What’s the difference between healthy eating and dieting?

How can you be a nutrition coach and be anti-diet? What’s the difference between healthy eating and dieting?

Dieting and healthy eating are actually very different, mutually exclusive things. In fact, dieting is NOT at all healthy eating.

Dieting

Dieting means drastically restricting what you eat, either by counting calories or outright eliminating foods, with the goal of weight loss. Diets are not meant to be sustainable in the long-term. Rather, they are designed to get you to your goal weight quickly, but not to keep you there. The proof of this is in the pudding: with all of the scientific evidence we have that shows that slashing calories will slow your metabolism and that these approaches almost always result in weight regain (plus more), the diet industry continues with the same fundamental approach. This is because the industry makes money off of dieters coming back for more.

Another hallmark that all diets have in common is the diet mentality. Diets promote deprivation and moralization of foods into “good” and “bad” categories. They entail black-and-white thinking – you’re either on a diet or off, being good or being bad. And, regardless of the specifics of the diet, they are too often a slippery slope into disordered eating. Dieting does not promote a healthy relationship with food. Think about the last time you were on a diet. How much time did you spend thinking about the foods you weren’t allowed to have? Wishing you could eat like everyone else? And how much time did you spend stressing out about how much of what you could eat? You shouldn’t be wasting so much time and energy stressing about fulfilling one of our most basic human needs. Food is not meant to be a source of stress, but the diet mentality makes it so by convincing us that we need to monitor our every bite.

The sneaky thing is, diet companies will convince you that it’s YOUR fault for not maintaining. The truth is that it’s NOT your fault if you struggle to stick to your diet’s strict rules and it’s NOT your fault if you gain your weight back. Our human bodies and minds are simply not compatible with the diet structure. Our bodies are not meant to run on just 1200 calories a day and we are programmed not to respond well to deprivation. If you would like a really eye-opening illustration of this, read about the Minnesota Starvation Experiment (and pay attention to how many calories they were consuming a day).

Healthy Eating

Healthy eating does not require counting calories or cutting out foods. In fact, there is room for all of your favorite treats! Instead of focusing on rules and numbers, you re-learn to tune into and trust your body so that you can securely give yourself permission to indulge. Healthy eating is about finding the right balance for you and for your body. By getting to the factors behind your cravings, eating mindfully, and tuning into your hunger and satiety cues, you are able to balance your diet and release that food stress.

The “healthy” in healthy eating isn’t just about the types of food you eat; it’s also about your relationship with food.

Healthy eating requires you to flip the script on that old diet mentality that we all carry with us. It requires recognizing that what works for me might not work for you. We could eat the same way and exercise the same and our bodies would look completely different – and that’s OK. It requires recognizing that there are no “bad” foods and that eating ice cream is not going to have negative consequences.

One final point: the goal of healthy eating doesn’t have to be weight loss. For example, you can focus on healthy eating to feel better, improve your health, manage certain conditions, or just to care for yourself. Our culture would certainly prefer to have us believe otherwise, but our bodies are supposed to come in different shapes and sizes and they are supposed to change as we get older. At 33, I don’t fit into the clothes I was wearing at 21 and I shouldn’t – my hormones are different, my metabolism is different, my eating and movement are different. Learning what your unique body needs is also an important part of healthy eating.

I write this post not to put down anyone else’s thing, but to give you some important information to consider before you embark on a diet program. If you have questions about this post or how I approach nutrition coaching, please don’t hesitate to send me an email.

Dealing with conflicting information

Wait…so are eggs bad for you again? But I thought you couldn’t have coffee while pregnant, now it’s OK? OK, I’ve got it, now. So red wine is good for you…except when it’s not?

These are such classic examples of the tennis match head flip we have to do as consumers reading headlines around diet and nutrition. One day a food is good for you and the next you shouldn’t eat it. With all this conflicting nutrition information, what is a health conscious consumer to do?

If there is one thing the media is really good at, it’s taking the slightest possibility and running with it as though it is unequivocal truth. One study can come out suggesting that people who eat potatoes 3 times a week are more likely to have inverted nipples and the next thing you know every outlet is reporting you should never ever eat potatoes.

But here’s the thing: correlation does not equal causation. There may be an environmental factor causing inverted nipples in a certain region and potatoes might just happen to be common and affordable in that region, thereby skewing the results. Or maybe there is a genetic factor that causes inverted nipples and also creates a taste for potatoes.

This is a silly example but the point is that just because 2 things are happening does not mean they are related.

Furthermore, just because one study had a particular finding, doesn’t mean that finding holds true. That study may have been poorly constructed, its results might not be able to be reproduced, it could have been funded by someone with skin in the game – a whole lot of different issues. So what should you do?

  1. Don’t stress about it

Getting stressed out about whether or not you should put stock in a new study isn’t helpful. Chances are, whatever those findings are won’t merit your dropping a habit immediately. By all means, give the story a read, but don’t let it drive you into a panic.

2. Keep an open mind

Remember, one study doesn’t prove anything conclusively. It needs to be peer-reviewed and the findings need to be able to be replicated. We still have SO MUCH to learn about the human body and nutrition – what we think we know now is bound to change as we learn more.

3. Talk to a professional

If you’re really concerned about the findings you’re reading, talk to your doctor or your nutrition professional about it. They should be able to let you know whether or not you need to make changes.

4. Focus on balance

At the end of the day, if you’re eating a wide variety of foods and eating more of the “healthy stuff” than the “less healthy stuff,” you probably don’t need to worry much. Too much of anything can be a problem, including information. So focus on finding your balance and don’t get sucked into the back and forth media coverage of these studies.

Meal Planning Success Tips

Meal planning and prep is an important pillar of healthy eating because it gives you complete control over the ingredients and portions that you and your family eat. In fact, research has shown that eating home cooked meals frequently is associated with healthier diet quality. That’s not to say that meal planning and prepping is easy. It takes time, thought, and energy. So how can you make meal prepping work for you? First off, there’s no wrong way to meal prep. Here are some meal planning success tips to get you started: 

Meal Prep Success Tips

Work with your schedule 

Some people like to do a lot of meal prep all in one day. Others will split it up over 2-3 days during the week. Another way to do it, is to cook larger meals and save leftovers for a couple days (helloooo crock pots and one-pan meals!). Look at your schedule but also consider your energy and stress levels as well when deciding which system works best for you. Create your schedule around that. 

Plan before you shop

Your meal prep plan needs to take into consideration not just your time, but also your budget and your inventory. Planning before you shop will cut your time in the grocery store and also allow you to modify your plan if you discover you need to purchase too many items for certain recipes. You also will have the opportunity to modify recipes by planning ahead as well. 

Try to reuse ingredients

It will save you time and money if you are able to use the same ingredients in several different dishes. For example, you could use quinoa to make a batch of stuffed peppers, a quinoa salad side dish, and vegetarian taco filling. Just make a large pot of quinoa at the beginning of the week and then work it into those dishes. Likewise, see if you can find ways to repurpose your leftovers into new meals.  For example, leftover chicken can be used to make chicken fajitas, leftover salmon can be made into salmon burgers – you get the idea.

Use your freezer

Some foods freeze better than others and taking advantage of that can save you time and money. Some ingredients that freeze well are:

  • Fruits such as peeled bananas, chunked mangos, and berries
  • Raw or blanched vegetables such as peppers, peas, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, and kale
  • Cooked vegetables such as sweet potato and squash (stock up on these when they’re in season and cheap, roast them up, then freeze them)
  • Firm tofu
  • Raw meats

Some prepared foods that also freeze well:

  • Soups
  • Sauces
  • Stir fry
  • Cauliflower fried rice
  • Pasta dishes
  • Black bean burritos

Spice it up!

Don’t be afraid of flavor. Spices and herbs are your best friend when cooking healthy foods. They allow you to reuse the same ingredients in many different ways. If you are uncomfortable improvising with your flavors, follow recipes. Tired of the same old grilled chicken breast? Try adding garlic and paprika for Mexican-style or go with lemon and rosemary. You can play around with different combinations once you get comfortable with the flavors that you enjoy. 

Get your family/friends involved

Cooking together is a good time to connect and it’s a great learning experience for kids! Research has shown that if you encourage your kids to meal prepare throughout their young adult life, they are more likely to eat healthier later and are less likely to develop picky eating habits. 

Only prepare foods that you enjoy eating

You may feel really motivated to cook only quinoa and asparagus for your lunch the next day, because you think that will be the healthiest. But if you don’t actually like quinoa and asparagus, you probably won’t end up eating it later. What’s the point of forcing yourself to eat things that you don’t find tasty? Food can be delicious and healthy; you sometimes just have to be creative. This is why when you work with Well & Simple, we offer thousands of new recipes that are easy to prepare yourself, and are tailored according to your taste preference.

Theme nights make things easier

These can be fun and give the whole family something to look forward to, as well as take away some of the thought you have to put into a meal. Some examples of fun theme days are: 

  • Meatless Monday
  • Taco Tuesday
  • Fishy Friday

Plan the dine out days

Meal planning also means planning nights when you don’t have to cook! If you know you will end up dining out once a week, you may as well put it on the schedule so you can always stick to your plan, and avoid wasting extra ingredients.

There are many other perks to cooking your own food besides it being healthier. It can be less expensive, and can be even tastier than takeout. It’s also a fun opportunity to teach your kids an important life skill, or just to spend time together on a busy work day. Following these meal planning success tips will help you get on your way.

Our intern, Nicki, actually conducted her senior thesis research on meal prep amongst college students and found that they eat more fruits and vegetables if they prep their own meals as well. So there you have it: meal prep is an important and even college students are getting in on it!

How about you? Do you meal prep regularly? What does it look like in your house?

The Trouble with the Diet Mentality

More than any of the junk food on the market, I think the biggest obstacle to having healthy balanced eating habits, a good relationship with our body, and a healthy relationship with food is the diet mentality. In order to start truly making lasting changes to your eating habits, you have to start working on curbing that mentality from the outset.

What is the Diet Mentality

The diet mentality is a deeply ingrained way of thinking in our culture that emphasizes black-and-white thinking about eating habits. You hear it in the on-the-wagon-off-the-wagon notion and the idea of “good” foods versus “bad” foods. You hear it in the way we talk about our eating behaviors: “I was bad today because I had chips and dessert.” And it’s behind our negative self-talk when we pick apart our physical appearance, berate ourselves for not following our diet, and say cruel things about our bodies.

The diet mentality is critical for the survival of the commercial diet industry because it supports their unsustainable programs which focus solely on the food, counting calories, carbs, and points, and the number on the scale and ignore balance, the reasons behind our eating habits, and food quality.

Why the Diet Mentality is a Problem

The diet mentality is a big problem for a whole number of reasons. First and foremost, all of that negative self-talk and those unrealistic goals that it emphasizes throw us into a self-defeating, self-berating spiral.

Let me explain. Commercial diets rely on one common ingredient for all of their programs: self-control. Here’s the thing about self-control, it’s a finite resource for every single human being out there. It erodes throughout the course of the day, with stress, with lack of sleep, and the longer we rely on it. However, we are conditioned to believe that when we run out of the ability to exercise self-control, it’s a failure on our part. We are simply not good enough, not strong enough, not cut out for this. Have you ever had those thoughts about yourself?

Pretty much anyone who has withstood the diet cycle has had those thoughts. And what those thoughts ultimately lead to are beliefs that we are simply not good enough so why bother even trying. “Well, I already blew it today, so why not just go all in for dinner, dessert, and wine?” “I just can’t do it. What’s the point in even trying?” “I didn’t have the self control for no carbs….but maybe if I’m counting points instead that’ll be easier”.

This is the diet mentality at work. It make you feel bad about yourself, warps your self-image, and keeps you coming back for more and more diets.

Here’s the thing…

The diet mentality does not reflect reality. There are no good foods and bad foods – just food. There are foods you shouldn’t eat as often because they aren’t as nutritious, true. But eating those foods certainly doesn’t make you bad any more than eating a carrot would make Charles Manson good. See what I’m saying?

The goal that we all need to be working towards is BALANCE so that we can enjoy those treats that we like but also eat plenty of the more nutritious foods that our bodies need. The goal is BALANCE so that we can enjoy food without equating it with our worth, so that we can stop berating ourselves and heal our relationships with food and with our bodies.

Releasing the Diet Mentality

Only by working on quelling those diet mentality thoughts and beliefs can we focus on achieving that balance that we need. But it takes time because that mentality is so deeply ingrained not only in ourselves but also in our society. It’s all around us and we don’t even notice it most of the time. So it takes practice noticing those patterns and then flipping the script on them.

So here’s a homework assignment if you’re willing: grab a journal and write down the diet mentality thoughts and feelings you have today on one side of the page. On the other side of the page, flip the script on them, turn them into something constructive or more observational and not judgmental. For example “I was bad today because I ate a whole bag of chips” could be flipped to “I ate a bag of chips today and they tasted really good.” “I can’t eat bread because carbs are bad” could be flipped to “bread isn’t falling in line with the nutritional goals I have today but I can have it if I want it.”

To get you started: your worth is not dictated by the foods you eat. Your body is beautiful and amazing. You are not defective or weak.

Fitness Industry Sayings that Need to Go

I didn’t get into health and nutrition coaching because I wanted to create weight loss plans. I got into it because I spent most of my younger years obsessing over my weight  and I had a horribly unhealthy relationship with food and my body. I saw how much harm the diet and “wellness” industries caused myself and others and I wanted to help other people embrace healthy eating and balance. This isn’t an easy mission when the giant diet industry is spamming all of our feeds with toxic messages. My intern, Nicki, is totally on the same page about these messages, so we put our heads together on what language we think the industry needs to ditch.

1. Get your beach/bikini body

“Bathing suit season is coming.” “Get your body bikini-ready!” “Time to work on your summer bod.” UGH! We need to stop promoting the notion that only certain types of bodies are worthy of a bikini. This kind of mentality not only is harmful by driving people to extremes to lose weight, it also encourages the policing of other people’s bodies. As the meme says, “the only way to get a bikini body it to put a bikini on your body” and it’s true. Stretch marks? Cellulite? Jiggle? Rolls? Put a bikini on it. I’m no more worthy of a bikini than you or your neighbor and vice versa. 

2. Toxic “motivation”

You’ve definitely heard it or maybe been told it yourself, “motivational” sayings like: “sweat is fat crying,” “pain is weakness leaving your body,” “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels,” “unless you puke, faint, or die, keep going” (looking at you, Jillian Michaels). This is the kind of garbage that lands people hurt or ill. Exercise should not be punishment and ignoring your body’s warning signs is a recipe for disaster. What we need to be focusing on is positive encouragement, tuning into one’s body, and finding balance. It’s the imbalance that this mentality promotes that keeps people pumping money into the diet industry for unsustainable tactics. Also, have you ever had pizza? It definitely tastes better than skinny feels.

3. Good Food vs Bad Food, Healthy Food vs Unhealthy Food

As humans, we like having opposite categories, I will give us that. But, when it comes to applying blanket classifications to foods, we run into some problems. Are some foods healthier than others? Yes, obviously. But that doesn’t mean that one food is good and another is bad. As the saying goes “the dose makes the poison.” It’s about proportionality. You should eat more nutritious foods than less nutritious, caloric foods. But focusing on completely avoiding “bad” foods is unsustainable and can lead to disordered eating habits.

4. Superfood

And while we’re at it, we need to 86 this “superfood” label we are giving to a new fruit or vegetable every 6 months. Say it with me: there is no such thing as a superfood. This is a buzzword created by the food industry (yes, even agriculture is an industry) to increase sales of certain products. Fruits and vegetables are rich in highly healthful compounds called phytonutrients as well as vitamins and minerals. This is what makes them so good for us. But cauliflower is not more super than kale which is no more super than blueberries. They just have different amounts of different nutrients. What you really need to focus on is eating a wide variety of different plants so your body can reap the benefits of those nutrients.

5. “Get your body back”

There are few things that frost my cookies as much as seeing an ad for some program directed at new moms promising to help them “get their body back.” Here’s the thing, there is no body “lost” in the process of carrying a child. Does your body change? Yes. Is that a problem? It shouldn’t be, but in our sexist society some think it is. Until we can stop telling women that they need to “get their bodies back”, women will continue to belittle themselves, resort to varying, sometimes extreme, measures to lose weight, and internalize that hatred towards their own bodies. You body just did an amazing and incredibly difficult thing. Of course it’s going to change and it’s that change that makes it so amazing. What the message needs to be is that the postpartum body is amazing and beautiful and that new moms can focus on caring for themselves and their newborn. 

 

We’re not so naive as to think that this kind of talk is going to go away – it isn’t. But what we do want to encourage through this post is more dialogue around the effects of this kind of language. We want to encourage everyone to become more aware of how this mentality slips into their daily lives and focus on reframing those words into more positive, healthy, encouraging thoughts.

 

How to handle your leftover Halloween candy

Halloween can be a tricky holiday for those of us trying to maintain healthy eating habits – from the bags of candy purchased in advance for trick or treaters to the leftovers and/or candy our kids come home with. And, when you think about it, Halloween is kind of a kick off to a whole season of sweet temptations leading up to the New Year. But, let’s start with what to do with that leftover Halloween candy, because these are strategies you can use for other occasions as well.

1. Out of sight, out of mind

If we’re being realistic here, it’s not as simple as just dumping the candy in the garbage, especially if it’s your child’s hard-earned haul. Studies have proven that we are more likely to eat treats if they are visible and readily accessible to us, even if we have healthy options in front of us, too. So store those candies away out of your sight so that they’re not constantly staring you in the face and tempting you. Somewhere like the back of a cabinet you rarely open or behind some healthier snacks are good places. This might cut down on how often your children beg for that candy as well….maybe…possibly…

2. Set limits

Having clear boundaries is critical for success in almost any situation. So set those boundaries for yourself and your family. I recommend agreeing to only keep the candy in the house for a week and then disposing of the leftovers by donating them for care packages, etc. I also strongly recommend setting limits for daily candy consumption as well. For the “fun size” candies, I suggest a limit of two per day for that week.

Now, the thing with boundaries is they only work if you stick to them. So it’s important to set those boundaries, make them clear from the outset, and stick to them, especially if your children give you pushback. Think of this as an opportunity to teach your kids about balance.

3. Donate the leftovers

If throwing out the leftovers doesn’t sit well with you (and I totally get that), find a way to donate that candy. In many communities, there are collections for military care packages, etc. Or maybe your college alumni association puts together final exam care packages for current students and they could use the candy. Lots of options out there beyond tossing it in the bin. An added bonus to donating leftover candy after a week is it’s a great chance to teach your kids about sharing and charity. Here is a listing of North Shore donation spots for your candy this year. 

4. Don’t beat yourself up

Most importantly, if you do overindulge, don’t beat yourself up about it. Getting down on yourself is a recipe for a downward spiral and kicking your own butt at the gym isn’t going to undo it – that’s just not how the human body works. The best thing you can do for yourself in situations like that is to own that you didn’t do what you had hoped you would and resolve to do better going forward. This is important not just for yourself but for your kids who, whether you know it or not, watch your every move and hear your every word. This is a chance to teach them how to love themselves and have a healthy relationship with food. Here are some more tips on what to do after you overindulge.

Bonus Advice: How to Talk about Food Choices with Your Kids

While we’re on the topic of setting an example for our kids, watching the language that you use around food is also really important. Dubbing some foods “bad” or saying they’ll “make you fat” can really hurt your child’s relationship with food going forward and can create feelings of shame or guilt around eating. At the same time, it is important to convey that some foods are healthier choices than others. So when you’re talking to children about why you’re giving away the leftover candy or limiting how much you eat, I suggest using language along the lines of:

This isn’t everyday food so we are only going to have a little and then share with some other people. Foods like fruits and vegetables help keep us from getting sick and help us do better in school, but candy doesn’t do any of those things for us so we don’t need to eat a lot of it. Instead we have a little and we focus on eating more of the foods that help us grow bigger and smarter.

Notice that the above example does not say that candy is bad for you or candy will make you sick, etc. It just says that we don’t need it and that other foods do more for us. So we can have a little but should focus on the things that help us the most.

Beat the Bloat

I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all experienced that awful feeling after a day when we’ve overindulged: your belly is distended and feels like it’s been pumped overfull with air, your clothes feel too tight, it’s uncomfortable to move around, and all you want to do is cover up with some baggy sweats. It’s a horrible feeling and, when it happens, it can’t be over soon enough. The good news is that there are ways to expedite that process.

1. Hydrate

Drink plenty of water. That will help your body flush everything out.

2. Get moving

Walking, yoga, or other gentle exercise can help get things moving for you, especially if you are experiencing constipation or gas.

3. Get back on the healthy eating wagon as soon as you can

When we feel awful, we tend to want to curl up and comfort ourselves however we can and sometimes that means continuing those same eating habits that got us where we are. Put an end to the cycle by avoiding simple carbohydrates and sugar as well as excess sodium. This means no soda, juice, or other carbonated or sugary beverages, avoid alcohol, avoid sweets and salty snacks, and try not to add much salt to your food. This will help cut down on gas and water retention.

4. Have a cup of tea

Peppermint and chamomile tea both may help alleviate symptoms of gas and bloat. Enjoy a cup or two of these to help you get more comfortable.

5. Avoid healthy foods that can cause bloat

If you’re already feeling bloated, you may want to avoid certain healthy foods that may worsen your situation…at least until it’s cleared up. These include cruciferous veggies such as broccoli and brussels sprouts as well as dairy and beans.

6. Avoid sugar-free foods

In the wake of the backlash against artificial chemical sweeteners, many sugar-free foods now contain sugar alcohols instead. These ingredients, while not linked to the same health concerns as chemical sweeteners or sugar, have been known to cause gastric upset for many. Skipping out of these ingredients will help you avoid uncomfortable gas and bloating.

 

What to do if you are dealing with chronic bloat

1. Journal it

Begin to keep track of the foods you’re eating and how you’re feeling before and after. This can help you determine if you’re sensitive to certain foods so you can avoid them later.

2. Work with a nutrition professional for an elimination diet

A nutrition professional can help you remove common problem foods from your diet to test your reactions to them.

3. Work with your physician to diagnose any underlying medical causes

Chronic bloating can be caused by a number of conditions, including IBS, Crohn’s, and Celiac. Only your physician can diagnose these conditions so, if bloating and gas are commonplace issues for you, I suggest speaking to your physician about it.

 

How to Support Healthy Habits for Your Children

As a parent seeking to support your child’s health, you have quite a lot to work against: clever advertising of sugary foods, video games that all their friends are playing, and handheld devices that make it all too easy to sit and watch a show any time any where, just to name a few. Fortunately, there are a few simple, concrete things you can do starting right now to help support your child’s health even in the face of these obstacles.

1. Make a pick plate

Each day set out a plate of cut veggies, fruit, and nuts and leave it out in an accessible place so that your kids can grab from it as they come and go. You could also put some dips out to entice them further, like guacamole, hummus, salsa, or peanut butter. Having those healthy foods visible and accessible makes it more likely that they will eat them. Ideally, they will fill up with these and not even ask for the less-than-healthy snacks later. But, even if they don’t, at least they are eating more fruits and veggies than they were before. Further, the more they eat these healthy foods, the more of a taste they will develop for them.

2. Get the whole family active

Find some fun active activities your whole family can do together, like hiking or biking. For indoor active time, try heading to your local trampoline park together or pick up the game Hyperdash to play inside and get everyone moving (according to some reviews, parents enjoy it for their solo workouts without their kids as well!).

3. Talk about food choices in the positive

We now know the potential harm that using the wrong language and pressure around food choices can cause to children as they grow older, particularly in a world where we are constantly bombarded by images of what we ideally should look like. Instead of focusing on foods that your child shouldn’t or can’t have, focus on what they can have. Use the word “we” as much as possible when describing eating habits to create a sense of unity around those habits and to take the focus and pressure off your child and their eating habits. For example, “we eat grilled chicken because it makes us stronger” or “we eat vegetables at every meal because they help us not get sick.” This type of language used regularly normalizes healthy eating even when TV commercials are screaming about snacks loaded with sugar and artificial dyes.

4. Get the kids involved in food prep

Young children tend to be much more enthusiastic about things they’ve played a role in, especially if they see that task as being “grown-up” or important. Try to get your kids involved in the groceries and meal prep as soon as you’re able to. In the grocery store, let them make decisions by giving them choices, like blue potatoes, orange potatoes, or white potatoes; yellow string beans or green string beans; long squash or round squash – you get the picture. This gives children a sense of control over decisions and they’re more likely to eat something they chose. When it comes to dinner prep, give them age-appropriate tasks to do to help you cook, like rinsing spinach, breaking the tops off the green beans, or helping you measure out ingredients with measuring cups and spoons. You could even get your children their own kid-friendly cookware sets like these.  When kids play a role in cooking (something very “adult”), they are really proud of that and are more likely to eat the food they prepare. This also provides you with valuable bonding time and helps kids get more familiar with different foods.

5. Don’t give up

According to current data, it takes a child  being exposed to a new food about 12 times before they are willing to even try it. Be patient and just keep re-exposing them to that food. Continue to put healthy snacks into their lunches, but don’t be surprised or upset when those snacks come home at the end of the day. Keep putting them back in there.

6. Find opportunities to work in more vegetables

I’m not necessarily saying to be sneaky and hide veggies in your kids’ food. What I’m saying is that there are foods out there that are great opportunities for enriching them with even more vegetables and it won’t be a big deal in terms of flavor or texture. For example, pasta sauce can be loaded with different veggies, like peppers, mushrooms, even carrots and broccoli, and you can always toss it in a blender if it’s too chunky with those veggies added. Another great option are sweet potato brownies. You cut down on the sugar and flour and use sweet potato instead – it creates a brownie that is always fudgy in texture and your child gets to eat lots of fiber and phytonutrients. Here is my favorite sweet potato brownie recipe.

7. Eliminate sugary beverages

Perhaps the greatest thing you can do for your child’s health is to eliminate soda, juice, and other sugary beverages from their diet. Yes, even juice. When you juice a fruit (or a vegetable) you are destroying the fiber in it and that leaves little to nothing to buffer against the sugars in it. So essentially you end up with a glass of sugar with some nutrients in it. The American Heart Association recommends that children ages 2-18 consume no more than 25 grams of added sugar per day but the average American child consumes over 75 grams of added sugar a day and soda and fruits drinks are 2 of the biggest contributors to that. Without going into scare tactics, we know that excess sugar consumption as a child leads to chronic health conditions like obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension just to name a few. Instead of sugary drinks, try giving your child water with fresh or frozen fruit in it or seltzer instead of soda. And, if you are going to allow them to have soda or juice, make sure that it is on a very rare occasion.

How to Motivate Your Family to Be Healthier

It’s a tale as old as time. One parent wants to start eating healthier, maybe lose some weight, get more active, etc. but they’re thrown off track time and time again because the rest of the family isn’t on board. Maybe the problem is that you have to keep a package of certain cookies in the house for your partner. Maybe it’s that you’re tired of preparing 2 dinners, one for you and one for everyone else. Maybe you’re missing your after-dinner walks because everyone would rather watch TV and you don’t want to miss out on valuable family time. Whatever the big issues are, it can make it very challenging to work on your healthy habits when the rest of the household is not working on theirs. So what can you do?

Start Small

You can’t expect everyone to jump right on whatever plan you have right off the bat. Instead, start small. Maybe find an outdoors activity your whole family enjoys doing together, like bike-riding or hiking. Maybe you can get your kids to choose a healthy recipe and cook it with you. Maybe you can swap out those favorite store-bought brownie bites for some homemade ones with less sugar and some sweet potato in them. The easiest way to create big change is to start with little ones.

Use that Team Mentality

It may sound silly but language is super important. It can help unify your family around your goals. Practice using “we” and “our.” For example, “these are the foods we eat,” “we like to get moving outside,” “we are taking good care of ourselves.” This is especially important when it comes to your kids.

Use Relatable Justifications

Telling a child that they should eat broccoli because it’s good for them will get you nowhere fast. You know this. “Good for you” means nothing to a child. The same goes for “healthy.” But, if you can relate the benefits of that health food to something your child wants or enjoys, then you may be in luck. For example, instead of telling your child to eat the chicken because they need the protein, explain to them that eating chicken will help them get stronger and better at biking. Or instead of telling them that their vegetables are good for them, tell them eating vegetables will make them run even faster at their soccer game. Or their avocado will make them do well on their test tomorrow because it makes their brain grow.  These are relatable things that makes sense in a child’s mind.

Clearly Communicate Why these Changes are Important to You

Your partner needs to know how important these changes are to you so that they can support you. Really get down to your big WHY about these changes and share that with your partner. Knowing how important getting healthier is to you makes it more likely that they will be more supportive of your efforts.

Keep It Collaborative

Unilaterally taking certain foods away or trying to secretly swap them out for healthier ones can be a recipe for disaster and meltdowns. Try allowing your family to pick a food they are willing to try a healthier option for and let them choose a substitution from a small selection. Remember to only incorporate one food swap at a time so that you’re not overwhelming them with overhaul and creating pushback and resentment.

Make Healthy Foods More Accessible than Unhealthy Ones

You may find that if you leave a plate of cut veggies and fruits out and ready, your family will be more likely to grab those as they are right out in front of them than to hunt around for or demand junk food snacks. Once they start eating healthier foods, they will begin to become part of the routine.

Model the Behavior You Want to See

Lead by example. If your family perceives that you are not taking these changes seriously, then they won’t either.

Have you ever struggled to get your family on board with healthier habits? What techniques worked for you? Share them in the comments below!

 

What to do with the Halloween candy scaries

If the thought of storing several jumbo bags of “fun-sized” candy in your house for the next couple weeks has your despairing, if you’re wondering how you’re going to resist eating your child’s candy loot, if you’re thinking of just skipping Halloween for the sake of your diet altogether, then read on. If not, power to you, but read on anyway in case you know someone this would be helpful to 🙂

Halloween is just the first of several upcoming holidays known to fill our homes with less-than-healthy temptations. From the giant bags of candy you buy to pass out to the trick-or-treaters to the orange bucket of candy your own child brings home, this can be a tough time for those of us looking to watch our waistlines, reduce our sugar intake, or just eat healthier in general. So here are my tips for having fun this spooky season without going off the rails completely.

1.Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Once you’ve bought your stock of candy to give out on Halloween night, don’t keep it out in the open or in an easily accessible location. Each of us probably knows all too well how easy it is to pop open one of those bags for “just a few” pieces of candy and have that turn into needing to go buy more candy. It’s not you and it’s not all just a lack of willpower. Our bodies are programmed to crave those caloric, sugary, fatty foods, especially this time of the year and junk food companies known exactly how to capitalize on that from the ingredients they use all the way down to the packaging.

Take those bags of candy and store them somewhere out of the way and out of your sight until Halloween night (make sure you remember where you put them, of course). It has been proven that when junk food is within our vision or easily accessible to us, we will choose that over healthy options most of the time (even if we don’t really want to). Putting those bags of candy away will help keep you on track and eliminate that extra temptation.

2. Participate in the Teal Pumpkin Project

If candy is your arch nemesis and you would prefer to just not have it in the house at all, then grab a teal pumpkin and hand out non-candy items (like glow sticks, bookmarks, funky erasers, etc.) on Halloween to help include children with food allergies in the spooky fun. This will keep your stress about overindulging at bay and will also benefit kids with food allergies who just want to trick or treat like their friends. Learn more about the Teal Pumpkin Project and register your address online here.  

3. Have some fun and then be done

Life is all about balance and you should absolutely get a chance to enjoy some sweets this Halloween season. The key is setting a stopping point and sticking to it. One of the best parts about Halloween as a kid was always bringing a piece or two of candy with you to school in your lunch box. So I suggest keeping the candy around for just one week after Halloween. Allow yourself and/or your kids, just one or two pieces a day (assuming they’re the “fun size”) and stick to that. Once that week is up, get rid of the candy. You can throw it out (I know, I know) or you can donate it, which is what I recommend because it’s also a great way to teach your kids about helping others and sharing. There are loads of veterans organizations that collect leftover candy to send to troops overseas in their care packages. A simple Google search should point you to one near you.

4. Hand out healthier snacks instead

I know that neighbor tends to get a bad rep, but you could hand out healthier options such as mini boxes of raisins, snack bags of pretzels, or clementines to toss out just a few ideas. Doing this will keep more sugar out of your house and you might actually be doing another parent or child a favor as well.

5. Don’t beat yourself up

Most importantly, if you do overindulge, don’t beat yourself up about it. Getting down on yourself is a recipe for a downward spiral and kicking your own butt at the gym isn’t going to undo it. The best thing you can do for yourself in situations like that is to own that you didn’t do what you had hoped you would and resolve to do better going forward. This is important not just for yourself but for your kids who, whether you know it or not, watch your every move and hear your every word. This is a chance to teach them how to love themselves and have a healthy relationship with food.

 

Bonus advice:

While we’re on the topic of setting an example for our kids, watching the language that you use around food is also really important. Dubbing some foods “bad” or saying they’ll make you fat can very adversely affect your child’s relationship with food going forward and can create feelings of shame around it. So when you’re talking to children about why you’re giving away the leftover candy or limiting how much you eat, I suggest using language along the lines of: this isn’t everyday food so we are only going to have a little and then share with some other people. Foods like fruits and vegetables help keep us from getting sick and help us do better in school, but candy doesn’t do any of those things for us so we don’t need to eat a lot of it. Instead we have a little and we focus on eating more of the foods that help us grow bigger and smarter.