I remember being a gangly tween in the early 80’s, donning a pink leotard and legwarmers on an early summer morning and heading up to my best friend’s house with my mom’s Jane Fonda Aerobics album (aerobics on vinyl, pretty sweet). Up in her bedroom, we enthusiastically performed leg lifts, butt lifts and who know’s what else for a full 40 minutes. After breakfast I’d borrow my grandmother’s calorie counting book and record how many calories were in my bowl of Cornflakes and milk on a piece of paper (I’m fairly certain that I never thought to look up the multiple teaspoons of sugar that I undoubtedly doused them with). I don’t recall this lasting more than a few days at a time, and considering I didn’t have an ounce of fat on my body back then, that’s probably a good thing.
Who even knows what I was thinking, or what I thought I was tracking. I had no idea how many calories I should or shouldn’t be eating. The thing is, I was just doing what my mom and sisters were always doing. They were serial dieters. One after another they would suffer through this or that, then fall off the wagon, eat a bunch of junk and start all over again. (I guess they weren’t so good at sticking with it either).
It has often occurred to me that so many kids today are having that very same behavior modeled for them by mom, only now with the help of apps and streaming workouts. Instead of popping Ayds chocolate diet candies and Tab, they now drink meal replacement shakes and eat Special K bars while feeding their family everything they “can’t have”.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could just model a healthy relationship with food to our kids? To enjoy food that tastes good but is also good for us? To learn that more is not necessarily better and what’s good for a mom is good for the kids and vice versa?
Maybe you’re thinking about doing just that, but don’t know where to start. You don’t need to purge the kitchen from from every unhealthy morsel and go cold turkey. It’s all about baby steps. You can learn and teach your family to appreciate good, unprocessed, food in fun and interactive ways. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
Menu Planning- The best way to ensure that healthy meals make it to the table, is to have a plan in place and the ingredients in the cupboard. Ask the family for suggestions or ideas or to find a recipe to try, let them be part of the decision.
Have them help- There are meal prep tasks for all ages and skill levels. Let them help by chopping, stirring and measuring. And don’t freak out if they’re a little messy (it’s the perfect time to teach them to clean as they go)!
Make it a research project- Mom of the year stuff right here, have them pick out a vegetable or fruit they’ve never heard of at the store, look it up, learn some facts about it and find a tasty way to prepare it. You all may find a new favorite food!
Play Chopped- Everyone has seen this show by now, right? It’s a perfect game on a snowy or rainy weekend. Not to mention a great way to use up those mystery ingredients in the freezer!
International Night- Pick a country at random or a current event (we had a Brazilian food potluck for the Olympics last summer), find recipes that interest you and make them together.
Just remember to keep it fun, be creative, make a mess, enjoy each other and enjoy the meal! (And have a backup plan if it comes out terrible!)