I’ve changed my habits – but what about my kids?
You’ve made some healthy changes yourself, but what about your family? Where once you may have thought of your children’s diet as relatively healthy, you now look at it from a whole new and informed perspective, and see that there are a multitude of changes that should be made. The realisation that so many changes need to be made can be overwhelming, and the task of implementing the changes with young children (who, as we know, are often resistant to change) may seem insurmountable. Through my own experience, I can share what I have found to work (and not work) for my own family.
It was 2012 when I decided to permanently change my lifestyle with Changing Habits and The Fat Loss Protocol. I won’t bore you with my story, but to say that my new way of eating was a huge and sudden change would be an understatement. What I previously had considered to be a healthy diet for my family, I now understood was a chemical sh!tstorm. I had fallen for all the clever marketing, choosing products that were ‘low fat’, ‘sugar free’, and ‘natural’. I was reading nutrition panels instead of ingredients lists, and packaged foods made up a whopping 95% of my shopping trolley!
So how, with a 4 year old and 2 year old, was I supposed to bring about the drastic change their little bodies needed?
What Didn’t Work
Let me start by telling you what didn’t work, to hopefully save you all some time:
- Taking a hard-line ‘eat what’s on your plate or you don’t eat at all’ approach. Toddlers can be stubborn…really stubborn, and this approach simply left us all butting heads, vying for victory.
- Taking a 100% academic and informative approach. Yes, it’s important to teach our children about real food, ‘fake’ food and the benefits that come with eating real food, but if that is all you are doing, your children will soon switch off… because let’s be real, do they really CARE about why leafy greens are so good for them when all they want is a cheeseburger?!
- Going back to 100% bland basics like we do during Phase 2 of the Fat Loss Protocol.
- Simply saying ‘no’ when they asked for something specific, or a treat.
What DID Work
Now, listen up because this is where the magic happens. Firstly, you will need to do a 100% clean-out of your pantry and fridge. Anything that does not count as real food, with real ingredients, needs to go in order for the following to work. Here are the things that did work for my kids:
- Allowing my children to negotiate with me. So, they didn’t want what was on their plate? That’s fine, I would take them to the fridge and pantry and go through their other options with them. If they were still feeling upset and stubborn, I would simply take them back to the table and remind them of what was on their plate, and that was usually enough for them to either a) choose to eat it, or b) choose one of the options I had presented (if they REALLY didn’t want what was in front of them).
- Casually (and occasionally) talking about why certain foods are good for us. You need to do this in an age appropriate manner. For very young children and toddlers it could be as simple as noticing what they are eating during meal times and piping up with random comments like “Oooh is that yummy carrot? Did you know that carrot is really good for your eyes?” etc. Young school children often have a thirst for knowledge, and are also very driven by computers and technology, so one thing I find really good for school age kids, is to let them google ‘What is broccoli good for?’ etc A way to do this in context would be as you were preparing a meal, say “I’m putting some broccoli in this meal, I wonder what broccoli might be good for – here, can you take my phone and google it for me please?”. I find that this casual approach to learning works far better than a structured or forced approach.
- Keeping mealtimes fun and exciting. When I first switched my family’s diet over to a real food diet, I spent hours upon hours googling ‘real food’ alternatives to our family favourites. This way, we weren’t suddenly changing from Mac & Cheese to Steak & Zuchinni. We are lucky enough to live in a day and age where we have amazing resources at our fingertips… get googling some healthy and real food or paleo alternatives to your family favourites and start switching them over! Real food doesn’t have to be bland!
- Having a long list of healthy, real food treats up my sleeve for when they asked. Once again make google your friend… search ‘fake-away’ recipes to find some popular whole food alternatives to your favourite take-away meals. Trawl recipes for paleo/keto/vegan/wholefood cakes, slices, biscuits, chocolate and spend one day a fortnight making a few of your favourite recipes to portion up and pop in the freezer. I can tell you, that when your kids ask you for a treat, they are going to LOVE it when you answer with: “Sure, would you like a snickers slice, bounty, cherry ripe slice, or hazelnut cheesecake?” instead of “No, we don’t have treats anymore!” (all those treats mentioned of course are real, wholefood recipes not *actual* snickers, cherry ripe, bounty etc lol).
I hope these tips make you feel less overwhelmed by changing your family’s eating habits, and remember – whilst it is never too late to change them, the younger the better so don’t put it off any longer!
Has your family seen similar changes to their food habits and lifestyle? What worked for you to successfully make the change with your little ones?