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Yes, I Say This to My Kids (You Can, Too!)

I've been thinking a lot lately what kind of advice or guidance I can offer moms who are trying to do better with nutrition in the new year. It's easy to feel overwhelmed with all the things you feel like you should be doing, and then get stuck doing nothing because you don't know where or how to begin.

For those of you who might be suffering "paralysis by analysis," I wanted to share a few basic mantras that helped me in the earlier years, and still help me now, from time to time. You might need to practice saying these things to yourself in the mirror for a while, and remind yourself of your new identity - a healthy mom who makes responsible choices on behalf of her kids and their longterm health and happiness. The more you verbalize these values and stick to them, the more natural, intuitive, and fruitful they become, and the more cooperative your children will be. After a while, your little tribe will see the wisdom behind your words, and begin to embrace these routines as their own, so you don't have to work nearly so hard to enforce them. The earlier you begin, the sooner you will see progress!

That being said, these are general rules, not strict dogma, so yes - there are occasional exceptions. Just like you, I get lazy sometimes, and my three children know how to wear me down when Dad is traveling or it's just been a very long day. I'm also not the Food Police. We do celebrate and we do enjoy treats. As my kids get older and more self-aware, I allow them to make more decisions on their own so that they can learn from the consequences, be they favorable or not. Pain is an amazing teacher. Feeling healthy, strong, and resilient is a powerful motivator, too!

So don't hold yourselves to a perfect standard. At the same time, don't ride the slippery slope into resignation and complacency either. As the parent, you must lead the way and model healthy behaviors patiently and consistently.

Some of you might be able to slide by with the 80/20 Rule - sticking to your healthy game plan 80 percent of the time, and allowing intentional dietary detours the other 20 percent. Others of you might need to be more strict, like 90/10 - especially if your children have more acute health conditions. Only you know where the right balance is for you, your family, and your children. Take time to thoughtfully re-evaulate every now and then, and take an honest assessment of how things are going.

In no particular order, here are some helpful food phrases you can borrow and make your own:

  1. Mom doesn't buy candy.

  2. I'm not paying for food that makes us sick. That is a waste of our hard-earned money.

  3. In our family, we don't take seconds on dessert.

  4. If you're still hungry, get some protein and fat, not more carbs. Sugar doesn't fill you up.

  5. Are you prepared to deal with the consequences of that food decision?

  6. Put that on a plate or in a dish. We don't eat food straight from their containers.

  7. It's my job as your mom to provide you with healthy meals and a few new foods, and I aim to do my job well.

  8. You can have X, or you can have Y, but not both. (Or - you can have 1/2 of X and 1/2 of Y)

  9. We eat our food in the kitchen, and we sit at the table.

  10. Take what you want, and eat what you take.

Do these guidelines might seem too strict or controlling?

I think it's all in how they are introduced and enforced, and the general climate of your home outside of food-related issues. I suppose my own children would be the best ones to evaluate how balanced I am on these things. We talk often about the effects of food on our health, mood, energy levels, and performance, so they understand our rules are not arbitrary or intended to be onerous. We are instilling food discipline now, so that they can enjoy freedom from disease and medications later in life. My kids have tremendous privileges within healthy boundaries, and I hope that one day, when they are parents themselves, they will appreciate that loving your kids well often looks like setting reasonable limits.

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