Children learn by example. The Wyatts stay fit and active as a a family.
How My Family Eats and Plays Healthy — Advice from a Mom
This is part 4 in a multi-part series that explores “Raising a Normal Weight Child in an Overweight Society.”
To recap from part 1 of this series, many mothers feed their children readily-available convenience foods, just as I did when I raised my child, unknowing these foods are calorie-dense, low-nutrient and contribute to being overweight.
Currently 1 in 3 children ages 2-19 is overweight. My daughter, Crystal, who is a wife and mother, has beaten those odds and raised a normal-weight child. So I asked her to share with readers how exactly she instilled healthy eating and activity habits beginning when her daughter was in the cradle, and raised a 5-year-old child who loves raw veggies and playing outdoors?
Crystal and I breakdown this complicated topic step-by-step in this multi-part series so as to share helpful advice on rearing normal-weight children in an overweight society.
My Bariatric Life: Please tell us about a typical day. What does your child eat? How is she active?
Crystal Wyatt: Well, things are a little different now that Madison is in school and we've moved overseas. In the States, it was easy to keep her active and involved — plus it was a great way [for her] to meet new friends and socialize with kids her own age! We looked around our town and surrounding towns for all different kinds of activities to try: ballet, tap, gymnastics, tee ball and swim. Playdates and time at the playground never get old, and in rainy weather most areas now feature either indoor inflatable play centers, children's museums or indoor play gyms where they can be as active and engaged as they like regardless of the weather outside. We got great bargains on these by buying annual passes or block passes, so we always had options of things to do. And of course simple things that we like to do as a family: go for bike rides, walks with the dogs, swimming, and things like that. Kids are great imitators and want nothing more than to be just like you!
That’s all the more reason to start with yourself: Eat healthy, exercise, be healthy and your kids will want to, as well. I would try to squeeze my work outs into my day when they didn't take time away from Madison. She’d watch me while eating her lunch, or I'd go for a run while she finished her dinner with Daddy, or she would see me get changed to do my work out once she went to bed. So she was always aware of my exercise and knew it was a part of my daily routine. I talked to her about it, how much I enjoyed it or if a particular work out was good or difficult. Sometimes, the timing didn't work out perfectly or she just asked to work out with me that day, so she would work out alongside of me. The 1-pound weights sold at the stores are great to keep kids involved, and safe!
When Madison was in her gymnastics classes, I would go for a 4-mile run. And Madison was always there cheering me on when I ran in a local race, which got her interested in running her own races! So when the opportunity came up, her daddy and I signed her up for a mud run! Madison knew we'd done one together and she loved the pictures! We also signed her up for her very own 3K. She ran the entire thing! Not too shabby for a then 4-year-old!
Down here in Argentina, organized activities are less common and harder to find — on top of the language barrier for a little girl that is still learning the local Spanish dialect. No problem; we make sure to have play dates with friends, go to the park when we can, go for walks and bike rides, use the pool - anything in addition to her play time and gym classes at school.
And really important — a battle for a kid who doesn't want to miss a moment — is making sure she gets enough sleep! We keep her on a predictable sleep schedule as best we can and make sure she is getting the amount of sleep that she needs. The American Academy of Pediatrics has great guidelines on how much sleep different aged children need, and of course, some kids need more/less than others.
What does she eat? We try very hard to make sure she has a balanced diet and that she knows the difference between healthy food and junk food and why we eat the way that we do. Sure, whole grain bread is a healthy food, but in moderation. Whereas she knows that she can eat her heart's content of vegetables and fruit (avoiding the sneaky starches like corn, peas and bananas). Breakfast is anything from a “protein pancake" (banana, nut butter and egg), healthy cereal (she knows to avoid the sugar-laden, nutrient-lacking cartoon cereals and gets to pick out her own healthy options), some type of eggs, oatmeal (homemade is very easy to make and a lot healthier than the instant individual packets), and sometimes frozen whole grain waffles. The biggest thing I do is read labels: no high fructose corn syrup, no artificial sweeteners, we watch out for added sugars and preservatives and other undesirable ingredients.
For lunch I just follow a simple pattern. But there aren't any set items that she eats constantly — variety is the spice of life! Her lunch plate should have: fruit, vegetables, protein, dairy and some grains. Again, grains are easy to overdo it, especially in the American diet, so I don't mind leaving those out at lunch or limiting them since I know she is getting enough. I keep it easy: I love fruit cups (glass jars of fruit are even better so you don't have to worry about the plastic) and you can get a great variety in fruits. I love pre-sliced apples — since I'm highly allergic, the less I have to handle them the better, and they are preserved with lemon juice, so no guilt in serving them up!
Berries and dried fruit — again, check your labels. I personally don't care for the fruit juice infused options which fall into the junk food category with all the added sweeteners etc. Veggies are a cinch: baby carrots or any crudite veggie. And most kids LOVE dip — ranch dressing, peanut butter, whatever are good options, just obviously not chocolate or caramel! Even picky kids will usually at least go for cucumbers, and it's a start! And the proteins, dairy and grains are pretty easy: whole grain crackers, whole grain bread or whole grain wrap for a sandwich, yogurt or a nice cheese for dairy (seriously, step away from the Kraft prepackaged singles... I'm not sure that even qualifies as cheese…). Protiens can be deli meat, hummus or eggs, and simple things like that. Again, it's lunch, I don't go fancy.
Madison eats for dinner whatever her daddy and I are having which will consist of a protein main and 2 side veggies. I’ve never made “kid’s meals” for her. I do not regularly include grains in dinner, but that certainly doesn't mean that they never appear there either. I find it hugely helpful to make 2 vegetables. It is that much more satisfying to eat and it is a lot easier to fill half your plate with veggies when there are two varieties of vegetable dishes. And vegetables are fresh and simple in our house: In spring and summer our favorite is crudite, in fall and winter it’s roasted vegetables.
The biggest thing here is seasoning. I adore vegetables, but I'll be right there pushing the vegetables around my plate instead of eating them if someone serves me steamed vegetables without any seasoning. Roasting vegetables with some salt and olive oil seems to be a huge hit with kids. It brings out the natural sweetness in the vegetables and is just delicious. I have to make 2-pounds of roasted green beans or roasted broccoli whenever I make either of these for my family of three because they are such huge hits in our house!
Drinks are water. We drink a lot of water, flat and bubbly. A lot of stores offer flavored bubbly water that is has artificial sweetener and is calorie-free. Madison gets one cup of juice a day and she has grown up on V-8 Fusion (not Splash which has high fructose corn syrup,) and Bare Naked Green Juice. She loves the taste and I get to sneak some more vegetables into her diet. Double win! She also gets 1 cup of milk (organic) at dinner. Other than that, she drinks water. And her daddy and I drink the same way: lots of water (we often add a splash of all natural juice for some flavor). You cannot get enough water.
And the last thing: Dessert is not a regular part of our diet. Desserts are fine and dandy, and we enjoy them as much as the next family. But it just isn't necessary to have them after every dinner or as a snack or part of lunch. We don't have a set schedule of when we eat desserts, but we never finish our dinner just so we can have dessert nightly. If you do have a sweet tooth, one of my favorite desserts that I don't feel guilty enjoying and serving is homemade whipped cream (heavy cream, powdered sugar and vanilla) over fresh fruit! Is it calorie and guilt free? No, but it beats the pants off of rocky road ice cream in the health department!
Published On: December 18, 2014