
- Make your own desserts from scratch: homemade energy balls with dark chocolate, homemade frozen yogurt, homemade juice pops are all sensible choices
- Eat sensible portions in moderation
- Eat your treat with lunch - not right before bed
7. Eat more fat (yes, really!)
In the 90’s, fat earned a bad reputation, but the truth is that we need fat, but (and there is a but) we need to eat the right kind of fat. Fat is essential for brain health. Fat also helps to protect your organs, keep you warm, and provide you with energy.
So when you’re making a few changes in your menu this year, be sure to include plenty of the healthy sources of good fat:
- Coconut oil (you can even make fat bombs with this oil)
- Fatty fish like salmon and sardines
- Olive oil (use to make your own salad dressing)
- Whole fat dairy products
8. Don't neglect the power of seeds
Coming off the “eat more fat” resolution is the “eat more seeds” resolution. Omega 3 fatty acids promote both heart and brain health, and guess what, there is a seed that is loaded with these essential fatty acids: the mighty chia seed. Toss these seeds in your smoothies, in your yogurt bowls, and in more oatmeal.
9. Eat more often
Are you guilty of working through lunch? Or pushing back dinner after a late night of rehearsals and practices? Going too long between meals doesn’t help you lose weight; in fact, not eating often enough slows down your metabolism. In kids, not eating enough can result in a major meltdown. Some doctors even recommend eating six small meals throughout the day, rather than three big meals.
- Never go anywhere without a snack - for you and the kids
- Snacking can keep your blood sugar stable
- Reduce the size of your meals and add a few 100-200 calorie snacks throughout the day
- Offer snacks to your children between breakfast and lunch, between lunch and dinner, and a very small snack before bed (such as a glass of warm milk or a few apple slices)
10. Re-think breakfast
Last but not least, try making a few changes to your breakfast routines. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day because it jump starts your metabolism, “wakes up” your digestive system, and fuels your body for the day.
But here’s the secret: cereal just isn’t going to cut it. So many of the cereals marketed to kids are full of sugar, GMO ingredients, and guess what- cereal is never filling.
So if you’re not skipping breakfast and you’re not eating cereal, what can you feed your family for breakfast? Keep these tips in mind:
- Eggs: You can cook eggs in so many ways (poached, fried, boiled, scrambled), and they are very affordable!
- Oatmeal: Another go-to in our house, this breakfast food is nutritious, easy to make, and the perfect canvas for loading it up with superfoods like berries, nuts, and seeds. Just be sure to skip the flavored packets, and buy the plain oats. You can flavor it with real berries, etc.
- Yogurt parfaits: Top Greek yogurt with fresh fruit and/or nuts
- Homemade waffles and pancakes: Skip the pancake “syrup” and use only real maple syrup. You can even add in a scoop of protein power to your batter if your little ones struggle to eat meat
- Homemade breakfast burritos: Scrambled eggs, roasted bell peppers, and sausage
Safety first: If you have any concerns about your nutritional needs or requirements, check in with your doctor or nutritionist.
What about you?
Are you making healthy resolutions this year? Which ones are you trying?
Kathryn is a self-proclaimed book nerd who has a passion for natural parenting and writing. As a homeschooling mother of two, Kathryn understands the dynamics of a busy family life. She is the founder of the Cor Domum movement, a mission that guides families through life so that they can parent with joy. Read more at www.katietrudeau.com
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