The Food ChallengeChanging our habits for the benefit of our children

There’s no doubt in my mind that some kids are born with a certain taste preference. I have twin boys and for the first 24 months of their lives I made them exactly the same foods and the result was a little like a nature versus nurture science experiment.

From as young as 6 months old, one twin gobbled up the savoury purees and the other child had a strong preference for fruit puree.

By 12 months my little mister’s sweet toothed twin was turning away from the savoury and dairy foods, demanding more of everything sweet, and slowly I started to give in and prepare separate meals for each child.

This was the point that things became more difficult, there’s only 24 hours in the day and grocery stores have a lot of easy pre-prepared snack foods that the pre-Mummy version of me would have judged me for using.

It’s hard being a parent, the responsibility of keeping our kids healthy right now AND also thinking about the impact that our behaviours and decisions have on our children’s future.

The good news is that there are heaps of quick and easy ways to move to healthier options. Sign up to the Good Habits for Life website to do a quick quiz and receive a customised program tailored to you and your family. They also have some yummy recipe and snack ideas too!

You can print out your program as well as weekly meal planners, shopping planners and other resources to stick on your fridge.

Read below for some simple ideas to help stay on track with your family’s healthy eating goals.

The snack container

Have you ever prepared a meal plan for the week, only to find that you don’t feel like a particular food when the time comes to make it?

This happens to me all the time, and this realisation helped me to introduce healthy snacks into our home.

We have two snack containers, one in the fridge and one in the cupboard. The children and I all choose our own morning tea, afternoon tea and “I’m still hungry” snacks from the weekly snack container. It’s quick, it’s healthy and there’s no daily preparation needed.

Each week, simply re-package your chosen snacks into small portions so everyone can just “grab and go”.

Snack ideas to include in your fridge snack container:

  • Grapes (already washed and packaged in small containers)
  • Low-fat cheese sticks
  • Low-fat yoghurt
  • Fruit cups
  • Chopped watermelon (already packaged in small containers)
  • Chopped carrots and celery with ricotta cheese.

Healthy food

Snack ideas to include in your cupboard snack container:

  • Sultanas
  • Rice crackers
  • Popcorn
  • Apples, bananas and other fruit

Just remember, you need to pre-package them in serving sized portions so no preparation time is needed throughout the week! Involve your kids in this so they can have some input in their own snacks for the week.

Head over to the Good Habits for Life website and check out their snack suggestions for more ideas, or try their My healthy lunchbox mix and match resource (PDF).

The Family Meal

Both my husband and I were brought up having dinner at the kitchen table, every night, with our families. We started off this way with our own family and yet somehow it became too hard.

A couple of months ago when our children started school, we talked about this as being something we remember from our childhood, the time of the day when everyone talked about the highs and lows of their day. I didn’t want my children to miss this.

healthy eating

The re-introduction of the family meal came with a surprising side effect, the kids saw us eating meat, vegetables, home-made pizza and healthy pastas, and with a little pressure (making them try just one bite of each thing each night), they started wanting to eat a little of what we were eating (I still have to “top them up” with their own food, but this is a massive step for us)!

Don’t aim too high and set yourself up to fail with too much too soon, start small, try one or two family meals a week and increase from there when you’re ready.

“Loose” Meal Planning

I started meal planning for my family during the Christmas School Holidays and this simple task has:

  • Reduced the need for impulse take-out meals
  • Given us more variety than we’ve ever had
  • Resulted in much healthier eating of foods we enjoy and less pre-packaged foods
  • Saved quite a lot of money

We never stick to the plan 100 per cent, but we waste less food and freeze any extra foods before they expire.

I’ve found that even though I plan to make 6 different meals a week, the ingredients I’ve purchased are typically suitable for 12 different meals, by mixing and matching a little.

Each Sunday I write a list of all the snack ideas that we have in the cupboard and all the dinner ideas that I could make with the ingredients I have, allowing me to pick and choose depending on what our family feels like at the time. I’d love to be a little more structured, but I find this flexibility keeps me on track, I need choice and variety! Download a meal or shopping planner to stick on your fridge.

If you have a fussy eater 1 to 5 years of age, ACT Health runs The Fussy Eaters group which is a free, drop-in session that helps parents manage fussy eating behaviours in children. It’s facilitated by a dietitian and there’s no need to book. Find out more about The Fussy Eaters group here.

The Verdict

Our family is far from perfect, we’re always in a rush and have great intentions, but in the past we never quite got there. With a little up front planning and accepting that we need to take baby steps towards our end goal, the changes to our diet in just a few short months have been unbelievable.

Give it a go! What better gift can we give our children, than setting them up for a long and healthy life?

Head to the Good Habits for Life website, sign up and take their short quiz to get a tailored program for your family.  It’s a fantastic resource with lots of simple ideas, tips and recipes on how to eat healthier and lead a more active lifestyle!

ACT Health run a range of programs to support you and your children to set good habits such as fresh taste: healthy food at school and Ride or Talk to School. Check out these programs here.

If you have a fussy eater 1 to 5 years of age, ACT Health runs The Fussy Eaters group which is a free, drop in session that helps parents manage fussy eating behaviours in children. It’s facilitated by a dietitian and there’s no need to book. Find out more about the Fussy Eaters group here

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