The Best Thing My Parents Ever Did For Me…

Back to School Edition

I get asked the question all the time, “How do I get my kids to eat better/make healthy choices?” or “how do I get my kids to not be picky?”. I don’t have kids so I can’t tell you what does and does not work for my children, but I can tell you how my upbringing influenced my health & wellness journey.

Growing up we were a very busy household. My dad worked 24 hour shifts as a fire fighter and my mom was a nurse working all kinds of odd hours. We were home alone a lot and had to learn to be self sufficient. Trust me, this wasn’t a bad thing, we learned a lot, including how to make eggs in a coffee cup for breakfast. We did a lot of carpooling and when my sister was old enough she drove me around often until I got my license. Regardless of how busy my family was we always had plenty of food in the fridge and family dinners were a staple. We weren’t the family that ate out often, typically only for special occasions or pizza night if it was out of convenience. All that being said we weren’t picky kids. Sure, there are a few things now as an adult I don’t care for (e.g. olives & blue cheese… ick), but my parents are an important part of my health journey and I will show you why.

School Lunches

Since we’re talking about Back to School, let’s begin with school lunches. Buying lunch at school was a luxury for my family. My parents and sisters all took part in making lunches, it was a nightly affair. Every evening before bed we made sandwiches, had some fruit and/or veggies, maybe chips/crackers, and yes of course we got a treat of some sort. As we got into middle school and high school where we had a microwave available to us we even took leftovers at times. We all had a helping hand, there were days where we were in charge of packing our own lunches, some day’s my parents did it all and others my parents made sandwiches and we picked our “sides”. Nonetheless, it didn’t matter who packed our lunch, one of the best parts was the hand written note on the napkin. You know the type of notes even when you’re having a bad day, they make you smile. Anyway, I ask you these questions: Do you pack your child’s lunch? How much money are you spending on school lunches? Do your kids help out in the kitchen? Are they involved in making choices about the foods that they eat? We’ll get back to that last question later on.

L E F T O V E R S

I’ve eaten leftovers almost my entire life and I truly believe that’s why meal prepping is almost second nature to me. There are several reasons why we ate a lot of leftovers as kids. One main reason, no one lets food go to waste in our house. I have a very large family on both my parents sides. Food was always involved with social gatherings for us as well, so when my family cooked, they cooked for an army, which meant leftovers for days. Speaking of cooking for an army, I mentioned that my dad was a fire fighter. Well, they did a lot of cooking at the firehouse and they’re always cooking for 10-15 people every meal. So when my dad cooked at home it seemed that he was still cooking for the fire department. It worked out well though, as I said, we ate leftovers in our lunches. If we were home alone due to our parents working, then there was plenty of food in the fridge to eat. My parents were also really good at making large portion and using the leftovers to make other meals. My mom would make spaghetti sauce in large batches, my dad would cook lots of meat at one time – what started as a steak might end up being a stew the next day. They got pretty creative and it’s really helped me in the kitchen as an adult.

Dinner Time

People today don’t realize how important dinner time is for their families. Even though we were a busy family we still made it a point to have family dinners 3-4 times a week (sometimes more). When we did sit down as a family (more so as we were in high school) there were no cell phones at the table (including parents), the TV was OFF, and no one answered the home phone during dinner. This was our opportunity to talk about our day with each other and enjoy each others company. If I or one of my sisters wasn’t able to be home for dinner when the rest of the family ate, my parents always had a plate made ahead of time for us to reheat when we got home. This brings up a very important point (and i hear this more often than not). Even though we weren’t eating at the same time, we were always eating the same things. This goes for any meal we ate as a family, unless it was a “leftovers” night where you fended for yourself and we at whatever was available to us in the fridge. My parents instilled in us, “if you don’t like what we made you, you’re welcome to make something else yourself or don’t eat at all. This is not a restaurant”. Could you imagine if my parents made separate meals for all the kids at every single meal? I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

They’re ALWAYS Watching You

They as in KIDS, your kids, anyones kids… they’re like sponges. Like I mentioned, I don’t have kids of my own, but I’ve been coaching young kids since I was 15 years old and kids look up to us adults, we have to set a good example for the younger generations around us. Trust me they may hate you now for making them try broccoli, but they’ll appreciate it some time in the future. There’s a common theme here, it’s my parents. whatever we were eating, they ate it too. I find it funny when I’m working with clients and I ask what their kids are eating and they look at me all funny like “what do my kids have to do with this?”. If you’re trying to create a healthier lifestyle for yourself, why wouldn’t you want your family to be on board with you? If your kids watch you eat healthy, they’ll eventually want to eat just like you. Earlier I asked if your kids were involved in making choices about what they eat. Do you take them to the grocery store? Do you have them help out in the kitchen? It’s never too early to start having them help in the kitchen, even if it’s setting the table, washing veggies, helping mix a dish, show them how fun and creative being in the kitchen can be. If you’re picky and don’t eat certain foods, your kids will be picky, guaranteed. Creating a healthy lifestyle doesn’t always start with just you, it’s a team effort and getting your family on board will make it much easier. John Berardi of Precision Nutrition has a law that states – if it’s in the house it will eventually get eaten. If you’re wondering why your kids are choosing the sugary snacks and cereals versus the veggies, it’s because they’re more accessible and John Berardi’s Law is true. Help set your kids up for success. Pack lunches, eat family dinners, and be the example you wish to see in your children. Again, they will thank you when they’re grown adults.

Thanks, Mom, Dad, Mark & Carol.

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