Want to get lean? You’ve read up on nutrition plans, got your workout program, even maybe forked out for a personal trainer. But one little thing seems to stand in your way. You are a parent. Now all that planning and good intentions seem as unlikely to happen as you sleeping in until 10am tomorrow morning…
Clean eating when you have children isn’t impossible. It’s just a different ball game than clean eating without them. As mum to a typical sugar-loving 3 year old, let me share my nutrition survival strategies and life hacks.
1) Be the example.
First, adopt a fresh perspective. You are the parent and it’s up to you set the tone. I’ve been in that place, telling myself that my child would never eat the way I needed to eat to be healthy. Living off toast and various things spread onto crackers, kidding myself that it was good enough. So I can truthfully say, that is just plain wrong. In practice, it is a wonderful thing for my son to be exposed to a wide variety of vegetables, protein sources and healthy fats even if he doesn’t take to it straight away. It takes people of all ages a few weeks to adjust to new foods, children just express their feelings about change with more tantrums! If I eat well, I do it for the sake of my child, to set an example and give him the gift of seeing what good nutrition is, so hopefully he isn’t left confused by the media and food manufacturers like so many others struggling with their weight.
2) Don’t just plan, prepare.
The majority of poor food choices parents make are down to being in a hurry to feed the kids within a schedule that is pretty hectic. Good nutrition never just happens, but that is doubly true for parents. To make it happen, there has to be a chain of well thought out choices beforehand. I like to make sure I always have some defrosted meat or fish ready to cook in the fridge. Small cuts cook quickly, so even if you don’t have a meal ready, one can ready in no time. But whenever I’m cooking, I’m thinking of adding in an extra little bit to save for the next day. Not having starving upset kids will cut down on your impulse to give into convenient food that isn’t on the plan.
3) Eat together, even if it’s slightly different.
When I told myself, ‘My kid won’t eat that.’ I was never wrong. Then I decided I was going to at least let it sit on his plate. If he ate it or not, it didn’t matter. I always included something else that he would eat – an apple, something more carb-rich, cheese – but the basics of our meals would be that same. Over time, he tried more different foods than he did before. Best of all, meal times have become a really sociable family time. Eating right has been good for more than my body.
4) Stop stealing candy from the baby.
Many parents have told me that they need to keep certain nutrition sabotaging foods in the house for the kids. If these are a temptation, you need to get real about the reason for having these things around and find alternatives. Children do deserve treats, and to deny them might just backfire in resentment and binging once they have ability to make their own choices later in life. Ideally, take a good hard look in the mirror and swear to yourself that you won’t take from the kids. Other than that, be clever about what treats are around. Get things you don’t like or decide instead to take them out when it’s time for a treat.
5) Tough love.
It goes against the grain to see my child upset when it is as easily fixed as having pancakes for dinner instead of salmon. Parents are meant to feel bad to see their children upset, but the true calling of parenting is making the tough calls, unpopular as they might be. Of course I want him to be happy, but eating a doughnut every time he asks for one won’t actually give him that. He might not like to see vegetables at every meal. Hell, sometimes I’d rather see a croissant than a side of rice, but there are times when caring for my body means getting what I need, not what I want. Same goes for my child, sometimes love means giving what he needs, not wants, too.
Being a parent doesn’t mean you can’t have a healthy diet, be fit as hell and look great. It just takes a new level of planning, preparation and dedication. What better legacy to leave your child than the example of a healthy lifestyle.
About the author
Jess Johns-Green is a personal trainer, level 1 CrossFit trainer and Psychologist. She specialises in interventions for obesity and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Jess is an athlete and coach at CrossFit Colchester.