You’re on your third cup of coffee searching for the car keys and haphazardly reviewing your presentation for this afternoon, all the while breaking up a bicker-fest between your two daughters and helping your son lace his new sneakers. Who has time to fix a healthy breakfast amidst this chaos?
Succumbing to time by giving your kids (and yourself) sugar-laden cereal is all too common in our faster-then-fast life. Time to toss the excuses…and the guilt! The truth is, preparing healthy meals and snacks takes less time and energy than you might think.
Here are five strategies to make sure your kids get the nutrients they need for peak performance, health, focus AND an amazing future (because what they eat now dictates ALL of that).
1. Simplify breakfast. Cereal manufacturers have cashed in on your lack of time at the expense of your kids’ health. But the one thing they got right is simplicity: you just pour the cereal in a bowl with some milk and bam! Instant breakfast. Try that same approach with a protein smoothie. Blend high-quality chocolate whey or vanilla pea/rice protein powder with berries, a tablespoon of almond butter, and coconut milk. (Bonus points if you can sneak a little kale in there!) Tastes delicious and will keep your kids full, focused, and functioning well without that mid-morning sugary cereal crash. Not a big protein shake person or family? Hard boil eggs in advance. With the shells on they last in the refrigerator for at least 3 days.
2. Make lateral shifts. Ruling with an iron fist is not always the best tactic with kids of any age. It can create a bad relationship with food and drive them to go the extra mile to get what they want! Instead, slowly make lateral shifts by swapping their current junky snacks for healthier versions. Keep swapping until you get to the point where they actually want only new additions (yes, that day will come!). Here are a few ideas:
- Switch cookies and other processed foods for apples and pears cut into long julienne like strips. Dust with cinnamon and add a side of almond butter (kids love presentation, cutting the fruit into strips and serving the nut butter on the side in a little bowl like a restaurant can help seal the deal).
- Switch French fries for baked sweet potato fries.
- Make your own trail mix with raw nuts like almonds and walnuts, a bit of dark chocolate, unsweetened coconut flakes and pumpkins seeds
- Up grade mashed potatoes for faux-tatoes: puree cauliflower with a little butter or coconut milk and salt.
- Switch (if eaten regularly) chips and salsa for kale chips and hummus.
- Switch ice cream for coconut chocolate pops: mix coconut milk and chocolate protein powder, pour into popsicle molds, and freeze. These go fast!
Be creative, make it fun, and before long your kids will forget they ever craved the fake stuff.
3. Pull it together with amazing meals. Fast food family combos might seem like a bargain compared to homemade meals, but you’ll pay with health in the long run and focus and behaviors in the short. Avoid the drive-through temptations and let your kids pick a favorite meal one night a week. Assign tasks, from chopping veggies to setting the table. Lateral shifts make these meals almost as easy but far healthier than store-bought foods:
- Baked almond-crusted chicken fingers with sweet potato fries (kid-friendly finger foods!)
- Grass-fed beef patties with faux-tatoes
- Grilled or baked salmon with julienned veggies and an array of dipping sauces like pesto, salsa and vinaigrettes
- Spaghetti squash with ground turkey marinara sauce
- Grass-fed beef fajitas with veggies, guacomole and salsa
4. Lead by example. Kids absorb your habits, and if you’re veering health-wise they will notice (like I said in a recent newsletter of mine…they are watching you…not getting my newsletter? sign up here). You can’t reprimand your son’s soda habit, for instance, if your morning commute consists of a large sugar loaded coffee drink or soda. Show your kids how delicious fresh vegetables can be by eating them yourself and by switching up how you cook them – Brussels sprouts sautéed in olive oil and a little nitrate-free bacon, for instance – and they’ll quickly follow suit.
5. Do the best you can. It’s not about being perfect, it’s about being consistent and giving it some effort! With everything else going on, focusing on your kids’ health and ensuring they’re not gorging on Cheetos and soda can seem like a Herculean task. Don’t give in and make it harder on yourself (and them) by keeping those junk foods at home. Who wouldn’t be temped by that crunchy, ewy-goey fake food, especially if stressed and tired?!
If your day leaves you drained and dinner choices depend on something fast, bypass the Golden Arches and get a rotisserie chicken with some hot-bar green veggies. Sometimes you’re going to hit a home run and make a healthy meal your kids will rave about. Other times, your “hit” will be a bomb and you’ll have to resort to plan B. Don’t feel defeated during those times. Repetition = Results. Do the best you can and you’ll raise kids equipped to make the healthiest food choices…and higher earning power!