Think about how you plan and save to afford a new car or even a house. Think about how you balance your checkbook, never spending money that is not there. Think about how you organize a filing system at work, so that when you need something you know exactly where it is. So many of the personal and work habits we prize involve planning and organizational skills. We use those skills in order to achieve success and in order to maintain a semblance of control in our busy and challenging lives. So why would we, as parents, wing it when it comes to feeding our kids? Isn't their health and well-being of paramount importance? Wouldn't we put our own lives on the line to save our kids? So how is it that we give less thought and effort to the feeding of our kids, when compared to our work habits?
Maybe that's what we, as parents, need to focus on, so that we raise healthy kids who avoid the obesity trap. Because if you ask the average dietician or nutritionist to describe the household of overweight kids, very often they will say, "it's a disorganized, messy household; there's chaos in the kitchen." What can parents do? The answer is actually easier than you think - because the neatness habit is a habit you may actually be using in other sectors of your life. Maybe you just dropped the ball at home and especially in your kitchen. Here are some tips that can help you to "get control" of the kitchen and in turn, and what you feed your kids.
- Clean out the refrierator and pantry - that means emptying every last inch of both places and really examining the food. Toss expired foods, foods with mold, junk foods, foods with trans fats. Take the time to read labels and decide which foods have too much salt or sugar or which foods are just "taste good foods with no nutritional value." Involve your kids so that they can begin to have a sense of what is going into their bodies. If you are a young couple then remember, that this exercise is setting up a healthier household for the kids you may decide to have some day.
- Spend time at the supermarket and begin to develop a list of better choices and treats. Only one or two treat options need to come home with you on a weekly basis - too many treat choices can lead to over-eating the wrong foods too often.
- Explore the fruit and vegetable aisle and take advantage of taste testing and recipe cards which many supermarkets are now offering. Kids should be part of this weekly experience so that they learn and participate in choices.
- Don't bring home multiple choices of any healthy processed foods. You do not need 6 cereal boxes or 9 different kinds of breads. The only "many selections" you should have on hand are fruits and vegetables.
- Remember that snacks are "bridges to meals." Your kid should not be eating meal-size snacks nor should they expect a snack every hour.
- Begin to cook your own simple meals and involve the kids. If you cook, then you control the ingredients. That typically means you eat less fat, less salt, less sugar if you use simple, healthy recipes. Involve the kids and they typically will eat what they had a hand in preparing.
- Go on the internet to find healthy recipes or invest in a magazine subscription like Cooking Light that can help you learn how to substitute healthier ingredients in recipes and how to cook delicious, healthy meals.
My new book, The 4 Habits of Healthier Families (BenBella Books 2010) releases in June and offers a simple program for families that want a healthier lifestyle.