It begins so innocently. You spoon feed your baby, and he turns up his nose. “Look at mommy!” you say as you pop a bite into your mouth. “So good!” Baby pops a Cheerio into your mouth, several times a day. He offers you a bite of his dinner, and you want to play along, so you chew and swallow.
It’s the dreaded mommy diet. Not a classic weight loss plan, the mommy diet refers to the poor food choices that many women make as they raise a family. We devote the vast majority of our time and day to raising strong and healthy children that often we get lost. The stereotypical mom is heavy, amorphous and fitness is far from her mind. I dealt with this myself, as I added children to my family and pounds to my frame. At my heaviest, I outweighed my husband by 50 pounds and wore a size 20. Finding time to work out or prepare healthy meals was difficult, rewarding myself with food and finishing my kids’ dinner plates became second nature, and very soon I resembled that stereotypical mom.
We need to change that image. After all, we’d like our children to be at their best physically – and as parents we deserve nothing less. Let’s take a look at some of the most common roadblocks that moms face.
- Preparing meals – Don’t fall into the trap of only serving so called “kid” meals – they are very often high in fat and calories and feature fried foods. Sit down with the family once a week and plan out a week of meals, taking into account differing tastes/preferences/allergies. Teach your children about the important things a body needs and how to cover those in a meal plan. Plan a healthy meal for every day of the week, and don’t forget to account for sports and other activities out of the home so that you don’t need to stop for fast food.
- Kids’ snacks – Kids love junk food, fast food and they end up eating those snacks all day long. Don’t bring those foods into your house. Instead, offer unlimited fruit and vegetable choices – and don’t limit those to just apples and oranges. Take your children to the grocery store or farmers market and let them choose several different fruits or vegetables to try. Create individual portions of chopped veggies and fruits – cucumber rounds, carrot sticks, edamame pods, grapes, orange slices, cherry tomatoes – and place them on a low shelf in the fridge in easy reach of your kids. Also, have on hand low-fat yogurt cups, cheese sticks and whole grain crackers.
- Leftovers – If you are anything like me, you always prepare too much dinner. Leftovers can be a great thing for your budget, in that you can pack them up for lunch the next day – and that’s the key. Don’t allow food to remain out after everyone has been served. Portion out one serving per family member, and put the remainder into individual containers and put them into your refrigerator. Often, I will put those portions into the freezer. It’s more difficult to grab another serving of lasagna if it’s frozen into a block, and if you’d like to take it for lunch the next day, it’ll be defrosted in plenty of time for lunch.
- Not eating with your family – With multiple family members going in multiple directions, it can be very difficult to eat dinner together. If you eat at different times, you may find yourself mindlessly filling up on the wrong foods. If you’ve taken the time to prepare a healthy meal for your family, take the time to eat with your family. Fill half of your plate with fruit and vegetables, one-quarter with protein, and one-quarter with whole grains. Present a good example to your children and enjoy your time eating together as a family, getting to know different sides of your children that can be very illuminating.
- Picky eaters – Every family has at least one. A child who eats nothing but beige foods, or only cereal, or avoids meat. That can make it difficult to get the correct foods into your child, and after you’ve served them and they’ve been ignored – you may find yourself eating them. Let your child help you plan meals, taking into account different food preferences and trying as much as you can to cover the essentials. If you serve a food that isn’t eaten, remove it from the table and either package it up for another, less fussy, family member, or toss it. Don’t put it in your mouth. Even if it’s a bite, that’s one bite that you just don’t need.
- Eating meals in the car – There are always days that we have so much to do that we have to cram a meal in while driving. Not only is that dangerous, but mindless eating like this often leads to overeating. In addition, the foods that are most often eaten in your vehicle are sold at fast food restaurants and not the best choices for your body. If you must eat in the car, grab a small baggie of almonds, a cheese stick with a few whole grain crackers, or an apple. These snacks are all around 100 calories. Save your meal for a time that you can sit and concentrate on what you are eating.
- Busy, busy schedules – You need to take a good look at your schedule. Maybe all of those activities are important – but are they more important than your health? If you are so busy that you don’t have even a few minutes to prepare a healthy meal for yourself and your family, perhaps there are ways that you can minimize your time away. Can you carpool with other parents for sports practice? Can you utilize a Crock Pot for a healthy dinner? Can you have groceries delivered to your house? While your children are at practice, is there a place for you to exercise as well?
Make your health a priority. After all, if you don’t have your health, soon you won’t have anything.