I have to confess, I most certainly have a sweet tooth and would be content to eat nothing but a bowl of ice cream for dinner. But, ever since I had my first baby seven years ago, I’ve been struggling to be a good role model for my kids when it comes to eating healthy. I may look like I have my eating under control, but even thin people struggle with the foods they eat.
We have everything at our finger tips here in the USA and in many other places around the world. Just around the corner is a McDonalds, Culvers, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Dominos, and Dairy Queen! I’m sure I’ve missed a few more fast food places in that list, but I’m sure you know how I’m feeling. We all have to drive past those places on our way to school, work, the store, and even at the most vulnerable time when we’re all hungry after church on Sundays! Am I right? The kids never fail to ask if we could just stop for a while at McDonalds or get some ice cream at Dairy Queen. The kid inside all of us would love to do that very thing every day. But, we know exactly what that would lead to and we don’t want to go down that path. Not only would our belts and budgets be busted, we would also experience the quantity and quality of life God has blessed us with diminishing with every cheeseburger and blizzard we buy.
There is a verse in scripture I was recently given a new perspective on. Some parents take this verse to mean that if we teach our children about Christ, they will eventually believe and be saved. I don’t, however, believe this verse has anything to do with salvation.
The verse is Proverbs 22:6 ESV
Train a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.
I’m sure you’re asking “What does that have to do with healthy eating?” I’m getting there! You’ll just have to bare with me, ok?
When you see the word “train” in scripture, very often it is used when speaking of war. Soldiers were trained for battle so they would have the best chance of survival. Although in most cases we are not training our children for a real physical battle, the Bible talks about another type of battle. James 4 addresses the war within us that wages each and every day. It is a war of “passions.”
We need to be training our children to face these passions at an early age and overcome them. We all know that it is much easier to develop good habits when we’re young than to try breaking bad habits when we are older. I believe that is at the root of that verse. If we train our children to eat healthy and develop other good habits, they will not depart from those good habits when they are older.
We should be establishing these good habits to ensure a bright future for our children and their children. Not only are we at war within ourselves, we are also at war as a nation. Our country is fighting obesity, diabetes, depression, and so many more conditions that are fueled by the foods we eat and our lack of physical activity. If we fight against these bad habits now, our children are less likely to struggle as we do.
Throughout my childhood, and now into my adulthood, I have struggled with a sugar/carb addiction. I never established good eating habits and I am now paying for it. While in high school, I used to eat Fruity Pebbles for breakfast and come home after school to devour a few scoops of my favorite ice cream or get a blizzard at Dairy Queen after Tennis practice. Sugar was my reward for almost everything. It was my reward for waking up in the morning! And, don’t even get me started on my birthday favorites. Ok, I’ll get me started. My birthday included French Toast (made with Wonder Bread) piled high with butter and powdered sugar, Velveeta Macaroni and Cheese for lunch, and Pizza for dinner. And, don’t forget the birthday cake made out of Oreos and Cool Whip!
You may be asking, “How are you not overweight?” Well, the answer is very simple really. I never ate large portions. I would eat throughout the day in small portions. This kept my metabolism up. To this day, I still have a hard time finishing an entire meal. It’s just not natural for me.
Although I may have my weight under control, my emotions have been taken on a rollercoaster. When I eat nothing but carbs and sugar, I become very irritable and sometimes depressed. My emotions are all over the place and I have a hard time focusing on tasks. Being a Mom of four young children already keeps my emotions on high alert and keeps me from completing tasks. I certainly don’t need to be feeding my frustrations with “crabby calories.” Eating donuts in the morning for breakfast might be fun while you’re eating them, but just wait a little while after that and you’ll be more likely to snap at little Timmy for spilling his milk again.
It’s important to find a way to kick your sugar/carb cravings.
Teaching our children good manners, healthy eating, cleanliness, and self control at an early age will ensure a life of good habits and can even give them a better chance of survival in this world we live in. A rude, unhealthy slob with no self control will not survive and thrive the way we want our children to.
Breaking Bad Habits
If you are one of the many people that struggle with a sugar addiction or you’re just looking for ways to change your families eating habits, here are a few simple steps you can take to become healthier.
Step 1: Education
Get Educated! Sit down as a family and watch a documentary on food and how it affects your health. You can find some good videos at http://www.documentarystream.com/category/health/food/. After you discover the facts as a family, discuss your findings. Then, find some healthy recipes for meals you would all enjoy.
Step 2: Find Healthy Alternatives
Before you go on a rampage and throw out all of your favorite treats, you’ll want to take it one step at a time. First, try replacing those treats with a healthier version of them. I know these may cost more, but you are paying to keep the nutrients that your body uses to properly process the sugars.
10 Healthy Alternatives to Kids Favorites
- Replace fruit snacks and gummy bears with dried fruit or Fruit Roll-Ups Simply Fruit Rolls
- Replace refined sugar with date sugar, a whole food sweetener made by simply grinding up dates. Date sugar can be used to replace white sugar or brown sugar in most baked goods and it tastes just as sweet! Check out my recipe for date brownies!
- Replace chocolate with carob chips or powder. Read about the benefits of carob at http://amazinghealth.com/AH-health-carob-chocolate-methylxanthines
- Replace ice cream and yogurt with unsweetened fruit smoothies. Try the recipe book Green Smoothie Recipes & other Healthy Smoothie Recipes to get you started. Or, just come up with your own smoothie recipes and have fun with the kids!
- Replace regular peanut butter with Natural or Organic Peanut Butter with NO Sugar.
- Replace Pancake Syrup with 100% Pure Maple Syrup
- Replace Jams and Jellies with 100% Fruit Preserves
- Have designated “snack” times throughout the day to avoid hungry tummies and over eating at meal time. Great snacks include fruit, string cheese, carrots, and dried fruit and nut mixes. Read about the benefits of Snacking.
- Try to have your children help or just be in the kitchen with you while you are making dinner. They will be more likely to eat what you’re making if they can participate somehow in the meal preparation. And, maybe they’ll learn something!
- Instead of delivery or frozen pizzas, try making your own! My family and I love socca pizza and it’s really easy to make. We got our recipe from the Simply Sugar and Gluten Free Recipe Book.
Step 3: Drink More Water!!
Drinking more water will help you stay hydrated and keep you from over eating. Sometimes your body just needs water, not a bar of chocolate!
Step 4: Stay Active
For some reason, this is the hardest thing to do for most people. As a mom, I get tired just watching my kids jump around. It also doesn’t help when your body is being dragged down by junk food. The first week I cut out refined sugar, I felt horrible! I didn’t want to do anything or talk to anyone. All I wanted to do was focus on getting through the week without putting a spoon full of ice cream in my mouth! But, once I got past the first week, I found that I had much more energy. Not only that, I also felt less irritable and had a clear head.
Once I got my energy back, I started to force myself to exercise. I couldn’t understand why it was still so hard for me since I had the energy to get through the workouts now. Suddenly, it dawned on me! Exercise can be fun! I just had to find an activity that I loved doing. I tried going for a run and nearly died of boredom. I know I love tennis, but now it’s the middle of winter. I also don’t have the time to go to a fitness center or join any yoga or zumba classes. So, I had to think of something I could do at home while taking care of my four kids.
One day, I finally found the ear buds/headphones I had been looking for. I plugged them into my iPod and started dancing around the house as I did laundry, vacuumed, picked up toys and clothes, etc. Not only did this give me a great workout, it made me happy! The kids found it amusing and I’m sure they noticed that Mommy was in a better mood. I had finally found something active that I loved to do… dancing!
Step 5: Treat Yourself!
While you may have gotten rid of all the junk food in your house, there are still those temptations outside of the house. Once you’ve cleansed your body and gotten into a clear state of mind, you most likely won’t crave the junk anymore. But, don’t fool yourself! Those memories of sinking your teeth into a gooey glazed donut will not fade as quickly as you hope. You can still treat yourself once a week without giving in to your addiction once again. You’ll find the less you eat the sugar and carb filled treats, the easier it is to pass them up and only have them once in a while.
It’s important to teach our children that cake and ice cream are for special occasions. They shouldn’t be something you keep in the house to eat after every meal. Once that has been established, you and your children will begin to enjoy the healthy treats. Your interest in different flavors will grow, and life will be that much more exciting!