This is a topic that is on my mind a lot as record numbers of children are becoming classed as obese in both America and in the United Kingdom. How can this happen? Aren't parents supposed to be in control of what food is in their home and how much a child is allowed to eat? Aren't parents the ones who prepare their children's meals? As parents, don't we love our kids enough to feed them properly with good nutritious food? Because that's what is comes down to. If you love your child, you will make sure that most of what she eats is nutritious and healthy, full of all of the nutrients and vitamins that she needs and lacking in things like sugar.
I know that, for some, it is not as cut-and-dried as that. I do know that it can be more expensive to buy healthy, fresh food. I know that our kids plead with us on numerous occasions to buy them sugar-laden food, and I know that for some parents, the time it takes to prepare a meal from scratch is a luxury they don't often have.
But I also know that some things in life are more important than all of the excuses that we rely on to keep us from feeling bad for not doing something. The health of our children should be a huge priority in our lives. And that means feeding them healthy meals and limiting the junk food they are allowed to eat. So here are some tips to help us make sure that we do everything we can for our children's health and that we keep those excuses at bay.
Excuse #1 - Healthy, fresh food is too expensive.
- Grow your own fruit and vegetables. You don't even need a yard of your own in order to do this. Some properly sized planting pots and hanging baskets can be enough to help you grow fruit, vegetable and herbs of your own.
- Re-use left-overs to create numerous meals from the same ingredients.
- Buy generic brands. Sometimes they are just as good as the more expensive brand name products, and the nutrition, in many instances, is just as good.
- Buy in bulk. Certain fresh ingredients can be bought in bulk and frozen in order to use later, and buying in bulk often costs less per item bought.
Excuse 2 - My child likes junk food, and they beg and plead for it all of the time.
- Be a parent. Part of being a parent is telling your children "no" when it is in their best interests. You don't have to eliminate junk food from your child's diet, but you should definitely limit it.
- Don't use sweets as a "treat." You don't want your child to be associating sugar-laden, non-nutitrious food as a reward or a special occasion, and giving it to him as a treat or a reward will just enforce the idea in his mind that good times equal sugar (or fast food or whatever unhealthy food you are using).
- Make sure your child can have nutritious fresh food on hand to take the place of the junk food they are craving. Fresh fruit is naturally sweet and filling at the same time. I know very few children who will turn down something as sweet and delicious as strawberries, for example, and strawberries are GOOD for your child to eat.
Excuse #3 - I don't have time to prepare healthy meals or to cook from scratch.
- Batch cook ahead of time. Take one day, maybe Saturday or Sunday (or whatever day you have the most free time) and cook the whole week's meals and then freeze it all, ready to be microwaved or reheated in the oven when you need it.
- Chop and freeze your fresh vegetables needed for cooking ahead of time. For example, if you will be making a lot of dishes that required diced onions during the week, then chop and dice some onion ahead of time and freeze it in freezer bags in the serving sizes that you will need for the meals.
- Measure out and portion your ingredients ahead of time. For example, you can do this with grated cheese. To keep yourself from using more cheese than a recipe calls for, measure out the portions you need into individual bags and store it in the fridge (or freezer) ready to use.
- Use your crockpot (slow cooker). If you wake up early enough in the morning, you can prepare the entire meal and start it cooking before you even leave the house for work in the morning, and by evening, a hot, healthy meal will be ready for you and your children. (Also, by then, the house will smell delicous!)
These are just a few solutions. I hope they are helpful. I'll tackle ways to help your kids be more physically active in a later post.