Healthy Eating with Kids - 3 Rules for Families

Family laughing around a good meal in kitchen

Something happens to many moms when their children reach the toddler years. Past struggles to control food consumption, and finding peace with your body, often peak. We may feel we still carry “baby weight” and the need to understand what “healthy eating” means becomes more important as we now control what goes into little mouths too. 

I find when I talk to moms who are at this stage, something interesting is at work: too often there is a discrepancy between what Mom is eating, and what Child is eating.  CLICK TO TWEET

For some women, this means placing a well-balanced healthy breakfast in front of their child, and then squirreling away in the corner of the kitchen to shove a croissant in their mouth before flying out the door (or skipping breakfast all together, or finding breakfast in the drive-thru). For others, it may mean letting the kids dine on processed chicken nuggets and fries, while sitting down to tuck into a salad and plain chicken breast (or this amazing meal). Does any of this sound familiar?

I have been guilty of it too, at one time or another, and that “guilt” brings me to this post. I want to set the record straight - eating healthy with kids is about healthy family eating. The best way to shed baby weight, and to teach your kids healthy eating habits, is to practice what you preach - and learn what to preach and practice!. And so here are 3 rules for healthy family eating.

Rule #1: Everyone eats the same meal.

Sometimes we think about following a special diet for ourselves, or trying a new recipe, but leaving the kids out of it. We think, “They’ll never eat this!” And so we don’t try. Instead, aim to make the same meal for everyone and don’t worry about being adventurous. Asking your kids to try new tastes and textures, at least one bite, is very healthy for them. If you constantly keep them in their comfort zone, they won’t learn to expand their palate. You can apply this rule at a restaurant too: kids menus reinforce this “You eat differently from me” mentality. Try sharing an entree with your child instead! I love this article for tips on introducing new foods to kids.

Rule #2: Everyone gets their own plate.

This sounds silly, but I have talked with moms who think they’ll just skip out on having lunch, and then find themselves eating their child’s leftovers. Or, after eating their own portion, moms will finish up their kid’s plates too. You should not eat your child’s leftovers, ever! CLICK TO TWEET This can lead to overeating and weight gain. Did you know there are 125 calories in that square of grilled cheese sandwich you finished for your son? You could have had an egg over bok choy for just a few more calories than that lonely bite! Spoon out a healthy portion for everyone in the family (this teaches your kids what healthy portions look like) and make sure to encourage each family member to stick to eating from their own plate. Boundaries are important in families, as is making each child feel like they have something just for them.

Rule #3: Aim for consistent meal and snack times.

Kids like consistency, and their tummies do too. You like consistency, even if you don’t always realize it, and your body will too. Avoid mindless snacking throughout the day, especially in front of the television, and aim to have conscious meals and snacks eaten while sitting down at a table (talking and connecting with your kids). Research suggests that children who eat meals with their parents, are less likely to be obese. You should also eat at intervals that ensure your blood sugar stays stable (especially important for breastfeeding moms!)

By applying these three rules for family eating, you can really start to nurture healthy attitutdes toward food, for every member of the family, mom included. The bottom line is balance: find your balance by eating mindfully, enjoying the knowledge and passion you are sharing with your kids, and taking time to think of everyone’s needs … yours are so important.


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