Suddenly it seems that at every camp pick-up or sports practice, the only thing parents are talking about is rethinking their families’ diets – developing good eating habits, “transitioning” off dairy, going gluten free and/or making the healthy (and financial) commitment to eat organic. If you haven’t yet stood with your significant other and kids at that crossroads of fridge, stove and pantry, here are four great reasons to help you keep your resolution to get healthier.
With preventable illnesses like childhood obesity and diabetes on the rise, creating good habits from the get-go is essential. “If you – as a parent – invest your time in money now in healthy practices, you’ll be helping your family both immediately and in the future,” explains Cara Roth, a registered holistic nutritionist based in West Vancouver, British Columbia. Dr. Dennis Lee’s Disease Prevention Through Diet & Nutrition article on Medicine.net drives the point home: “Obesity and heart attacks are major public-health problems in the United States and other countries…Obesity, in turn, can be a cause of many diseases – including heart disease, diabetes, liver disease, high blood pressure, gout, gallstones, and certain cancers.”
2. Developing good eating habits
Another way to look at it? By exposing your kids to a medley of healthier foods at an early age, you increase the odds that they won’t grow up to be overly picky. Marouska S., mom to six-year-old Noah and five-year old Hayden puts it this way: “My theory is that if I present more variety to my kids now, they won’t become adults who have never tasted anything – and who refuse everything.”
3. Energy and Mood
Let’s face it: kids often have too much energy while parents don’t have enough. But tweaking your family’s diet could help change that. “Even something as simple as adding in a daily green smoothie or increasing your water intake will result in you having more energy,” counsels Roth, who shares a bunch of favorite recipes on her blog. And eliminating or limiting trigger foods like sugar or wheat can often help kids calm down. “Sugar is basically like crack cocaine, both for my kids and – if I’m honest – for myself, too,” says Elizabeth, who has two daughters, ages three and six. “Plus if there’s no sugar around, the kids do eat more veggies and fruit.”
BK, mom to five-year-old Kieran, agrees. “Kieran would just get so wound up and crazy,” she recalls. So when a kinesiologist suggested she cut out gluten, they decided to give it a try. “Within 5 days there was a dramatic drop in the number of fits and tantrums,” says BK. “He became easier to reason with, to settle. It’s like his body just stopped bugging him.”
4. Maintaining a healthy weight and activity level.
Tired of feeling sluggish or of prodding your kids to get off the couch? “If you eat a whole foods diet, your body – and your kids’ bodies – will naturally maintain a healthy weight and have more energy for all activities,” says Roth. It will also reduce internal inflammation, which, as we noted above, is the basis of many diseases like cancer and heart disease.
“There was too much pizza, pasta, processed and dairy treats in my family’s diet,” confesses Nyle, who has a boy, age 6, and a girl, age 4. “And it made both the kids and my husband and me sluggish.” So they cut out diary, gluten and peanuts, and have noticed lots of improvements. “We all have more energy and have dropped some weight… and my skin is better.” (Did you catch that last one there, moms? Bonus!)
Making sweeping changes can seem daunting, but the general consensus is that you won’t regret ‘em! And ultimately, it’s what you and your family eat most of the time that matters. “It’s habits that make the difference,” concludes Roth. “It’s not what you do every once in awhile, it’s the choices you make the bulk of the time that make the biggest impact on your health.”
Whew. Anyone up for ice cream?
Ready to make over your family’s menu? Here are some great recipe sites and blogs to get you started:
- Nourish (http://www.nourished.ca/healthy-recipes/)
- Chocolate Covered Katie (http://chocolatecoveredkatie.com/)
- This Rawsome Vegan Life (http://www.thisrawsomeveganlife.com/)
Bonus tip: Visit kidnimble.com and check out some of the great cooking classes for kids we’ve found! Just login with Facebook, Google+ or email & password, click “Find a Program”, and filter by Life Skills and Cooking.
Audrey D. Brashich is the author of “All Made Up: A Girl’s Guide to Seeing Through Celebrity Hype and Celebrating Real Beauty”(AudreyBrashich.com) and, ironically, has two sons. Follow her on Twitter @AudreyBrashich