One of my biggest struggles as a working mom of two is how to make sure my kids eat healthy. This hits close to home for me.
For the past eight years, I have worked on a grant to encourage families to make good food choices by eating the recommended number of servings of fruit and vegetables, but sometimes, it is easier to be the preacher then to be the one who has to make it happen.
My quest to be the health conscious mom started out really well. When my first daughter started on solid foods, I was the veggie-Nazi who made sure she started on veggies and not fruit (don’t want them to get used to the sugar!). I read all the books and made sure she had a wide range of colors in terms of vegetables – I really believed the books when they said if you start them early you will have a lifelong veggie lover. Well….six years later, yes my daughter will eat veggies, as long as they are covered in cheese! While she loves fruit, she has a limited number she will eat, and given the choice between fruit gummies or a bowl of blackberries, she will negotiate with me that they would not call them fruit gummies if they did not contain fruit (yes, try to win that one with a six year old how thinks she knows EVERYTHING!).
When my second daughter was born I thought, “here we go, I am going to do this right.” What I didn’t know is that when you have two, the work is twice as hard - especially when you have to go back to work right away. So I really didn’t follow the books, gave her whatever fruits and veggies I had in pantry. I felt like the fruit and veggie failure mommy, but low and behold – my ALMOST two year old (she turns two in June) LOVES salad, LOVES tomatoes, LOVES fruit and pretty much any other veggie. Go figure – I just winged it with her, and Presto! I have a fruit and veggie lover. But for those moms out there who struggle (like I do) to make sure your kids eat well, I have a few suggestions. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t, but they tend to be my lifesavers. And if you have any suggestions that work for you, let me know I am always looking for new ones!
- Tip #1 – Always offers a fruit and veggie choice. At every meal my kids have a fruit and a veggie on the plate (OK, not EVERY meal, but most of them!). I love stocking up on frozen veggies. They last forever and actually have more nutritional value then some fresh veggies. I stock up when I see them on sale at the grocery store and just keep them in the freezer – they are always at go to when making dinner. I also LOVE the frozen veggies you just pop in the microwave. It is easy, fast and my kids like it.
- Tip #2 – My kids love pasta, so a little trick I learned from my sister-in-law is to cook the pasta and the frozen veggies in the same pot at the same time. The pasta will get some of the nutrient of the veggies.
- Tip #3 – OK, I admit it; I am an Easy Mac mom and keep a box in my pantry for those nights when I am too exhausted to cook anything. In four minutes, I can have their dinner on the table and I can sit down. BUT, I also know that Easy Mac is not the healthiest dish I can make, SO, to help me get over my mommy guilt I add a can of peas and serve it all together. My kids are not crazy about it, but they eat it!
- Tip #4 – My husband is really good at making sure the girls eat fruit every morning, and we try to change up the options every once in a while. Bananas are a staple, but my kids love the berries (straw, blue, black). In the summer I always have a fruit salad in the fridge. I will also “treat” them to a fruit smoothie ”special” cups and straws from Target. I just blend some fresh fruit with yogurt, and they will sit by the pool sipping their “treats.”
- Tip #5 – This was a BIG one for my oldest. Every year we visit her pediatrician for her yearly visit and when she turned five it was a turning point because her doctor talked to her and not to me. He told her how important it is to eat your fruits and veggies, and to a five year old, that is like hearing it straight from God. So when I am really stuck, and she will not eat her fruit or veggies, I do what moms do best and lay on the guilt – “Well, Dr. Bullen said…” and that is all it takes!!
These are just a few tips. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. But the bottom line is that we should always offer our kids choices, but more importantly, my husband and I practice what we preach. I have learned that the best way for my kids to eat healthy is for them to see my husband and I do it first. So I guess while I look at it as being a good mom and making sure my kids are healthy, they are also keeping me in check and making sure I lead by example. When I think about it – that is not such a bad deal!