As much as I’d like to say that all my family eats is whole foods, and that my kids don’t know what McDonalds is, that’s not the truth! We do eat well most of the time, but we’re no stranger to treats. I do not regularly purchase anything that contains high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils, or dye. I feel a little guilty when I make a frozen pizza for dinner, but I don’t feel as terrible when we have something no-so-great at a Birthday Party or the like.
It’s been a long road that started when I was expecting my now 8-year old. Today I am sharing some small steps I’ve taken along the way. Every Mom and every family is different, but for us the small steps made it easier on our budget, and easier to stick to. My husband had a good point though. He said the next time you go to grab a box of pop tarts, or a bag of potato chips…don’t. Regular prices of these items are pretty high, and skipping them gives you that much more room for the good stuff!
Become a label reader. Look for simple ingredients. If you can’t pronounce it, skip it!
Replace “bad fats” with good fats. You can even use coconut oil when you make omlettes.
Replace pasta with whole grain pasta. You may need to try a few brands to find what you like, but there are whole grain pastas that taste great!
Use brown rice instead of white. Give barley and quinoa a try too!
Look for nitrate free bacon & hot dogs. We do not eat these terribly often, but indulging is more fun when I don’t have to worry about the nitrates. If your kids love hot dogs, this is an easy step you can take to eliminate something harmful without anyone feeling “deprived.”
If you reply on pre-packaged foods, look for natural/organic versions that do not contain high fructose corn syrup or hydrogenated oils. Prepared foods are not the best choice since they are typically quite high in sodium, but an option without all the preservatives & icky stuff is a better option to turn to when needed!
Try frozen veggies instead of canned. If you have veggie haters in your family, consider making meals that include the veggies in the dish (butternut squash chili, finely chopped zucchini or yellow squash etc.) vs vegetables on the side.
Ditch the potato chips and substitute multigrain tortilla chips with salsa. While tortilla chips aren’t a “health food,” a serving of whole grain chips will satisfy a craving for crunch and saltiness, providing additional whole grains to your diet.
Popsicles are typically very high in sugar (or HFCS) and are packed with dye. You can find whole fruit bars, or even frozen kefir treats, but you can spend a few bucks on a popsicle mold and make your own!
Replace soda, juices or juice drinks with flavored waters. Letting the fruit sit over night makes for a tasty treat, and you can add seltzer (or water carbonated with a Sodastream like I do!) to make it more of a treat.
If your kids are used to sugar, HFCS and/or dye filled yogurts, try switching to organic french vanilla yogurt, and top it with granola, fruit, or even a few chocolate chips!
Buy whole grain bread. If you don’t care for whole wheat, there are HFCS free white wheat options out there. Or make your own!
Use whole wheat flour. In most recipes, you can substitute half whole wheat flour for all purpose, without affecting the result. Skip the store bought cookies and make a yummy treat at home!
I am still taking more baby steps, and so far it seems to be working. My kids self-regulate their intake, and will push away a bowl of ice cream when they are finished. I’m hoping that my small steps and everything in “moderation” attitude will set them up for a lifetime of healthy eating!
What steps have you taken? What are you still working on?