So you Want to Eat Healthy . . . Now What?


So you Want to Eat Healthy . . . Now What?The last few months, between New Year’s Resolutions and the impending doom that is swimsuit season, the mom groups I frequent on Facebook and in person are peppered with questions about healthy eating. “How do I get my kids to eat healthy food?” “I want our family to eat healthier, but where do I start?” “Link me healthy recipes!” And on, and on, and on.

The operative word in all of these questions is healthy. As parent who has struggled with her weight, trying to raise healthy kids with a healthy relationship with food, I’ve pondered that word a lot. I do want to be healthier, and teach my kids healthy habits, so I understand the struggle. It’s not easy to be healthy in America today. Easy is often fast, cheap, and deep-fried. I’ve learned a few things on my journey towards being healthier, and I want to break it down a bit.

1. What is healthy?

This means different things for different people. You need to figure out what way of eating jives with your soul. I know that sounds maybe a little hippie, maybe a little . . . out-there. But you need to find a sustainable way of eating that will work for you and your family. By sustainable, I’m not necessarily talking green earth, carbon footprint sustainable. What I mean is sustainable in that you can choose to eat this way for a long time. Maybe even a lifetime. Don’t think about it as a diet. Consider this just how you eat.

For some families, paleo/primal really resonates with their lifestyle. They like to choose a protein packed, whole foods based diet mostly free of dairy and grains. Other families find their groove with a plant-based way of eating. This can vary from those that consume mostly plants, but leave some room on their plate for bacon, or fish, or eggs, to those families who are vegan – they consume no animal products, not even honey, gelatin, eggs, or milk. You might look to just limit your calories and portion sizes. Reduce your fat or sodium intake.

I’m not here to tell you what is, or is not, healthy. Eating has become almost like a religion for some. But I do encourage you to explore and think about what way of eating best works for you and your family. Once you’ve got that nailed down, on to the next step.

2. Meal Planning

You probably see meal planning everywhere, and for good reason. It’s a great tool for a healthy budget and a healthy body. I see some meal plans where the family uses a sort of database of favorite meals and just plugs them in as desired throughout the month. Other meal plans have a daily focus: Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, Crockpot Wednesday, Take-out Thursday, Fish Friday, etc.

I’ll be honest, I’m not quite that organized. I meal plan week by week, depending on what we are in the mood for, what activities are on our schedule, and what I have in the freezer. I generally do one big shop on Sunday, though I might need a small shop during the week because I do forget things. This keeps me focused and helps avoid both extra spending and extra items in my cart that feed emotional cravings.

More then anything, meal planning helps me to create enthusiasm for the way we eat. I’m more excited about cooking when I know it will be delicious, or I have a new recipe to try. The kids get excited because they like to help in the kitchen. As they taste new recipes, and add their suggestions, they are even more likely to try new things once it’s actually on their plates at the dinner table.

3. But what do we eat?

I always say, start with what you love. Do you love pizza? Try a cauliflower crust pizza. Your family devours noodles? Try zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash. If you are trying to consume less meat, try other proteins like beans, tofu, and seitan.

I think most of us can agree that more vegetables and fruit would be a powerful addition to a healthy diet. I am not a fan of sneaking vegetables in – I think it’s more important for us to recognize our food and embrace it than be stealthy. If the only green thing your kid will eat is green beans, or their favorite vegetable is raw baby carrots dipped in ranch, embrace that!

One thing that I’ve found to be helpful is to have mostly things your kid will eat on their plates. So maybe don’t try a whole new dish, but add one new component – like a new vegetable – so that even if they don’t like it, or won’t try it, they still will get a full belly. I also try to limit new recipes to one per week. There is comfort for both the kids and I knowing that even if the new recipe is a flop, tomorrow’s dinner is a sure bet.

4. A Word About Snacks

Snacks are really where a lot things fall apart. As a busy working mom, grab and go is really where I thrive. I look for things with protein, like cheese or meat sticks, yogurts, nuts, and fruit. I keep as much of this stuff on hand as I can, for both me and the kids.

Chips happen. Cookies are delicious. I don’t necessarily limit those things for us, I feel like forbidden fruit tastes twice as sweet. However, the kids know I generally only shop once a week. If the “good stuff” gets gone by Tuesday, they are going to have limited options the rest of the week. When they were smaller, I had a three snack rule per day. It’s harder to enforce that with teenagers, but the general premise is similar. It’s about making what we have last, more than limiting what they are eating.

Finding yummy, healthy items can be challenging, but kids surprise you. Mine love seaweed snacks, which are great sources of iron, not fried, and a good chip alternative. Fruit can be made more enticing with dips, same for vegetables. My kids’ favorite snacking vegetable are pickles. Granted, their favorite thing to do is crush spicy Taki’s and dip their pickles in the powder, which is equal parts messy, creative, and unappealing to me, but who am I to judge?

5. Juggling Different Diets

You may have a partner that wants to try something new with a way of eating, or a kid who suddenly has gone vegan. This can really throw a wrench in meal planning, and is incredibly common – so many of my friends’ children have gone plant-based.

For the vegan/vegetarian kid: having dishes with optional animal protein most of the time, and occasionally a meal that completely suits them. Think pasta dishes that you can add grilled chicken or meatballs to on top (or impossible meatballs), tacos or nachos with vegan cheese, many Asian and Mexican dishes can easily be made meatless or meat-optional . . . really there are a lot of ways to make this fun, and help the family embrace different ways of eating.

When it’s an adult in the family wanting a change, a similar approach is possible. Is your partner going low carb or keto? Keep the carbs on the side and limit your sauces. Depending on what they are doing, sometimes focusing on what you and the kids are eating, and having the adult in charge of their own food is another workable solution. My caveat to this, is regardless of what or when the other parent eats, having everyone at the table for at least a few minutes is really ideal for family bonding. 

At the end of the day – healthy eating will look different for every family. In order for it be something that becomes part of your daily habits, finding solutions that you can stick to, that taste delicious, and fit in your budget (both time and money wise) is key.

Do you have any healthy eating tips or tricks you’d like to share?

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Katrina Siron
Katrina is a mom of three great kids and has been married to her first love for nearly 10 years. She’s grateful to have a job that allows her the flexibility to both work from home some days and in the office others. On the surface, Katrina is pretty crunchy – she loves breastfeeding, babywearing, co-sleeping, natural birth, and homeschooling — but still loves her stroller, having her kids in their own beds at some point, her epidural was fantastic, and she’ll be sending the kids through public school. Most of all she loves the fact that we have all these choices, which makes life interesting! One of her favorite experiences was moving to Japan in 2002 to live as an adult dependent with their USMC family. It was an amazing experience, and if it weren’t for that, she probably wouldn’t ever have met my husband.


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