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Tuesday, April 2, 2013

How I cleaned up my kids' eating (Healthy Life part I)

Last week was Spring Break, so I totally fell off of the Blogging world as I ran kids from stores to parks to zoos and science centers. We had a BLAST, but now things are finally getting back to normal and I have a little bit of "free time".

I have been wanting to blog about this for a long time, so I am very excited about this post. Those who know me know that I am a bit of a "health and fitness freak", and this post is the first of a series of my views and opinions on the subject. Today's topic is eating healthy...but not for adults, I am talking about the little ones!

These lil munchkins are ALWAYS HUNGRY!!!!!

I have encounterd a lot of FAILURE in trying to get my kids to eat healthy (at least to my standards). The one thing that did work really well (which I still do) is the "Sneaky Chef" method (here). It has been a great way to supplement my family's diet, but I really wanted them to LEARN why they need to eat right. For a long time, it just seemed that all I could do was lead by example and hope they eventually caught on.

THEN- I ran across this amazing book at the library:

My kids LOVED this book, and it really clicked in their little minds the importance of eating right along with a guide to what is healthy and what isn't. It basically broke down food into 3 categories- red light (don't eat/eat very little), yellow light (eat moderately), and green light (eat often). As soon as we finished the book, Sonja (who wouldn't touch fruit or veggies) ran and grabbed an apple. I beamed.

Within a few days of reading this book, we ran into a man with a prosthetic leg. My kids (to my embarrassment) asked him why he had a "robot leg". He told them it was because he ate too much of what my kids call "Red Light Food", and not enough vegetables (Green light food). That totally solidified the book for them, and they were sold. OH if I could only run into that man again to THANK HIM!!!

Today all of my kids eat fruits, veggies, lean meats, dairy, nuts, and whole grains for most of their meals. They really have a lot of steady energy (not as many hyper crazes followed by crashes), and more importantly they have been so healthy overall.

MY philosophy: I really am not super worried about whether my kids get a little sugar or even a little preservatives, but here is what I have found: the options that are organic or made with all natural ingredients, or contain no high fructose corn syrup, tend to have better ingredients all around. Sure, "healthy" cereal may have almost as much sugar as regular cereal- but it is generally full of way less junk as far as preservatives and white flours. To me, it's all about giving my kids the best I can without making them eat seaweed and tofu- it's all about balance.

So anyways- now that the kids were onboard, we set out to make changes. My goal was to let the kids have foods (snacks in particular) that they like but were also healthy. This seemed like an oxymoron for a while. We went through A TON of healthy options that were just nasty- cardboard cereals, too sticky peanut butter, more cardboard with the crackers- just- ick. With time and the process of elimination, however, we did manage to add some golden additions to our pantry. I would love to share these with you to hopefully spare you some health-food-heartache....
**** I am also a thrifty Mama so none of my options should break your bank :) Your welcome!

#1. Peanut Butter. I learned in my chemistry class how bad hydrogenated oil is- and how it resides in most peanut butters. We tried so many natural PBs that were Grrrosss- but then we found THIS! Soooo yummy. It does have a little sugar in it, but- it's a better choice than the alternatives! Found at any major grocery store.

#2. Jelly. Most jellies have high fructose corn syrup as one of the first ingredients. This jelly is actually fruit, fruit juice, and pectin. That's about it. I buy it at walmart and it's very decently priced.

#3. Cereal. My kids love cereal. We tried the ultra healthy kinds, and they despised it. So, we settled for a healthier version of their favorite cereals, and I am completely at peace with it. I have found these in health food section of many grocery stores

#4. Oatmeal. So, Quaker oatmeal instant packs have a ton of ingredients I can't even pronounce, and that doesn't sit well with me. BUT- my kids do not like my homemade version. So, when we found this- the kids and I were both delighted. YUM! Found at any major grocery store.

#5. Yogurt. Ok, so- the kid friendly yogurts are just no bueno. I get them once in a while for the kids as a treat, but I am really not impressed at all with the ingredients and nutrition. My kids really love this alternative- and it is much better for them! They are found at any major grocery store.

#6. Tortillas. Oh. My. Goodness. If you have some tortillas on hand- go and look at the ingredients list. You will be blown away. Homemade tortillas are made of 4 ingredients- water, flour, salt, and lard. What on earth are all those other things in the packaged kind? YUCK. Anyways, after a lot of searching, I found these: my kids eat them without fuss and they are very cleaned up! I have only been able to find them at Sprouts so far.

#7- Snack Attack. My kids are liking flavored rice cakes, popped rice chips, trail mixes, air popped popcorn, and cheese sticks. While these choices aren't perfect, they are better than the alternatives. They offer vitamins and minerals that other junk food does not, and paired with a piece of fruit they make for a satisfactory snack.

#8. Mac and Cheese. Last, but not least- the biggest change! Ok, not really- but I was having SUCH a hard time finding a mac n cheese alternative. It wasn't really the mac I hated (although it was white pasta, I coulda lived with it once in a while), it was the cheese...if you can even call it that. But ANYWAYS. Thank the Lord we finally came across this: My kids love it! Found at any grocery store, in health food section.

IF you are lookin for healthy food for your kids- you know- ones that don't sit on the shelf forever because no one will touch it, I hope you will give these a try. I am always on the search for healthy, kid friendly food- so I will continue my search- and if you have any treasures you have found, PLEASE comment below and let me know!

Stay tuned for more!