Going to the supermarket is not my favourite activity. As I walk in, the delicious smell of the baking bread hits me. Coincidentally, I’m met with all the cookies and packets of chocolate and cake. It’s clever how they design supermarkets isn’t it?
Inside: How to improve your diet, your family’s diet and your kids’ diet by taking small, manageable steps.
I close my eyes and walk past. OK, that’s not true. I pick up two packets of biscuits, ignore the rest and head to the vegetable section. A year ago, it would have been many packets of cookies. I would just throw them into my trolley without thinking. But now I am on the road to teaching my children healthy eating habits and we have been taking baby steps to improve our diet.
We Are All Creatures of Habit
A habit is something that we do without thinking, a behaviour that happens automatically. Brush our hair in the morning, snap at our kids, eat our favourite breakfast cereal.
These are all examples of habits.
Do you find yourself doing the same things without thinking? Wait for your children at a particular point outside the school gate? Put your clothes in the same locker at the pool, even though all of them are free? Reach for the same foods at the supermarket?
Yep. All habits. Things we do without thinking.
We can have good habits and not so good habits. If we can train our children to form good eating habits, they will eat healthy food automatically, without even thinking. They will eat healthy meals without any fuss. Sounds good doesn’t it?
Perhaps it sounds a bit out of reach, a little unrealistic? I don’t think so, not if we have realistic expectations.
Changing habits doesn’t happen overnight.
Our Family Eating Habits
My family has always eaten what I thought of as a healthy diet, home cooked food, lots of fruit and vegetables, less than average packaged food. Then I started really looking at healthy eating for children. I started actually looking at our diet and working out how I could help improve it and help other people teach their children healthy eating habits.
In the summer, we go to the beach pretty much every day. This time last year I would pack some fruit, normally watermelon and some biscuits. We called them “beach biscuits”. They were easy to pack. Easy and convenient. Better to have too much food than too little right? The kids knew they were there and always went right ahead and help themselves.
In fact, we had them so often that once my son even cried when we pulled out the “beach biscuits”.
Oh no! Not those biscuits again!
I consoled myself that they did eat fruit too.
Healthy Eating for Picky Toddlers. A Pediatrician’s Guide to Happy Meal Times
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Make Little Manageable Changes to Your Diet
When I started actually looking at my kids’ diet, it was a bit of a wake up call. It dawned on me that it was “reasonably” healthy, but not really “that” healthy.
There was definitely room for improvement.
So I made some changes.
The trick is to make manageable changes. Change something small that you stick to. There’s no point pretending you’re going to cook 7 nights a week if you currently buy take out every night.
Small change: Cook once at the weekend. When you have mastered that one meal, add another.
Perhaps you and your family live off fizzy soda. You know that water is the best drink for your health and your children’s health, you just can’t kick the habit. There’s no point pretending you’re going to drink water for every drink and never touch another soda.
Small change: Cut back one or two sodas a day. Or change soda for fizzy water, add orange juice if you like. Gradually reduce the amount of soda that you drink and increase the amount of water.
For me, breakfast was a huge sticking point. I really dislike all those packets of cereal with added sugar and salt. Even the “healthy” ones have added sugar and salt. It’s just they’re so damned convenient.
You Can Improve Your Diet. And Your Kids’ Diet
Over the last year, I have made a series of little improvements to our diet. I decided to reduce the amount of packaged food we consume. I have made more healthy snacks, got the kids more involved in the kitchen and structured our snack time more.
I have added more variety to our diet.
I have also stopped buying so many biscuits and syrupy drinks (the concentrate that you add to water.)
Nothing was a huge change.
I don’t think the kids even noticed.
• Less Packet Food
• More Fresh Fruit and Vegetables
• More Variety
Join Me. Make a Small Improvement to Your Diet.
Looking back to a year ago, I can see that our diet has changed amazingly. With these little improvements that no one noticed, I have taken our diet from “not really that healthy” to “now I’m a proud mom of healthy eating children.”
So, what will you do? Have a look at your routine and think of all the changes you’d like to make. In an ideal world.
Pick one thing. Think how you can start to change it. Make one small change that you know you can stick to.
Keep at it.
When you feel ready. Make another.
If you’d like some support, come and join my “Healthy Eating for Kids” Facebook Group. We’re there to help each other through the highs and lows.
No More Beach Biscuits
None of my kids have ever cried about a beach biscuit since that day. Like most kids, they love their snacks. But now we eat healthy yoghurt and fresh fruit, or homemade frozen yoghurt. Or even a homemade muffin. We have improved our diet lots and yes, from time to time we also have shop bought biscuits. Just not every day. And not beach biscuits.