In your most idyllic dreams, eating with your family is a glowing slow-motion scene: Your smiling partner comes in from the garden through billowing curtains, carrying a rustic basket full of fresh veggies. Your kid sits politely at the table, clean, giggling and happy. Earthenware bowls steam with nutritious homemade goodness. And then the rude metallic garble of the drive-thru speaker wakes you from your reverie as you grumble to you whining kid, “You want the nuggets meal or the burger? No, you get the toy after you eat!”
For every parent, the gap between ideal and every day is pretty drastic. And that can add an unhealthy heaping helping of hot anxiety to your life. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are ways to take the pressure off eating healthier. One of which is to acknowledge it’s not going to happen 100 percent of the time and go from there.
Go 80 – 20
At this point, you know the terrible consequences of kids eating crap. They include poor health outcomes like diabetes, obesity and a general unwillingness to eat anything that doesn’t taste like it was crafted from corn syrup and heavily salted before being fried in a vat of boiling oil.
And while “crap” seems to be synonymous with “processed food” for most dietitians and nutritionists, putting a full moratorium on stuff kids like is going to drive everyone to the edge of sanity. The better way to go about it is to adopt the 80 – 20 rule. That simply means that 80 percent of what the family eats is homemade whole foods and 20 is all the other less-than-nutritious stuff your kid will actually eat.
How To Go 80 – 20
You can divide out that 80 – 20 in a couple of different ways. Some suggest to make the plate 80 – 20. That might be easiest considering you can treat the flatware like a pie-graph for better visualization (even better if there is actual pie).
The other method is to simply divide the entirety of your families diet into 80 – 20. The trouble there, however, is that it may be a little difficult to keep track of what that looks like. You may end up inflating your healthy-food estimate while under-estimating your less-than-healthy food intake. Because you’re human.
Tips On The 80
Your 80 is going to be mostly homemade whole foods. But who’s got time for that? That’s why you’re going to go back to the pregnancy days and start stocking up on your freezer meals. Batch cooking and freezing means that you’ll always have a healthy option to throw in the microwave for dinner in very little time.
Of course, if you’re not into cooking in big batches, you can go the meal subscription route. There are very many services like HelloFresh that deliver whole ingredients to your home and offer easy, detailed recipes to follow. That said, you can also go pre-made. Nurture Life, for instance, offers prepared meal delivery that is specifically for kids. They even have grub designed just for toddlers. No, it’s not just a bag of gummy worms.
Tips On The 20
Just because the 20 percent is comprised of less-than-healthy options, it doesn’t mean you should crack open a bottle of corn syrup and tell your kid to go to town (though, if you did, it would probably go viral — and not in a good way).
It does mean that you can open the door to some processed foods. The trick is to be a label reader for that 20 percent. Some treats still fit the fun, processed food bill but stay clear of added sugar, high fat and other nasty ingredients. There are some options that you can rely on, though, including packaged applesauce (as long as the ingredients are largely apples and water) and hummus (again look for very few ingredients). There are some brands you can look to as well.
And when you find yourself in the fast food lane, don’t beat yourself up about it. Remind your kid they can hit the nuggets as long as they sub out the fries for some apple slices and a salad. Yeah, most chains have salads. Who knew? Now pull up and get your order already.