I am sure we can all attest to finding it easier to stick to a new eating or fitness plan when we have a buddy to join us on our new venture. And if you are a parent, you have probably spent a good portion of time preparing meals that the every member of the family will not only enjoy, but also have their nutritional requirements met. I know that for me, this has created a number of dinner times where separate meals are prepared!
This is of course, not a rhythm (for us, anyway!) that can be maintained indefinitely, and so I have been seeking some ways to implement not only foods, but also activities that we can all enjoy together. This has been not only time saving, but also a fabulous way of creating time for us to be together as a family while exploring new foods and adventures.
Trying to Get Everyone On Board a Similar Healthy Eating Train?
If your whole family is working on healthy eating, there are so many options for healthy alternatives to your favorite dishes. Some of the healthier options may be a bit more time consuming, but usually not by much. The slow cooker is always one of the best options for us … as well as preparing plenty of food in advance whenever any cooking gets done. This allows for extra food to go into the freezer, and home cooked food in the freezer is like money in the bank!
Do you have a love for baking? You might wish to try using pumpkin puree or applesauce instead of the butter or oil … this can work well in muffin, cake or brownie recipes. It replaces the fat, adds flavor and vitamins which really increases the overall nutritional value … and is an easy swap!
Adding more green leafy items, more vegetables and fruits to your meals can make a big difference as well. Does your family enjoy spaghetti dinners? Consider swapping the heavy pasta for lighter alternatives – spaghetti squash is a vitamin-rich alternative. We tried spaghetti squash together for the first time just the other night.
All we did was bake the squash in the oven, scrape it out, and then fry it up with some butter and garlic. It was incredible! Now if you’ve made spaghetti squash before, then you know that it makes quite a large amount. We had some leftover, so the next day I blended the leftover spaghetti squash into some organic butternut squash soup I had bought. It was heavenly.
I’m going to take this opportunity to share with you one of the best cookbooks I have come across for cooking with the kids! This book, which we use a LOT, is the Usborne Children’s World Cookbook. Take a peek:
As a side note, if traditional French Apple Tarts are something you enjoy, you may wish to see my post on this recipe for a Rustic French Apple Galette.
Looking for Ways to Get Everyone Involved in Fitness Activities?
Many fitness centers these days offer discounts for a whole family membership, and many gyms even provide childcare and play rooms for smaller children. One of the facilities that I teach for now offers childcare, and it is an incredible perk for many parents that have been struggling to find time to get their workouts or their swims in.
Older children will enjoy spending time with fitness balls or yoga mats and straps in a rec room, and your pre-teens and teens may enjoy learning to use the weight machines and free weights. Our center has a climbing wall, and children ages four and up are allowed to use it.
If you enjoy running, you may wish to sign everyone up for a family fun run. If you happen to be a runner training for a marathon of any kind, perhaps you can get more of your family involved! They’re likely to be there to cheer you on anyway, but if you’re all in it together you can prep for it together and eat healthy in preparation together.
Family walks after dinner are a nice way to wind down and hear about each other’s day. I find that the fresh air also helps everyone to sleep much better. Weekend hikes, skiing, biking or paddling trips are excellent ways to commune with nature and create memories your kids will have with them forever.
We are trying our hand at cross country skiing together as a family, and it is a huge hit. And in the evenings, the tracks are opened up to everyone for free! I found this out quite by accident, so it never hurts to ask around and pry a bit deeper into what perks are offered in your area for family activities.
It goes without saying that making healthy choices now will make all of you healthier in the long run and will help to establish wonderful fitness and eating habits in your children that they will continue throughout their lives. Studies show that children that are active do better in school, have more confidence and even do better on some tests!
Aim to Phase the Junk Food Out of Your Cupboards
Starting with food, which is often the most difficult part of the willpower bandwagon … if the whole family is working on eating healthy foods, you can just keep any unhealthy temptations out of the house. Little ones can be the hardest to convince that healthier options are better, but it is never too early to begin educating them about their little bodies, what their bodies do for them, and what certain foods will do to help keep their bodies working healthy and strong!
I’ve found that I need to skip most of the center aisles of the grocery store, and stick to the outer edges. I bring the kids with me whenever I can, so they can be a part of the decision making process. They also love exploring the deli section, and seeing all of the different cheeses from around the world! My little guy is now a huge fan of hummus, too. This helps to get him eating his carrots … always a work in progress.
Whole grain crackers, pretzels, yogurt, string cheese, nuts, trail mixes, goji berries, raisins, apples, carrots, celery, kale (kale chips are wonderful and easy to make!), berries, bananas and other fruits are healthy alternatives that often cost less in the long run and are chock-full of vitamins, dietary fiber and low in calories and fat. If you are on the lookout for healthy snacks-to-go, we enjoy buying from the folks at Abe’s Market and Nuts.com.
If you don’t already have a food dehydrator, I highly recommend getting one (this is the one we have). These are so much fun to get the kids taking part in creating snacks and trail mixes of their own, and a great practice in learning the fine art of patience (wink). One last thing here I’d like to mention, is the never ending wonder of the smoothie. (We use our Vitamix at least twice weekly, because of the vast array of options we have with it in smoothie creation.) I’ve also heard that the NutriBullet is very popular, though we haven’t tried it yet.
This is one more opportunity to get children involved in the preparation of their food. My littlest two love to stand on a chair and help me place the ingredients into the container … a handful of this (usually goji berries or cacao nibs), a sprinkle of that (usually flax seeds or chia seeds and hemp hearts), and some pieces of those (frozen bananas, strawberries, chopped kale, etc.) Then we add our favorite juices and/or milks, and away we go!