Phase 3: Healthy Parents
It is tough to balance eating right, raising a toddler and working full time. The time you spend with your children should be frequent and meaningful, but you should still take some “me” time to rejuvenate and re-energize. A happy mom makes for a happy child, so keep in good spirits. Here are some tips for moms on the go. (Any mom of a toddler is frequently “on the go!”)
Organize Your Life
- Get organized! Arrange your house and office space so that you can be the most productive.
- Make grocery lists and “to do” lists. Jot down reminders so you can concentrate on other things. Cross off your achievements each day.
- Keep a monthly budget sheet. You can track what you spend on groceries and anything else that you purchase. Clip coupons when you can. Anything to save a little at the store!
- Don’t waste time on meaningless things.
- Keep an engagement calendar.
- Search for family-friendly events in your area.
- Read to your children. This is an especially nice bed time routine to establish. Dedicate an hour before bed time to quiet time including reading and cuddling with your child.
- Turn to parenting groups or friends with children for advice and support.
- Remember to enjoy the time you have with your children. They are only young once!
- Enjoy nature. Nothing can lift your spirits more than spending some time outdoors when there is nice weather.
Time For You
- Be sure to drink at least 8 glasses of water each day.
- Remember to eat foods that are rich in fiber.
- Get your exercise – 30 minutes at least 3 times a week.
- Avoid fast foods. They are high in fat and calories and do not give your body the proper nutrients it needs to keep up with an active child.
- Make time for yourself to do things you enjoy, whether it is gardening, reading or just relaxing.
- Pamper yourself when time allows.
- Always get a good night’s sleep.
Phase 3: Feeding Guidelines
So your child is now eating a variety of things and feeding himself. Your family is getting more active and everyone is short on time. Right now is a critical time to not fall into the “fast food trap” that many parents resort to after a long, hard day at work or home with an active toddler. You have come this far; don’t stop now! Continue to reinforce healthy eating and a good variety of foods. Keep in mind that a 2-3 year old’s eating habits might slow down a bit as his or her growth is slowing down. This is normal!
Your job is simply to buy the right food, prepare it nutritiously (steamed rather than boiled, baked rather than fried), and serve it creatively. You can leave the rest up to your child.
- Healthy spreads and toppings can entice children. Teach your child how to spread cream cheese or sprinkle cheddar cheese on her snack. Anything to add variety and color!
- Sometimes a finicky eater may be more likely to want to drink his meal! Why not create a fruit and yogurt smoothie?
- Get creative when slicing up veggies and fruits. Fun shapes will gain the child’s interest and it is easy to do.
- Keep food servings small. As a rule of thumb, a young child’s stomach is approximately the size of his fist. Pass out small portions at first and refill the plate when your child asks for more. This less-is-more meal plan has the added benefit of stabilizing blood sugar levels, which in turn minimizes mood swings.
- Switch it up! Breakfast, lunch and dinner differences have little meaning to a child. If your youngster asks for dinner in the morning or cereal in the evening, go with it.
- Make every calorie count. Choose foods that pack lots of nutrition into small packages. Berries and leafy greens are good examples of foods high in nutrients. Offer the unprocessed berries as a snack. Chop kale and pour a small amount of steaming water on it. Allow to cool before serving as a quick side dish.
Fresh Produce Can Help
The following simple and healthy adjustments to snack and meal preparations can make an enormous difference in the way your family approaches healthy eating and develops healthy eating habits for the future.
- Incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables into cooking whenever possible.
- Start by breaking one unhealthy family eating habit per week (example: no fried food on Mondays.) Replace the unhealthy habit with a new healthy habit.
- Enlist older children and make a game of nominating favorite family recipes to try using fresh ingredients.
- Scramble eggs with diced tomatoes, bell peppers and onions.
- Add strawberries or blueberries to your usual salad mix to liven up the taste.
- Let each family member pick a color, then search cook books or the internet for recipes using a vegetable of that color. Remember to choose low-fat recipes.
- Try making takeout favorites at home. Love delivery pizza? Use a premade, whole-wheat pizza crust, then add your sauce and top with fresh vegetables. Kids can decorate the pizza with green peppers, eggplant or any number of fresh vegetables.
- Pack cut carrots, celery, oranges, etc. as individual snacks in small containers. Let your toddler or older sibling decorate the containers. The snacks are ready to pull from the fridge anytime and your toddler will love having his own special container each day.
- Serve raw or blanched vegetables often. The natural texture of the vegetables will help avoid “high-speed” eating and force everyone to slow down and enjoy the entire meal.
Phase 3: Food Preparation Guidelines
By now you should be a whiz in the kitchen. When you grocery shop, you know the proper choices to make. You rely on what you have learned in the program and can make healthy meal choices for your family. But now it is time to take it one step further and get organized. You can make grocery lists that will get you in and out of the store in a jiffy. The meals you prepare will be wholesome, nutritious and delicious. It is all with just a small amount of planning on your part and taking advantage of items already on hand to save you time and money. It is also the time to get creative in the kitchen. So put on your aprons and let’s get started!
- Use what you have: One of the easiest ways to save money and not be wasteful is to use what you already have on hand. Before heading to the store, check your freezer, refrigerator, pantry and shelves.
- In and Out! Think of the grocery store as a horseshoe. The food sections that you want to shop are usually the outer edges of the market – like the produce, dairy, meat and seafood sections. Most of the processed food is found down the aisles. You can make for a quick shopping trip if you stick to this rule!
- Shop the sales: If you can, check several stores to see where you find the biggest savings. Stock up on products that are on sale that you will use. Clip coupons and watch for buy one get one free offers.
- Plan your meals wisely: Plan your meals for a week (or two) in advance by using ingredients you have on hand and what you’ve purchased. Thinking about the order of your recipes will allow you to use leftovers more efficiently and will reduce your stress on busy days.
- Create a go-to list of simple and quick meals that you’re a pro at preparing. By knowing a few recipes you can always rely on, you’ll avoid the desperate trip through the drive-thru or frantically trying to figure out what to make for dinner. Create you own cookbook with copies or tear-outs of favorite recipes.
- Let your kids pick some of the ingredients: Even if they’re not your favorite or unhealthy, you only have to use a little. They’ll like that they contributed and might be more inclined to try something new or healthy if there’s something in it for them.
- Try new things! Do not be afraid to try new and exciting recipes. You may even find your new favorite meal.
Building Your Pantry
The following is a list of dry goods or staples you might want to have on hand as you begin trying the new family recipes. Some might already be staples at your kitchen. Building the items in your pantry is a good way to eliminate trips to the grocery store every time you cook. You don’t need to buy everything at once, just what you think you will eat often. Start building your pantry gradually. These are food staples that can be added to numerous recipes and will be useful in cooking many of the recipes found in your “Fresh from Florida Kids Rooted for Life” notebook.
|Cloves of garlic
|White wine vinegar
||Italian herb seasoning
|Cans of mushrooms
Phase 3: Healthy Habits
Congratulations on making it to Phase III. You’re plugging right along through toddler-hood; just a little while more until you will have a school-aged child! Your diligence and hard work is paying off. You are raising a happy, healthy eater. Great work! The healthy habits that you have instilled are becoming more of a routine and seeming like child’s play, so to speak.
Reinforce Good Habits
- If you find you are sometimes losing the battle against poor nutrition, take a look at the number of hours she may be spending with the television. Even the youngest child can be influenced by dancing burgers and singing cereal, which makes your job a little tougher.
- Teaching your child to request green beans instead of deep fried tater tots started in Phase I. You set the right example; you offered healthy food and did not hide squash in a cake mix. Your child will continue to see and eat healthy food because she is familiar with wholesome food and how to eat it.
- Mealtime should be family time. Children, no matter their age, do not like to eat alone. The television is not adequate company.
- Since Phase I you have been laying the groundwork for healthy food choices, whether you are with your child or not. Your child is growing; many children are entering preschool and day care. Help reinforce your hard work by sending healthy lunches and snacks. If your child care center provides meals, feel free to send your own or speak up if the meals are not to your healthy eating standards.
- Eating junk does not help promote healthy eating. Get the junk out of the house. It is understandable that you do not want to waste food. However, the half box of sugar cookies, last year’s Halloween candy or a half eaten bag of high fat potato chips are not going to be missed from your healthy habits food menu.
- Even though your toddler is growing, resist the temptation to overestimate how much he will eat, especially when it comes to new foods. One or two tablespoons is usually enough of any new food. If he likes it, he will always ask for more.
- Make cooking a family affair. Involve your child in all phases of food preparation (be safe!) and answer any questions they may have about cooking.