By: Rachel Krechnyak
Mark Twain said, “The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don’t want, drink what you don’t like, and do what you’d rather not.” This sentiment was much more accurate during the late 1800’s and even though it can still be the topic of heated discussions at the dinner table when trying to feed your child kale or broccoli, a lot has changed in a hundred years. These days we have the freedom to maintain a healthy lifestyle and enjoy doing it. Whether you’re gluten-free or lactose-intolerant, vegetarian or vegan, or afflicted with a disorder that is affected by your diet, many countries in the world today have a multitude of healthy, whole food options to satisfy your dietary restrictions and provide delicious, nutrient-rich foods to you and your family.
Not only are healthy foods easier to obtain, but the education behind why we should eat healthier to feel better is readily available. With Instagram and YouTube at our fingertips providing us with enough new and exciting recipes to last a lifetime, there is no reason that our families, and especially our children, shouldn’t be eating healthy snacks and meals every day.
Healthy foods are available in many parts of the world, and you don’t have to live paycheck-to-paycheck to afford them; you just need to be proactive and strategic. From local farmers markets, international grocery stores, and produce outlets providing affordable whole foods to having a garden of your own, all the essentials to create healthy, balanced meals that won’t break the bank are available to you.
Many companies have even taken the guesswork out of preparing weekly meals and offer tailored healthy meals available to be delivered right to your door. As we have resurrected our love and desire for healthy foods in more recent years, the tools used to incorporate this way of living into our daily lives have never been more accessible. The real struggle is actually implementing this change. If we have made living a healthy lifestyle so easy to obtain, why is it so difficult to maintain and how do parents get their children to adopt these behaviors to create healthy habits for their future?
Why is it so difficult to implement healthy eating into our daily lives? Why do our children and even ourselves seek out junk foods instead of fruits and vegetables? If live in a developed nation, big corporations have a strong presence and influence over what you crave and what you eat.
This is why most of the foods and drinks that are convenient to us are fast, cheap and unhealthy and why so many fast food restaurants and mainstream grocery store brands offer quick meals filled with processed foods and
unhealthy ingredients. Million-dollar marketing campaigns including the billboards that sparkle in your peripheral as you drive along your daily route and commercials that air seemingly every time you think of them, try to influence our decisions even though we all have a basic understanding of what healthy eating should look like. We’ve all seen the food pyramid that was shown to us in second grade and heard our parents and doctors say, “Eat your fruits and vegetables”, but somewhere along the way we get thrown off track.
Not only are our decisions influenced by multi-level marketing pretty much everywhere we go, but the ingredients in these fast and convenient foods that are designed to make us addicted to them.
Over the years researchers have concluded that processed foods high in sugar, sodium, and fat actually change our brain chemistry and release the “feel-good” hormone dopamine that gives the consumer the same release that a heroin user receives from using opiates. No wonder we can’t stop thinking about that McDonald’s cheeseburger from last night!? Studies show that these types of foods lead to food addiction as well as detrimental binge-eating habits. These studies show us that creating healthy habits early on gives us and our children a strong foundation to grow off of and increase our chances of maintaining a healthy lifestyle as we get older.
A Healthy Meal Is A Healthy Mind... And Body
It seems like eating healthy and finding ways to implement healthy eating behaviors should be easy enough, but these obstacles can distract us along the way. To succeed as a health-conscious consumer, you must be an educated consumer and not only educated in where to buy healthy foods and how to prepare healthy meals, but what eating healthy does to your body and your mind. Western medicine has not always followed the motto that, “Food Is Medicine.” In fact, it wasn’t until Eastern and Western medicine began to merge with each other that food was considered a proactive treatment for good health and holistic wellness. Ancient medicinal teachings such as Ayurveda and Chinese medicine teach general wellness applications that consist of herbs, spices, and whole foods being used to heal the mind, body and spirit. Over the years this understanding has become more popular in Western culture and these teachings have been incorporated into healthy cooking and lifestyle.
Inner Peace Begins With Inner Balance
It is now more common knowledge that the food we eat influences our immune system and dictates how often we get sick and even the likelihood of developing more serious illnesses like cardiovascular disease and cancer. Foods high in sodium and sugar, like many processed and fast foods, cause inflammation, high blood pressure, insulin dependence and many other negative side effects. Eating a diet consisting of whole foods like fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, legumes and lean proteins not only contributes to feeling better in our body, but also in our mind. A diet balanced in naturally occurring sugars, sodium, and fats can help regulate blood sugar which balances hormones and can help fight mental ailments such as depression and anxiety. Whole foods provide a pathway to freedom from the pain and suffering that processed and fast foods cause us.
Do It For The Kids
If consuming healthy meals is the cornerstone to a healthy body and a happy mind, then it must be a priority for our children. There is no doubt that trying to feed our kids healthy foods can be a struggle, but the resources we have today make it easier than ever. If a child doesn’t begin eating nutritious snacks and meals from an early age, it can be difficult to change their eating habits later in life. Food addictions play a part in this hurdle as well as the infinite amount of junk food advertising that revolves around children’s products and programs. Only 3% of commercials advertise vegetables as a healthy snack option. This makes it very difficult to convince our kids that “ants-on-a-log” is a much more nutritious snack then Gushers or Fruit By The Foot. It even has fruit in the name! Although advertising and food addictions try to get in the way of a healthy diet for ourselves and our children, there are many easy ways to incorporate healthy eating and change bad habits at any stage of our lives.
Plans You Should Never Cancel
The easiest way to justify eating poorly is not being prepared. We’ve all been there before. You just got off of work after a long day and are starving. By the time you make it home, it will be late and you won’t have the energy to make dinner. Pizza Hut it is! Planning out your meals ahead of time allows you to stay on track amidst the chaos of your weekly schedule. This is where being proactive comes into play. Preparing snacks and meals doesn’t have to be very time-consuming to be successful. Pick a few healthy dishes that your children enjoy and keep these ingredients or products on hand.
Strategy Isn’t Only For Chess
Being strategic with meal planning and preparation is a crucial part of living a healthy lifestyle. This also helps you to be economical and get the most bang-for-your-buck. Take some time to identify what grocery stores near you offer the best deals on whole foods like produce, rice, nuts, and grains. International markets have a tendency to offer produce at a very competitive price, so check to see if you have any close to your home or work. Farmer’s markets are also a great place to get whole foods for less than your mainstream grocery stores and the produce is typically much fresher. Once you decide on a few places, make it a priority to stock your cabinets with healthy foods to feed your family for the week ahead. This will help eliminate last minute, unhealthy meals.
Healthy AND Delicious!
A misconception about healthy foods, especially amongst children, is that they don’t usually taste good. Luckily for parents and for kids, this simply is not true. In an age where the internet provides us with any ideas or information we want, healthy snacks and foods are easier than ever to create. Instagram and YouTube are jam-packed with entrepreneurs showing us easy ways to create new and exciting recipes every day. Use these resources to get some great ideas and step-by-step tutorials for making dishes your family will love! Some kitchen essentials for creating meals quickly are a crock pot, rice cooker, blender, and steamer.
Being Slow Is A Good Thing
When trying to switch your children over from eating junk foods to healthier foods, taking it slow is key. Try introducing one new healthy food every couple of weeks. Disguising the new food can be helpful if your child is especially picky. For instance, making a fruit smoothie for breakfast but adding some spinach or kale is a great way to add greens to your child’s diet. Switching from white rice to cauliflower rice or substituting soy milk for regular milk can facilitate incorporating more protein and vitamins. Taking it slow helps your child feel less overwhelmed and they are more likely to continue enjoying their meals.
A Family That Cooks Together Is Awesome Together
Whether you love to cook or have never cooked in your life, creating meals together is a great way to bond with your child and teach them something new that they could become very passionate about. Cooking healthy meals and making snacks at home saves money and allows you to know exactly what’s going in your food. Teaching our children how to prepare their food teaches them responsibility as well as a lifelong skill. Some simple, healthy meals you can make together are cinnamon oatmeal, fruit smoothies, veggie omelettes, salads, sandwiches, gluten-free pasta, whole grain muffins, vegetarian chili and cheesy-broccoli stuffed, baked potatoes.
Forbidden Never Sounded So Good
Everyone enjoys being rewarded for good behavior. When creating a healthy regimen for your household, allowing some junk foods or “forbidden snacks” is a great way to maintain a good balance. Ice cream or a candy bar every once awhile allows your child to not feel like they are missing out when their friends at school are bringing Ding Dong’s and Cheetos to lunch. This also keeps these types of foods from actually being “forbidden”.
Making fast food or processed foods a treat abides by the advice, “Everything in moderation”, and helps to avoid creating food addictions while not completing eliminating these foods.
Be The Hero They Think You Are
Children are the queens and kings of copying. You are their idol and they want to be doing everything you’re doing, so set a good example. Eat healthy meals for yourself, but also for your children. The habits we display at home are the habits our children embody. If you have a tendency to binge eat or snack on processed foods and soda, this is how your child will interpret normal eating behaviors. Try to be mindful of what you are consuming in front of your child, and be strategic with what habits you encourage.
You Can Do It!
We live in a world today where we have the tools and resources we need to eat healthy every day. Consumers have the ability to educate themselves and understand what foods are healthy, what foods aren’t and why. We now know from scientific research the importance of the foods and beverages we consume and their influence on our health and our happiness. Social media platforms and the internet provide us with the necessary information and motivation to traverse the aisles in the grocery store and choose the right foods to create healthy meals for the family. Parents have the ability to be smart consumers and guide their children on a healthy path that's proactive and preventative.
They can also learn many easy tactics for implementing healthier food options into daily. Following simple steps like planning and preparing paves the way for families to make healthy living easy and affordable. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can be difficult without a plan; but now you have one, so let’s get cookin’!