Instead of using your hectic schedule or toddler’s terrible twos as an excuse to eat on the run or binge on brownies after a bedtime battle, you can parlay your parenting skills into waist-watching savviness. Just as a time-out is used to encourage your child to reflect when he or she does something wrong and ideally move on to better behavior next time, the same idea can be applied to family eating habits. Here’s how.
Indulging in fast food meals on the run.
Think ahead or order the lesser of food evils. If you know you’ll be out, pack up some nutritious snacks for you and the kiddies, like granola bars, raisins, string cheese, or whole grain crackers. “Bake up a batch of muffins and toss in all kinds of ‘good for you’ items, like nuts, berries, banana, or bran,” suggests Lisa McDonald, a Washington D.C. mom. She adds, “Then when you’re looking for something to grab, you’re all set.” If you must hit the mall food court, order a grilled chicken salad for yourself, and choose apple slices or carrot sticks over fat-laden French fries for your child – better for your kid and less temptation for you.
Using food to comfort. Remember how your grandpa tried to soothe your scraped knee with an ice cream cone? Although well-intentioned, it sets the stage for a lifetime of turning to food for comfort.
Lead by example. When you or your children have a bad day, burn off the negative energy. “Whether it’s a walk in the park or playtime on the playground, it’s a great way to get your exercise in and spend quality time with your kids,” says Andrew Luke Barile, co-owner of STATION NYC, a fitness training center. You can always prepare a healthy snack together. Have a build-a-pizza party, using low-fat whole-wheat pitas, tomato sauce, low-fat mozzarella, green peppers, mushrooms, broccoli, black olives, and turkey pepperoni. Indulge in an almost-banana split — sliced ripe bananas, fat-free whipped topping, a sprinkle of walnuts, and a dash of sweetened cocoa powder. All better!
Picky eating. It’s not just the kids who are guilty of this behavior. Eating the same steamed broccoli or plain tuna day after day will only get you so far. You have to try new things and be creative to succeed in your weight loss battle.
Fun up your food. Just as you sneak mixed veggies into macaroni and cheese, or blueberries and pineapple into pancakes for your little ones, experiment with your own meals. Try cutting an acorn squash in half, roast in the oven, and spoon some flavorful couscous into the squash to serve. It looks lovely, is filling, and effortlessly employs portion control. “If all else fails, says Pamela Gould, co-author of the book Feeding the Kids: The Flexible, No-Battles, Healthy Eating System for the Whole Family, “create healthier versions of foods your family already loves. If they love pasta, try whole grain spaghetti. If hamburgers are popular, switch to extra lean ground meat.”
By giving your unhealthy eating behaviors a time-out, you not only set an excellent example for your family, you reward them with a healthier lifestyle.