Overcome Obstacles to Healthier Eating
How can busy parents overcome challenges when incorporating healthier habits into family life? After a few meetings with the Carolina Parent Healthy Families Challenge experts, two Triangle families share some of their goals and how they are incorporating healthier eating.
Getting everyone on board.
At first Tina Steed’s daughters, Belle, 8, and Day, 10, were excited about participating in the Carolina ParentHealthy Families Challenge, the Apex mom says, but then the newness wore off. They wanted to know why they were changing their eating habits.
The best way to encourage children to eat healthier is to look for teachable moments, says Cindy Goulding, a Cary licensed behavioral counselor and certified health and wellness coach. For example, if your child comes home from school tired after skipping breakfast or eating a sugary option, mention that eating fruit or yogurt can make a positive difference in energy levels. Goulding also advises parents to focus on the positive, praise good choices, include children in food shopping and preparation and, especially, be a good role model. Invite kids to make fruit kabobs, frozen fruit popsicles and smoothies, and encourage them to choose produce in every color of the rainbow when grocery shopping, she says.
Beth Mosher-Blount, a Cary YMCA trainer, uses the following example when talking to kids about making healthy choices: We need to put the right kind of fuel into a car for it to run well, and we need to put the right kind of fuel – or food – into our bodies to be at our best, she says.
One of the Steeds’ healthy eating goals is to eat out less frequently. This means planning in advance – selecting recipes, going grocery shopping and making meals that fit their busy schedule packed with after-school activities. Steed is experimenting with using a slow cooker, or Crock Pot, so dinner will be ready whenever their schedule allows.
Steed also wants to try different types of food and recipes to see what works best for her family. Meredith Dolan, a nutritionist and program manager for Be Active Kids, suggests looking online for healthy recipes (see box above) and setting aside one day a week to go grocery shopping with a list.
Trying new foods
A familiar challenge for Elizabeth Carr’s family is getting the recommended daily servings of fruit and vegetables. The Wake Forest mother says Dallen, 3, Joseph, almost 6, and her husband only like a limited number of veggies.
One of their goals is to include more vegetables with dinner and to cook each vegetable serving differently. Carr recently tried roasting potatoes, which her boys enjoyed, and she experiments with different seasonings, including Mrs. Dash, a grilling seasoning mix, and olive oil with Parmesan cheese.
Other kid-friendly finds? Joseph and Dallen like the frozen vegetable bags that steam in the microwave. And Carr says her 3-year-old will eat a few skinny baby carrots if she serves them with hummus. Carr is planning to make her own kale chips next, since both her children liked the sweet potato chips she bought. Planning in advance and experimenting to discover what works for your family can help time-starved parents incorporate healthier eating into busy family life.
Stock Up on Healthy Choices
What should you keep on hand to make it easy to eat healthier? Meredith Dolan, nutritionist and program manager of Be Active Kids, advises having the following:
• At least three types of fruit, washed and ready to eat, in an easily visible fruit bowl.
• At least three different vegetables, washed and sliced or chopped, stored in clear containers in the refrigerator for easy access.
• At least one leafy green, such as romaine or spinach. Toss it with a handful of the prepared, ready-to-eat vegetables or fruits and a couple of tablespoons of low-fat salad dressing.
• Lean protein (such as boneless chicken breasts) grilled or broiled to use in salads, sandwiches and whole-wheat pasta dishes. Tuna is another good option.
• Whole-wheat wraps or bread; salad fixings can also be wrapped up.
• Healthy grab-and-go snacks such as individual containers of low-fat yogurt and whole fruit.
Healthy Recipe Resources