5 tips from celebrity nutritionist and mom Keri Glassman on changing your family's food culture.
As a nutritionist and mother of two, I’m often asked by other moms, “How do you do it all?” My answer? Proper fuel, aka no sugar and no processed foods.
Here’s an example. My son recently had a back-to-back day of games. One hundred eighty minutes of soccer is a lot for anybody, especially a growing 13-year-old boy. Before he dashed off to meet his teammates on the field, I handed him my morning’s labor: a turkey and fresh mozzarella wrap, edamame, organic chocolate milk, banana, and a classic PB&J made on Ezekial bread with natural peanut butter, of course. The mom next to me was also sending her son off with provisions: five cans of Pringles and three boxes of donuts for the group of boys to split.
I promise you I am not the judgy nutritionist mom, but have we not learned anything? Do we not know that this type of junk food is hurting, really hurting, our kids? Who cares about the calories (for any of you thinking, “But the boys are running all day at soccer!”). I am all for the indulgence, the treat, the holiday special dessert, but this “fuel” is toxic to our kids. Even though they are being active and running around, filling up on potato chips and baked treats isn’t healthy for anyone. Unfortunately, it has become the norm.
But, here’s the deal. There are things you can do. And, you can do them today. As in right now, to begin to detox your family and home and #BreakUpWithSugar.
The key is starting slowly. Begin with these five tips and incorporate them into your and your family’s lifestyle over the next 10 days or so. Breaking it down little by little will help you all ease into the process.
Tip #1: Ditch the nonsweet sweets
It begins in your own home. Get rid of anything that’s “sweet” and has added sugar but isn’t “sweet” at all.
Not sure what I mean? Open up the fridge and check out the salad dressing. Now check the labels on your sandwich bread. Go on, take a look at the box of “healthy” crackers you serve peanut butter on. Oh, and check that peanut butter while you’re at it. Sugar, fructose, corn syrup, brown rice syrup — it’s all sugar. Ditch all of this. They’re not worth it and can be easily replaced.
To get you started, here is a great salad dressing you can make to replace the one in the bottle. It’s from Naturally Savvy Recipes, and is great for kids and adults alike.
And instead of sugar-packed barbecue sauce, which can have more than 16 grams in a mere 2 teaspoons, make your own seasoning or spice blend. Not only will it be tastier than a packaged version, but you’ll feel better knowing exactly what’s in it. The Whole New Mom has great tips on making your own specialty blends.
Tip #2: Set your food culture
Now that your kitchen is as clean as can be, you’ll likely start looking at foods in different ways.
Think back to your life before kids. What did you and your spouse or partner talk about? Maybe finances, religion, education, where to live and raise a family. These are all fairly common topics, but one topic that’s left off from the table is “home food culture.”
Chances are you have a food culture, but you just haven’t looked at it or talked about it openly. Meatless Mondays, grocery delivery, organic and unprocessed as much as possible, pizza and movie night, are just some food culture traditions and practices. But when you don’t set out with a plan or value system for food in your home, things often go awry — and fast, especially once kids come into the picture.
I’m not going to tell you that you should never have dessert, or that organic foods are always best. That’s something for you and your partner to decide together. If your kids are old enough, ask them what they think are family food values. Bringing everyone into the conversation, maybe at your next dinner, is one of the best ways to stay on track.
Tip #3: Plan your weeknight dinners
Great, your kitchen is set and you’re looking at more than what you’re eating but also what traditions make up your food family culture. Now’s the time to do some planning.
You’ve heard this one before: Planning is key to dinner success. But, in reality, when we’re running to pick our kids up from school and dropping them off and running errands ourselves, that’s easier said than done.
One of the moms I work with makes planning meals for the week almost a game. At the beginning of each week, she takes out the calendar and her three kids go in order picking dinner for each day. They have mentally committed to the menu and are genuinely enthusiastic about it.
This does two things. First, it gets her kids involved and excited about eating healthfully. Second, it reduces the chances of sugar-laden feasts. So when soccer practice runs late, there’s no need to make it a pizza night since they already planned out a meal. Which in turn, takes the indulgences in sweets down a notch too.
You can easily replicate this type of planning for your own family. Or, there are plenty of meal planning guides, resources, and smartphone apps.
Tip #4: Snack time is nutrient time, not dessert time
We’ve all heard it: Your child says they’re full after eating two bites of their sandwich at lunch, but is starving just an hour later when cookies and milk are on the table for snack time.
And even if you’ve planned your meals together, there’s of course going to be times when one kid doesn’t like something as much as another. That’s OK. It’s all part of finding, or rather discovering, their preferred palate.
Yet, it’s far too easy to get caught up in the “I just want them to eat and get calories in” so as not to mind the cookies. But the truth is, snack time is the perfect time to get in nutrients. Not just calories, but real nourishing nutrients.
The trick isn’t to redefine or get rid of snack time, but to adjust it. So if that whole sandwich wasn’t eaten at lunch, serve the other half at snack time. Or, if lunch was finished, take a different approach with sliced turkey rolled up around a carrot or a sliced pear with almond butter. I like to make these sandwich pinwheels, and my kids enjoy them too.
Katie Serbinski, M.S., R.D. of Mom to Mom Nutrition has a lot of healthy, easy snack recipes, including a roundup of 25 toddler snack ideas.
Tip #5: Hydrate right, and don’t fall for ‘all-natural’ juice
Sugar is sneaky. It doesn’t just hide in foods, but in most beverages too. The green drink you’re grabbing as a replacement for real, solid food is likely loaded with more fruit and sugar than greens! Think 53 grams of sugar in one bottle!
Read the label carefully and remember that If you’re consciously consuming it for the fruit benefits, know that one piece of fruit has approximately 15 grams of sugar. So perhaps you’d be better off eating a banana instead.
And just say no to soda and fruit-flavored juice. Go for plain water or even seltzer with a spritz of lemon or a splash of 100 percent juice instead, like this DIY sparkling beverage from Elana Amsterdam of Elana’s Pantry.
Another key thing to remember is all rules apply for your kids too. Kids don’t come out of the womb asking for apple juice. We get this habit started and we can break it for them too, because if you’re sipping on water, then they’ll likely follow suit and do the same.
So, there you have it: five tips to help ease you and your family into a sugar-free (or as sugar-free as possible) life. It’s not easy, but as a mom you’re up for the challenge. Because even if food — and healthy food — is what I do for a living, that doesn’t mean my kids don’t beg for ice cream after eating a cookie or drench their steak in ketchup. But arming yourself with the right tools, and the proper fuel, can help set yourself up for success, both on and off the soccer field.