On my personal blog I have been posting about the changes we have been making to our eating habits. (If you are visiting from there today, welcome!)
Changes were definitely needed, but especially for Brynne. All of the members of our family are tall, thin and lanky. We have never had to watch what we eat. We've tried to keep it on the healthy(er) side, but it was a no-stress situation.
But Brynne is built different than the other kids in that she is shorter, stockier, and more broad across her chest. Over the past couple of years she has gained weight consistently and especially in her stomach and chest. Part of the problem is a lactose intolerance. She has also shown some signs of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I did a lot of research and made some slight changes. Two big ones were putting her back on her lactose free dairy products and eliminating IBS trigger foods (minimal red meats, no artificial sweeteners, very limited insoluble fiber). I could see some changes, especially with the way she felt physically. But her weight issues weren't changing.
I came across the book Ending the Food Fight by David Ludwig, M.D., Ph.D., that just completely hit home with me! Of course it's main focus is that your children should eat a diet high in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low fat dairy, and lean meats. But the diet also consists of choosing foods that are lower glycemic, because they take more energy to burn. The book is also packed with simple eating tips. I have had to take this information with the knowledge of her lactose and IBS problems and make some modifications, but we are definitely making progress! AND it's good for the whole family!
Here is how the kids used to eat: They would have either a bowl of cereal or a waffle for breakfast. For lunch I would make whatever easy food I could, usually canned soup, boxed macaroni and cheese, frozen pizzas, pizza rolls, and the like (total processed foods=easy). In the afternoon they would get a snack, usually of cookies, goldfish crackers, or apples. Then for dinner we usually had one-dish meals consisting of lots of pasta, rice, and creamy sauces. Then for a bedtime snack I would dump a pretty hefty amount of goldfish into a bowl and send them to bed. (They have to go to bed at 8:30 p.m. for quiet time, so that I can have quiet time, although they don't really go to sleep until 10:00 p.m. or after. So I used food as a pacifier. Just being real here.)
As you can see, there were NO vegetables in their meals, unless it was in the form of a sauce of some kind. Fruits were limited to apples, for the most part, although Brynne does like grapes, peaches, and mandarin oranges. I never paid addition to portion sizes. And, carbs were a staple of our diet!
After our changes, a typical day's meals now look more like this: I do still allow them to have their cereal and/or waffles for breakfast, although I measure portion sizes and Brynne uses almond milk in her cereal. For lunch, I do still allow them to have easier foods, but I make sure I prepare a plate including all of the food groups. For instance, now we might have a half all natural peanut butter sandwich on stone ground bread, some apple slices (or yesterday some banana mini-muffins and a half banana), a cheese stick, and some veggie chips or homemade kale chips, with a half glass of milk. Snacks now consist of smoothies or cheese sticks, or homemade pita chips with hummus, or popcorn, or a fruit. At dinner, I make sure that along with our protein the kids are also served a vegetable, fruit, dairy product and a grain, even if it's just a half piece of bread and butter. At snack time they still get their goldfish crackers, but I measure out one serving size, and once it's gone it's gone.
Thankfully we have never been huge soda and sweet juice drinkers. My kids actually prefer water, occasionally milk, and every so often ask for some apple juice. I do make one pitcher of tea on the weekends. They also drink a lot of hot green tea. So cutting out bad drinks was not a battle we had to endure. Thank goodness!
How have we made such a transformation in such a short period of time (about two weeks)?
The number one reason: I prepare their plates and PUT all five food groups on their plates and serve it to them with the expectation that all food must be eaten. The portion sizes are small enough that everything can be eaten without being too stuffed to finish something (say, the vegetable).
Here are some other tips:
1. A year or so ago I bought these food groups plates in the toddler section at Walmart. They are for toddlers, but the portion sizes are just enough for my kiddos who are 9 and 7. We use these plates two times a day. I need to purchase more of them to cut down on my dish pan hands!
2. Seconds are allowed as long as every single thing on the plate has been finished, including the vegetable. Brynne is a comfort food kind of girl, like her mama, and could eat an entire box of macaroni and cheese (and has been known to). With this method, she can have more macaroni and cheese, if she has finished everything else served to her. I can only think of one time that she was hungry enough after that to actually follow through with seconds.
3. My kids are not used to vegetables, so I have introduced one each week and served it each night at dinner. I read somewhere that it takes 10 tries for a child to accept a food he/she thinks she will not like. So far we our focus vegetable has been corn, although I have had the kids eating carrots and celery in vegetable soup and broccoli and corn in mini quiches. I am astonished that they have taken to eating the vegetables so well. I can't say they love it, but they do eat it without much complaint.
4. I do still puree and hide veggies in their foods sometimes, as a bonus! I make green smoothies, using spinach. And the other night I made sweet potato muffins. I add a layer of avocado to some meals, especially sandwiches, and lettuce to their turkey sandwiches, hidden between the layers of turkey and cheese. They now know that I hide veggies and they have stopped asking me what's in something before they start eating.
5. We are talking a lot about our food choices, even discussing how certain foods are burned off more easily, etc.
6. I am not keeping them from having their favorite fun foods. They like turkey hot dogs and pizza rolls. They are just now served with all of the other food groups, as well, and served in much smaller portion sizes.
7. We have made these food changes a non-negotiable. We are doing this, so they might as well get on board. And ugly faces and whining are not allowed.
The changes I have seen in Brynne are amazing! Even she is noticing a distinct difference in her tummy! Her clothes are fitting better, even her panties aren't as tight around the waist and thighs.
I am ashamed that it is my fault that Brynne had started down a road to having a weight problem. It was out of sheer laziness and fear of fighting over food that made it happen. I have learned that kids are not going to eat what they are not offered. Why would they?
I haven't bought any store-bought cookies or treats in a couple of weeks. I just make a homemade sweet (and healthy) treat for those days that we just need something. You know those days! They haven't asked for a cookie in days. It didn't take long for them to get to the point of out-of-sight-out-of-mind.
I encourage you that if you have picky eaters, even horrible eaters, take the plunge and make changes NOW! The whole purpose of our plan was to start teaching the kids early about wise food choices for a healthy lifestyle. I did not intend for Brynne to be on a diet and lose weight. She is allowed to eat as much as she wants, but she has just changed WHAT she eats. We all have. But, she has lost some weight. And she is feeling great!
*** Just so you know, I have discontinued my personal blog, Taulman Times. So, I will be posting more personal things here on Journey to Excellence from now on.