Sunday, February 20, 2011

Healthy Eating Despite Hectic Schedules

Like most women, I have a long history with consistently eating healthy and maintaining a "happy" weight.  I say "happy" because for the most part I'm usually in my healthy weight range, however, I have definitely gone up and down by 15, sometimes 20 lbs.  I, of course, prefer it at the lower end but that definitely gets harder as I get older (I don't think I've seen the lower end in a while now).  I also gained 70 lbs with both pregnancies.  I didn't eat any differently but the weight just packed itself on.  Luckily, with hard work and dedication, I lost it all both times. 

And now, I have 2 little humans who depend on me to provide nutritious meals as well as healthy eating habits.  Pretty scary considering last night my 3 (almost 4) year old daughter turned to me and said, "Mommy, am I fat?" and I responded, "Far from it!, Why?" and she said "Because I don't want to be fat".  This is terrifying because she shouldn't really know the concept of being fat at this age, and even more so because she's only ever been in the 10th percentile for weight (she was born full term at 4 lbs).  The doctor told me this week that she probably can't move to a booster seat until she's 5 based on her growth curve! 

So how do you provide healthy choices when you have a crazy, hectic life?  Breakfasts are almost always rushed, you have packed lunches to deal with, never mind a hot dinner to get on the table every night.  Of course I will always fall back on my good old standard... planning, planning, planning! 

I do groceries once a week - usually at 9am on Sunday mornings... I like to get it out of the way early when it's not busy, and also, it won't waste the whole day with errands when I would rather spend my precious time with the kids.  I of course travel with a list to expedite matters.  We usually always cook something on Sundays (often a nutritious soup with lots of veggies and protein).  I personally bring my lunch every day, I either pack leftovers right after dinner for the next day (so as not to have to do it in the morning), or I dip into the soup throughout the week. 

As for the kids, I try to offer whole wheat options in the morning.  My daughter will sometimes go for an English Muffin with cream cheese and my son likes his with egg and cheese (me too - and it keeps you full longer).  It actually doesn't take that long to do.  I have my son choose as many of the hot lunch options as possible from his school lunch menu (they are quite well-balanced and only $4.25 each - pretty economical and worth the time savings for sure).  Luckily, my daughter has hot lunch included at day care every day.  I do pack a lunch box for each of them with snacks, which I also try and do each night (instead of rushing in the morning).  I try to provide healthy snacks in the lunch boxes, such as cheese, fruit cups or apple sauce, yogurt drinks, gold fish, fruit chews, rice crackers, bear paws, etc. but some healthier junk definitely makes it in.  The fruit and cheese often comes back (mostly from my son).  I do have some guilt in sending some processed snacks, but at least I know they will eat them and it's definitely easy to do (hey, I never said I was perfect).

Now on to dinners...When I went back to work after my first mat leave, the slow cooker was my best friend.  I filled it up the night before and turned it on in the morning.  We also did a lot of cooking on Sundays and those dishes lasted the first few days of the work week.  In addition, I washed and cut up lots of vegetables for easy use during the week.  After my second mat leave, we got some help in the house and I am now blessed to have dinner prepared for us.  But getting my kids to eat is a bit of a trial and dinner hour can possibly be my LEAST favorite time of the day.  After a long day at work, the last thing I want to do when I come home is fight with my kids and try and force them to eat.  Especially since I haven't seen them all day.  My son has definitely come around and is now usually pretty good (but that's VERY recent).  My daughter, on the other hand, is impossible.  As I mentioned, she is extremely petite and so I get frustrated when she barely touches her meal - my mothering instinct makes me want to stuff it in!  Lately, I have taken the tactic of saying, OK, no dinner, then no dessert and definitely nothing else to eat for the rest of the night.  I figure if she is hungry and doesn't eat, it will teach her to eat the next time... can't say it's really working.  She doesn't seem to care.  I really want to ensure they both have a healthy relationship with food and not create hang ups (i.e. by force feeding or using threats LOL) - especially for my daughter.  She'll learn enough hang ups from society and friends when she gets older, I'm sure.

I guess I end up somewhere in the middle with healthy eating.  I know some mothers who are at the extreme and their kids never have sugar, soft drinks, or junk of any sort (they're the ones who make me feel like a failure).  And then there are those who live on processed foods (they're the ones who make me feel like I'm doing OK).  I feel that if the majority of the time they get healthy choices, that junk in moderation is alright too.  I don't want them to go to extremes when they can finally access junk on their own (or at friends' houses).  It's kind of like drinking alcohol.  My parents never made it taboo so when I was a teenager, it wasn't a big deal.  I had friends who's parents were super strict and they went a little crazy when they could access it themselves.

So I will continue to OFFER as many fresh, healthy choices as possible (today I cut up 3 grapefruits and left them in a bowl on the kitchen table - within 40 minutes it was gone).  It takes a little more work to make those offers (i.e. cutting up the grapefruit rather than opening a bag of chips and dumping them in a bowl), and I'm hoping my kids will eventually add more and more of those offerings to their repertoire on their own.  I may not be Jessica Seinfeld with her Do It Delicious recipes, but I will continue to try my best.  And my best is all I can do.

Here's one that's always a favorite:  homemade spaghetti & meat sauce (my kids with a close friend and my husband).

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