Every Family Needs a Food Balance
Learn how to appreciate and respect all foods while staying healthy.
There are so many mixed messages when it comes to nutrition today. It’s hard for anyone, let alone kids, to understand how to enjoy all types of food and maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle at the same time.
We know that eating healthy meals and snacks is important, but is it realistic - or even desirable - to go without unhealthy foods all the time? How do we incorporate not-so-healthy foods into our diets without going overboard? How do we maintain a healthy balance, physically, nutritionally and psychologically? And, how can we teach our kids to enjoy this balance as well?
It can be hard for us parents to come up with sound answers to this dilemma, and it can be even harder to provide guidance to our kids.
Here are some tips:
Treats are okay. There are healthy foods (spinach, apples) and not-so-healthy foods (nachos, cupcakes), but no one can live on only one category alone. The key is finding a balance between the two groups that is sustainable, enjoyable, and health-promoting. Each family is unique in their needs and preferences, but ideas might include: dessert on weekends only or maybe a piece of candy from the candy jar on Tuesday and Thursday. This way, not-so-healthy foods can be enjoyed, but in a limited way. You might even want to try some healthy dessert ideas like the Banana Fro-Yo or the Fruity Short Cake.
It’s not as simple as good and bad. Calling foods “good” and “bad” can be overly simplistic, and lead to self-criticism and shame when a “bad” food is selected over a “good” one. In the spirit of well-roundedness and overall health, it might be better to adopt terms like “everyday foods” and “treats.” “Everyday foods” might include things like fish, lean meat, vegetables and yogurt - foods that can be incorporated into our diets each day to maintain health. “Treats” include things like pizza, ice cream and candy that are typically associated with special occasions (parties, holidays, etc). Theyʼre not “bad” foods, but ones that are best enjoyed on an occasional basis.
Be an example. Kids learn about nutrition at school, extra-curricular activities, the pediatrician’s office and on TV - but the biggest influence on their nutritional choices is you! Let your kids know about your thoughts regarding your own food choices. For example: “We still have two hours until dinner and I’m starving! I bet if I eat those chips I won’t be hungry for dinner, so I better choose a lighter snack like a cheese stick or grapes.” Another option might be: “I have a cake recipe I have been wanting to try. Would you like to help me make it so we can enjoy it over the weekend on our dessert nights?”
Food is fun. Nutrition doesn’t have to be all about calories and grams of fat. It can be a fun, creative way to influence our own health and connect with our families. By adopting an attitude of enjoyment and pleasure around food, it will make teaching sound nutrition to our kids easier, too. Set some time aside and create a few Ideal Meals with your kids. The Fruity Pita Sandwiches and Pineapple Pork Kebobs are great options to make together.