Monday, July 6, 2015

Meal Planning Mondays: on raising healthy kids.

Before sharing a few tips I want to begin with this disclaimer. I am a mother who allows my children to eat sugar. That's right. And we're talking the nasty stuff. The gooey, sticky forms of maleable, gelatinous corn syrup artifically dyed in various shades of cancer and rolled in processed white diabetes granules. I've even been known to allow them to purchase a bag of sour patch kids AND have an ice cream cone in the same day. So there you have it. Guilty as charged.  I'm not particularly proud of this fact...but then again, I can't say I would be particularly proud to say that my kids never ate sugar either. I tend to avoid extreme forms of anything, including the avoidance of processed foods. I don't do food bans of any kind. It's just not for me.

Balance tends to be my word of choice, although I am sure everyone's definition of balance is different. When tending to my children's health and diet, although I allow {probably} {definitely}  a larger quantity of sugary goodies than I should, it is important to me that their bodies are filled with essential nutrients. It is important to me that they love real food, and have as much access to it as possible. 

So, while I can't brag about any sort of entirely junk-free diet, I will proudly declare that my kids can throw down vegetables like it's nobody's business too. Overall, I feel like our eating habits are pretty okay. They could always use a little improvement, but on the whole, I am grateful for my active, food enthusiast girls. 

So, I thought for today I'd share Rae's household nutrition and exercise guidelines for the rearing of unruly, happy heathens:

*Keep candy and ice cream as an "outing" incentive, not a household staple.
I don't keep a stocked supply of junk food in the house. But I do allow it when we run errands, or when they want to spend their chore money. This rule does not apply to home-made baked goods, however. Because if Mama baked best believe it's good for you. Well, maybe not so much good for the body, but definitely good for the soul.

*Provide fruits and vegetables in their best forms, often.
For example, most fruits are best served at room temperature (especially berries). The sun helps to stir and ripen their natural sugars and sweetness. Brussel sprouts are disgusting boiled, period. Try roasting them with sea salt and olive oil. Never eat a cold tomato whose flavor has been killed dead by too much refrigeration. Learn the various ways your family prefers a fruit or vegetable, and rotate new ones in weekly. My kids love a good veggie platter out on the table during the afternoon. It always gets gobbled up quickly (especially when there is no other artificial snack around to substitute).

*Limit electronic usage and allow for lots of outside play time, and keep from helicoptering them. 

Children have better survival instincts than you might think. Let them run, hop, skip, and jump around wildly without you shrieking at them every five seconds. Enough with the micromanaging.

*"You don't look dirty enough...go back outside and play."

A friend once told me that was what their mother always said to them. How awesome is that? The measure of a happy child is usually in direct relation to how awful their clothes look at the end of a day. Gosh, this is an annoying truth for me, but one I believe in.

*Make good meals, keep a regular snack time, and allow them to be hungry.

My kids can count on three solid meals, and two healthy snacks in between each day. I've found that a healthy snack at 3pm doesn't quite hold them out till dinner at 6ish. They are usually hungry and pleading for food around 5. I tell them to hold out...too bad!...dinner is on its way. I've found that this has actually been my most magical time to get them to eat vegetables. I'll be chopping anything for a salad or side and they come in and keep sneaking anything they can grab off of the cutting board. Lettuce, peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, and avocado have become favorites just because they were the only thing around to sneak as they fought hunger in anticipation for dinner. Combined with a busy afternoon playing outside, they usually eat most vegetable laden dinners with gusto.

*Exposure equals preference.

This is brain science, people. We end up liking that which we are most regularly exposed to. Man, does this not have like insane implications for so many aspects of our life? Think about it. Applying this concept to food... if your kids don't like anything green right now, or anything with so much as a smidgen of nutritional quality, try try try try try try again. Keep it out there. Don't be psychopants about it or fall into despair. Just keep it around, keep variety around. Get them active and hungry, and you'll be surprised the little foodies that will emerge as you keep placing nutritious foods in front of them.

Happy Meal Planning Monday, peeps. That outta do it for now. Keep up the good fight, and enjoy feeding your families!

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