Ok, can we talk snacks for a minute? I get asked quite a bit about what I like to eat and what I feed my kids, but most especially, people want to know about healthy snack options. Well, I recently started the Whole30 program, whereby you eat only whole foods (read: very little, if any processed foods) for thirty days, yikes! In preparation for this challenge I started thinking and planning for my meals and snacks which got me to thinking about how dependent we've become on processed and packaged foods - I mean wow, even something as innocent as chicken broth has hidden ingredients. Anyhow, I was inspired to write about my experience in hopes that I might help at least one other parent out there just trying their best to feed their families healthily and keep their sanity in the process.
So here goes....
My kids like to snack on the same stuff your kids do. They love the very popular "veggie chips" (which by the way do NOT count as a vegetable in my book), pretzels, popcorn, potato chips, cookies, fruit snacks, some fresh fruits and the list goes on. We regularly talk about the importance of a balanced meal and what that actually looks like (think the MyPlate.gov for example). We've also learned how to read food labels and ingredient lists. Food labels are great, they provide key information about a product like what constitutes a serving size, but even more important to look at and understand is the list of ingredients. It is alarming what ingredients can be found in our favorite snacks and foods. You know what I'm talking about...high fructose corn syrup, red dye #40, monosodium glutamate (aka MSG), partially hydrogenated oils, not to mention the many code names for sugar.
So what’s a parent to do when you want to feed your kids healthy, but something they will actually eat?
This is what I practice personally, and have been teaching my kids (hey, did you know I have a Wellness Kids program? ask me about it here ) Ok, back to snacks and choosing the best options for you…
1) Please know that no one is perfect, and there is no right or wrong way when it comes to nutrition, there are simply choices. Our choices either lead us toward better health or away from it. I also try very hard to stay away from demonizing foods (or food like substances, aka “junk foods”). My facial expressions might say otherwise at times like when my kids buy their own snack at school, but hey, no one's perfect remember!? My point here is this, do what feels best for YOU and your family. Period.
2) Rome wasn’t built in a day! Let’s not get overly ambitious and clear out everything from the fridge and pantry in one fell swoop – you will have some angry customers on your hands. Instead, try to pick one thing you would like to switch out and focus on that. Remember to be patient with yourself and your family, small changes over time lead to lasting results.
3) Try to choose and encourage your children to choose whole foods as often as possible. Eating more of the life and energy giving foods will naturally leave less room for the other stuff.
4) Homemade really is best…I mean a warm, ooey, gooey chocolate chip cookie made from ingredients you know and trust, does it get any better? But, sometimes homemade is just not an option for whatever reason, and you find yourself staring down the snack aisle in the grocery store. In comes label reading. Look at the list of ingredients on the product in question, my general rule of thumb is if a food label lists five or more ingredients that you cannot pronounce or recognize, put it back. This will take some time to get used to, but there are better alternatives out there I promise!
5) Lastly, and I know this may ruffle some feathers, but I’m gonna say it anyway…You, Mom, Dad, grown up in charge who is doing the shopping – if you want your children to make better choices, then you need to give them better options. Ok, there I said it. You cannot stock the pantry with (fill in the blank) snacks and NOT expect them to eat it. Again, I am not against all pre-packaged foods, but please rethink the way you shop, take the time to read labels, talk to your family about the importance of proper nutrition and lead by example. Consistency is key.
I hope you found these tips helpful! If you would like to learn more about creating a healthier lifestyle, or my Wellness Kids program, hop on over to my website http://www.coachingbeyondnutrition.com. You can also send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, I’d love to hear from you!
All my best,