I feel like we are naturally drawn to things for a reason, and when we follow through and pursue them, great things can happen!! My past camping trip this weekend was one of those instances! It woke me from this lazy slumber I had taken in regards to nutrition. I often struggle to remain consistent in certain areas of my life, especially nutrition and fitness. It usually looks more like a roller coaster, fluctuating between doing really well and very poorly. The highs and lows of my roller coaster ride have definitely gotten more extreme as a parent, because there’s just so many more moving parts to your life once you have kids. Who’s with me? So let me digress from nutrition for a second to tell you how I came to redirect my energy and focus on this topic.
I got an email this past Tuesday from my new church’s “20’s & 30’s Group” about a camping trip over the weekend. I knew I wanted to go even though Edward wouldn’t be joining me, and I wouldn’t know a single person going. I also had the itch to go camping this summer but Edward’s schedule is just too demanding, and I’m usually too tired and overwhelmed to even think about planning a trip like that. My church had done all the planning, so I just had to pay $10 and show up with all the camping gear they listed, which I conveniently had.
On the way up to Payson, Sofía was complaining of a stomach ache, and cried for the last 30-minutes of the car ride. Whether it truly was a stomach ache, or just her getting grouchy from having napped in the car and being strapped in a car seat for 2 ½ hours, it got me thinking. She had been complaining of stomach aches A LOT lately and was gassier than normal. Her stomach complaints were often followed by passing gas, so I knew some complaints were real. I’m not sure if all of her complaints are always valid, but I started to reflect and realize that Edward and I had been giving Sofía A LOT of sugar and processed foods lately and I had been getting “lax” about feeding her a more clean, whole-food diet - which is how I WANT to feed myself and my family. I had also just bought her a lot of “junk” food for the trip because it was so much easier to buy juice boxes, goldfish, fruit snacks, muffins, and bars, than taking the time to thoughtfully prep healthy snacks and meals.
Once we arrived at the campsite, we got out of the car and Sofía immediately ran up to other toddlers and started making friends, giving all of the toddlers her age hugs and kisses. Luckily they returned the friendly affection. The first person I met was the mom of this adorable toddler Sofía took a liking to, and we immediately found out that our significant others were both doctors at Banner - tell me we don’t live in a “small world”. Our church is 40 minutes from Banner so it definitely was not a proximity thing. Me and this mom obviously hit it off because that one fact alone gives two women SO MUCH to relate to that not many other women really understand. On top of that, this woman told me she got her degree as a chiropractor and nutritionist.
One of my passions is nutrition and I truly believe it has such a HUGE impact on our overall health - mood, disease, inflammation, mobility, energy. So naturally we also had some amazing discussions on this topic, especially regarding our children. She brought nothing but nutritious, whole-food meals for her kids. I was seriously impressed at the effort she put in for a camping trip. Oatmeal, carrots, sweet potato chips, grass-fed jerky, beet & chia “fruit snacks”, banana bites, kale chips, vitamins & supplements, to name a few of them.
She shared that she doesn’t feed her children food with added sugar, with very few exceptions. One of those exceptions was this trip, because parents (like me) bring sugary, processed foods and her kids will naturally want some of what everyone else is eating. So she allowed them to have a few goldfish or a piece of candy, but in moderation. She didn’t just let them go “ham” on junk-food the entire trip. I witnessed this and I was seriously shocked that there were no tantrums with her 2 and 5 year-old when she told them “no” or “no more” with certain foods (there was one over birthday cake, but I wasn’t expecting them to be perfect, they’re still kids).
I am honestly not a fan of added sugar either, I just really struggle to follow through on implementing the no added sugar rule to my child’s diet. I followed it for the first year of her eating solids, but that slowly shifted as she started developing her own opinions. I’m starting to realize I believe in a lot of things, but am just not consistent or disciplined enough to truly follow through on what it requires to live that out. It’s REALLY hard to do that in general for any one, let alone a stay-at-home mom, or any parent for that matter. Kids are naturally drawn to sugary things because it is so prominent in our American diet!
**As a side-note while we’re on the topic, let me give serious props to our other blogger Brittany for sticking to her vegan diet for the past year since we started together last June. I seriously am so proud of her for being consistent in that for both her and her daughter Ximena. I tell her all the time how proud I am of her, because I know how much discipline and consistency it takes before it becomes natural. And let’s not forget about the challenges involved with peer pressure and comments from family and friends when you’re eating in social settings.**
I think most parents struggle on a day-to-day basis with what to feed their toddlers because there are food fights, food strikes, picky eating, new-found independence leading to “no” at meal times no matter what is served, and of course play-time taking priority over eating. This leads to us as parents compromising and offering snacks in between meals and “kid food” at meal time instead of serving what we’re eating, because we’re so desperate for our kids to eat and get in sufficient nutrients and calories. But are they really getting nutrients from chips, mac & cheese, veggie straws, fruit snacks, goldfish, and the like? Not exactly. People may defend the nutrients in this processed food, but are they as nutritious as natural, whole foods like fruit, vegetables and protein? Absolutely not. Fruit and, more notably, vegetables are REALLY IMPORTANT for any human being regardless of age. Think cancer-fighting properties, disease prevention, anti-inflammatory properties.
I was making Sofía lunch today, and I thought about a few things my new “mom-friend” said over the weekend.
“I eat vegetables with EVERY meal. I love them.”
“We need to eat way more vegetables than fruit”
“Eating too much fruit can be a bad thing, because fruit contains fructose, which can be hard on the liver to break down in high quantities”
“When we don’t expect our children to eat the same food we eat at family meal times and we start offering them “kid food”, we are essentially teaching them that there is “kid food” and “adult food” and they won’t eat what we offer them when they think it is “adult food.”
“Kids mimic and copy everything we do, say, and eat. So if we’re not eating healthy, how can we honestly expect our kids to eat healthy?”
“If my kids don’t finish their meal and they get hungry before the next meal or snack, I don’t feed them anything else. And they know that.”
How great is it to have friends that challenge us to think and see things differently? I never felt offended by any of these comments just because they were different from what I was doing. I welcomed them and was actually very open to them, letting them sink in over the weekend so I could process everything once I got home. But do you see how she has set rules with regards to nutrition and meal time and the kids know it too? Kids can be total chaos if we let them write the rule-book. They need structure, routine, and consistency from their parents in every area of their life, not just with discipline. So why not apply that same structure to their eating habits as well? I’m starting to realize that’s all it takes to become consistent with anything - especially when kids are involved in the equation.
So I started thinking about making a few rules of my own...
What if I switched the amount of fruit and vegetable servings me and Sofía were consuming every day? We could start having vegetables at every meal, instead of fruit at every meal. That would be about 5-6 servings of vegetables a day - how great would that be? What if we only have fruit with 2-3 meals a day to limit our sugar consumption? Even though it’s natural sugar, moderation is still appropriate here.
What if I got creative and tried to switch out our go-to processed carbs for more natural, wholesome carbs to limit gluten - which most people have a sensitivity too. For example, instead of chips as a nacho base, how about cut-up corn tortillas? I buy ones with just corn masa as the ingredient, nothing else added.
What if I substitute potatoes for bread to eat with eggs in the morning? I recently switched from our favorite Dave’s Killer Bread to Ezekiel Bread because of the high nutritional content from the sprouts and there is no added sugar. Ezekiel Bread still contains gluten, but starting to limit bread consumption by replacing it with a more natural carb isn’t ever a bad idea.
What if I put honey in our oatmeal instead of chocolate chips?
What if I give Sofia cut-up dates instead of fruit snacks? That’s what I used to give her, and I’m not even sure why that stopped.
What if I give her granola with almond milk instead of cereal? Granola can have just as much sugar as cereal so reading ingredient labels is important here.
What if we did rice noodles instead of regular noodles?
What if I stop giving Sofia candy every day? Yes, somehow we’ve gotten out of hand with candy since we used gummies and M&M’s for potty training, and now she gets multiple candies per day for no reason - a gummy here, a few chocolate chips there, a lollipop to help with transitions. Speaking of sweets, I’ve never bought her “real” popsicles with sugar, we just do Pedialyte pops because those contain zero sugar and I LOVE that. So that’s another good swap idea.
Do you get my drift? I think if I make a few “rules” for myself and implement these swaps, it may be easier to stick to the plan, because I’m essentially making the same meals, I’m just swapping a “this” for a “that” and adding a vegetable in place of a fruit. That seems extremely simple right?? I hope so!! :) I think what has been my challenge in the past is the time consumption of finding completely new recipes with completely new ingredients that I’ve never heard of and now have to buy. I’ve gone through slumps of feeling very uninspired with what to cook because meal planning for a completely new diet is such a hassle and I can’t use my go-to meals. I think I’ve just been taking the wrong approach. So instead of trying a new “diet” like paleo, whole-30, or vegan, I can just create some rules and swaps so I can continue eating what my family and I love while striving to eat what I believe to be “healthy”, not what someone else defines as “healthy”.
I wanted to share this experience and all of these new thoughts I’m working through, not to make any one feel shame for feeding their kids anything other than natural, whole foods. I’m right there in the same boat, as is probably 95% of parents out there. I simply wanted to challenge us as parents to truly think about what we’re feeding our kids, and how it’s impacting them - from behavior issues, to stomach aches, to energy swings, to skin problems. Food is REALLY important, it impacts everything about us, and I think we forget to value it both for ourselves and our family because we have so much on our “plate”- see what I did there? ;) I believe in continually being as thoughtful and as intentional as we can so that we can continue to grow and improve to become better as individuals and, as a result, become better parents. Growth is important.
I’m also writing this to let anyone out there who feels like they are failing at something AGAIN, for the umpteenth time, that IT’S OKAY. It’s okay to try something, like eating healthier, only to stick with it for a short period of time. You’re NOT PERFECT. It happens to the best of us. Whatever you’re trying may not be for you. But if you continue to be drawn to it, like I am continually drawn to feeding my child healthy foods time and time again, listen to the universe when it’s drawing you back to that same thing and keep trying. Each time you fail, it’s an opportunity to evaluate what worked and what didn’t. Tweak your method and try again. Failing doesn’t mean you’re a failure, it means something needs to change, whether it’s your perspective or the actual thing you’re doing. As Sofía’s favorite book about failure and frustration says, “Try, Try Again”. You can do it :)
I’m going to try again as well for the millionth time to feed my family more nutritious foods. I’m going to create some “rules” for healthy eating in my kitchen this week, implement some consistency, and see what comes of it. I’ll share some IG stories each day about the foods me and Sofía are trying and at the end of the week I’ll share with you what we tried and how well it worked for us.
So here’s to eating healthy and to never giving up!
Stephanie + Brittany here! We'll be sharing different topics week to week depending on what life throws at us! Funny moments, frustrating moments, heart to hearts, epiphanies, ideas, thoughts and anything in between.