As my kids got a little bit older and started going to school, I found myself rushed off my feet with school runs, homework and extracurricular activities. As a result, everybody’s diet took a turn for the worse.
I began gaining weight, and I noticed the things I was feeding the kids were more out of necessity than nutritional value. When I began my own weight-loss diet, I decided it was time I got the kids into healthy habits too. But in all honesty, this was a lot harder than I thought it would be. It took a few weeks, and a drastic routine change, to get the whole house eating healthily and happily together. After a while, we got into the swing of things, and made a few changes that have stuck, such as:
1. Healthy Snacks Only
In terms of snacks, like most kids, mine beg for anything sugary. This makes food shopping with them a long battle that usually ends with a basket full of chocolatey treats. In order to be able to substitute their sugary snacks for healthy ones, I had to crack down when it came to shopping.
Previously, I had not been giving my 6 and 8-year-olds any pocket money, so this made it much harder for me to deflect their begging when we did the food shop. Now, I give them a small amount of money to spend when we go to the supermarket so that they can choose a few things for themselves. This was a killing-two-birds-with-one-stone kind of tactic, that meant that the kids got a treat to keep them happy on shopping day but could only eat the healthier snacks that I'd purchased for the rest of the week.
I still try to make the snacks I buy somewhat treat-like for the kids, but the overall aim is to offer them a healthier alternative to crisps and chocolate. I’ve found that, over time, their taste buds have become more accustomed to healthier foods. These days, they often ask for smoothie bowls as a treat. I get some mango chia bowls from a company called Fresh n’ Lean that is one of their favourites. It’s fully plant-based and loaded with nutrients, so I don’t mind giving it to them as a healthy snack.
2. Meal Preparation
Meal prep is something that I've always struggled with. I've never been much of a chef, and shopping for ingredients to make meals from scratch always seems to take me hours. As a result, I often opt for easy options, like tinned sauces, ready-made meals and frozen products.
After doing a lot of research, I was horrified by the amount of salt and additives in the types of products I was giving to my kids and was keen to find an alternative. I had friends that had recommended meal delivery services, so I decided to give it a go.
The company I opted for - 'Fresh n’ Lean' - prepare their meals using fresh and organic ingredients, and, as much as I hate to admit it, they're much yummier than anything I've ever cooked. The menu is excellent and they always deliver something which the whole family can enjoy.
If you’re a vegan household, they’re also a great option as they offer plant-based meals which are really good. Everything they prepare is gluten-free, low fat, low sugar, and packed full of nutrients. I feel this is important to help my kids feel energized and healthy, and I’ve found that it helps me stay focused and less lethargic too.
Another reason I’d recommend them over some other meal prep services is that they’re environmentally conscious. Organic produce is better for the environment, as well as your kids, so if conscious consumerism is your thing, and you want to instil these values into your children, purchasing from companies that promote these values is a great way to educate your children about these issues whilst also feeding them. It’s a kill-two-birds-with-one-stone kind of situation!
Not only that, but having meals delivered straight to your door frees up precious time which I’d usually spend cooking, meaning I have more time to spend with the kids.
3. Family mealtimes
The last rule I decided to impose was regular meal times. Previously, the kids had all been eating at different times and would usually eat different things, depending on how they were feeling that day. I had always been unhappy with this, but, as with many aspects of being a mother, I had just fallen into a routine that ensured everyone was happy - and that no-one was hungry.
When I took on the task of revamping our families eating habits, I decided it was the right time to start introducing family dinners. Previously, the kids would come home from school, have a snack (usually an unhealthy one), and then head off to any clubs or activities they had that day. Whenever they were ready, they would eat dinner.
Instead of doing this, I decided to rearrange our schedules so that we ate dinner earlier, around 5pm. This way, we could sit together around the table, enjoy a delicious prepared meal and cut out the unhealthy after-school snacking. This worked wonders and ensured that no one was eating chicken nuggets at 8:30 when they got home from karate class!
Again, Fresh n’ Lean made enforcing this regular meal schedule easy, as there was no cooking or preparation time necessary. I could guarantee that I wouldn’t have to be waiting on something in the oven - we could just sit down and eat.
Overall, implementing these changes has been fairly successful. Obviously, as with any family, there are times when all of these changes go downhill, and we eat KFC in the car! But, I can safely say that the changes we've made have definitely improved our diets. The kids seem to be enjoying healthy food more than they ever did before, and the earlier meal times mean that we get to spend at least 30 minutes a day together as a family, chatting and laughing (or sometimes crying).
Although it may be difficult to upend your routine and make these changes, it really is worth it in the long run and I can’t recommend it enough!