I was admittedly a little delusional pre-kiddo. I had visions of perfect family dinners. Vibrant salads followed by plates heaped high with fresh sautéed farmers market vegetables, steaming perfectly cooked local roast, homemade risotto and a little one eager to enjoy all of the unique and interesting flavors of my imagination-turned-creations.
Flash forward to toddler-dom. My husband works full-time and I myself work more than part time, with a two year old I spend at least half the day with every day of the week and though those perfect dinners do happen- they’re rare at best. Instead, dinners are harried and lunches are often on-the-go. I meal prep to make healthy happen but meals are simple and we enjoy repeats often. Sage has a more varied palate than many of her peers in some respects, and in many others, she’s just a two year old who gobbles up broccoli one day and turns her nose up at it in another. Sometimes she only eats rice with grass-fed butter for dinner, and we don’t sweat it. There was a phase of grilled cheese every day at lunch and I can’t get the girl to eat salad no matter how hard I try.
I try not to beat myself up about it. Because above all, what we strive for in my family is balance- in and out of the kitchen. I grew up on a heavily processed diet which resulted in being an overweight pre-teen, which spiraled into distorted body image, digestive issues and other complications as I got older- it’s no wonder nutrition became of interest to me. My main goal when it comes to cooking for and eating with my daughter? To give her a better foundation than I had. Simple as that.
Our diet is based in whole foods and we enjoy treats in moderation. We don’t have rules around food (aside from perhaps, “Don’t play with your food”) and we strive to teach our daughter that food nourishes us, but it is also to be enjoyed. So when parents come to me and ask me what my secret is for getting their kids to eat healthy food I simply tell them, make healthy living the norm.
Eating well isn’t an assignment or an obligation- it’s a choice. A family choice. It’s about leading by example. Make whole food eating your family way, and you’ll avoid arguments altogether. There are no ‘good foods’ or ‘bad foods’ in our house. The only no-nos for Sage are wine and popcorn, which we have in the house rarely (only because she’s allergic to corn). She can eat nearly everything we have, because we only keep healthy food on hand.
If your kids are older, sure- they might put up a fight for a week or two, if you’re transitioning to a cleaner lifestyle. But once they realize this is a change you’re making for good- that they won’t have a choice, they’ll learn to enjoy the foods you serve or at the very least, find healthy choices they love.
I’m not sharing our lifestyle to put ourselves on a pedestal.
Are we perfect? Not even close. We still order pizza out and we make frequent stops at Chipotle after our family gym date on weekends. We don’t pass up birthday cake and ice cream is our favorite family treat. But as I’ve talked about many times before, the point of living a healthy lifestyle isn’t perfection- it’s about creating that foundation of good eating, that your kids can carry on for years to come, and pass onto their kids. A foundation rooted in whole foods, farmers market trips and a variety of vegetables. It’s educating kids from the start that healthy food is fun, and delicious. It’s about creating foods the whole family enjoys rather than resorting to ‘kid food’ and allowing healthy living to happen organically. No pun intended.
Looking for simple, healthy family recipes? Check out the Healthy Mama Life Community.
This post first appeared on the Fit4Mom Newport Blog.