You know those New Year’s food resolutions that you start out making – like eliminating all added sugar – that turn out to be really, really hard to keep? Sure, resolutions are aspirational, but they’re also arbitrary. If you set the bar too high, they can lead to discouragement. Worst case scenario, they can lead to complete abandonment and movement in the opposite direction (i.e. time holed up in a closet eating candy).
With that said, while acknowledging the limitation of resolutions, we’d like to propose a few anyway. These food resolutions are kind of like gentler resolutions – the kind that aim to steer you in a general direction that you hope you can sustain. These resolutions will certainly have the family eating more healthily, and should be relatively easy to keep for the year (and beyond).
1) Reduce sugary drinks
Your kids don’t need juice. Or lemonade, energy drinks, or soda. They just don’t. Water is fine. It seems like the kid’s meal option always includes a drink, which is generally a choice between lemonade or a soda. Get in the habit of choosing a water. And get out of the habit of giving your kids energy drinks just because it’s in the vending machine and it’s the same color as their team gear. Water, people, water. Put a big pitcher in the fridge with lemons or limes or some other fruit to keep it interesting. You probably know all the reasoning already, but if you need info to back it up, check out sugarydrinkfacts.org.
2) Minimize artificial food colorings
You’ve heard that artificial food colorings may impair kids’ behavior, and you probably try to avoid buying your kids food that is neon blue. But you may be surprised to find that artificial food colors are more pervasive than you think. Many cereals, puddings, and salad dressings have artificial coloring. For example, think about pickles. Would you believe that almost every major brand of pickles has food coloring in it? Even if you’re willing to tolerate a little bit of food coloring in your life, do you really want to waste it on pickles? Save it for the kiddie birthday parties, where everyone wants a little bit of green or blue frosting. And when you need food with bright colors, there’s plenty you can do with natural food coloring.
3) Max out on fruits and veggies
When you look at the average daily recommendations for fruit and vegetables (2 cups of fruit and 2 1/2 cups of vegetables per day for a 2000-calorie diet) it sounds like a lot. But when you look at a picture of what that represents, it really isn’t that much. If you don’t have time to do that much prep work, go for easy-to-eat fruits like grapes or bananas and pre-washed, pre-packaged greens. Just try to get at least that much on your table every day.
4) No more “flimsy” meals
If you start your kid off with a breakfast of a plain waffle, they may be momentarily satisfied. But those easy carbs get burned up fast and they don’t provide a lot of staying power until the next meal. That’s when the kids start dipping into between-meal snacks. Instead, focus on building more complex meals – especially breakfasts – with staying power. Think whole-grain breads, oatmeal, eggs, fruit served with nut or sunflower seed butter. Even hearty soups can make a great breakfast (yes, we have a breakfast soup-eater in our house).
5) Enjoy the meal
Sure, you’ve got a meeting and the kids have late soccer and swim practices. We know that schedules – and mealtimes – get complicated. But when you do have a chance to sit down (family breakfast, anyone?) make the time count. That means no electronics, no repeatedly running back and forth to the kitchen, and a few decent threads of conversation. (This is aspirational, remember?)
We’re going to commit ourselves to these five food resolutions this year, and we hope you will too. Let us know how it’s going, and if you have any goals for your family as well.