Daily Expert: 7 Surprising Things My Kids Taught Me About Eating Smarter
I often divide my life into two parts: P.K. and A.K. That’s “Pre-Kids and “After-Kids.”
After kids, my personal life changed in dramatic ways. But my two girls also taught me so many things, including how I think about nutrition. Here are just seven things I’ve learned from them.
Your Kids Don’t Care if You’re Intermittent Fasting
It’s much easier to be rigid with your approach to nutrition when you only have to fuel one person: you. But the needs and desires of your child often supersede your immediate desires.
Commonly heard: “Oh, you are intermittent fasting and don’t eat past 5:00? Well it’s 6:00 and your daughters’ basketball practice just ended. She wants dinner now.”
P.K. or A.K., being nimble instead of rigid in your approach to diet is valuable for your sanity and the sanity of others.
Slowing Down Is So Worth It
Embracing meal time is one of the most powerful tools you have in your arsenal for connecting with your kids, says Brett Klika, CEO of SPIDERfit Kids, and dad of a four-year-old. And the benefits start before dinnertime. “Our daughter always loves the process of eating,” Klika says. “She loves watching my wife and I prep and help us out where she can.”
Screens Are Mealtime No-Nos
I once gave a talk and a woman came up to me afterward and asked me how she could help her three-year-old to make better food choices. As the conversation continued I learned her daughter wouldn’t eat without an iPad in front of her. She then said her husband and her both do the same.
At our homes, we put our cell phones in another room, on a charger, and we use them as “landlines” instead of continually checking them, especially during mealtime.
A friend once shared with me that her daughter asked her to “listen to me with your eyes, mommy.” Good advice.
Instagram Likes Are Far Less Important Than Actually Liking the Food
Wow, look at that beautiful smoothie bowl you created specifically to stir up some love on your Instagram page. Guess what? Your kids probably aren’t going to eat it. The goal of family meals is spending time at the table, not behind the lens in the kitchen.
There’s nothing wrong with a quick, mix-and-match meal that covers the food categories (some kind of fruit or veggie, a protein. and carb). Bowl of cereal with berries and milk? That’s fine. Eggs with a side of baby carrots? Done that one too. Popcorn while watching a movie? Yes and you know what, you’ll all survive.
Relinquish All Control (Well, at Least Once a Week)
Who loves being told what to eat every day? I don’t. Neither do my kids, I’ve learned. That’s why my wife and I hand over our power and bestow upon them “dinner duty.” They have to make a meal and (here’s the best part) clean it up.
Now, granted, the meal may not be all that you hoped for, but maybe they’ll surprise you. If nothing else, it’s empowering for them. And often relaxing for Mom and Dad.
Kids Are More Adventurous Eaters Than You Think
Nothing irks me more than a kids menu. Meat doesn’t have to come in nugget form and, no, pizza, mac and cheese, and hamburgers aren’t the only foods kids eat. You know why they choose those, though? Because we lead them there.
Explore flavors. Expose them to different restaurants that don’t start with “Mc” and end with “Donalds”. Our friends Brent and Cassie Gallagher, co-owners of Avenu Fitness & Lifestyle Gyms in Houston, TX, (and parents kids ages seven and nine) started a progressive dinner tradition that we’ve adopted with our kids.
Pick a few restaurants within close proximity to each other and try foods at each. Maybe we start with a small appetizer at our favorite Mexican restaurant, try tapas another option, and then share a dessert at a third. If you have the option to walk between them, bonus!
You’ll Eat More Fruits and Vegetables If You Do the Work Beforehand
Fast, easy access to food works. When you’re cooking, you might want to snack. When kids are running in and out with their friends or simply being busy, having mindless access to quality choices means they’ll eat it. We always have either cut vegetables or fruit on the counter all the time. And you know what, kids (and adults) eat them.
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