create a dream: nutrition coach (part two)

As part of our photo session together, Aly wanted photographs with her family in their garden this year. Their hard work is inspiring…but so is the beautiful location. It was my favorite part of our time together (you know how I feel about photographing children…my favorite!)

MY QUESTION FOR ALY:

As a mom, knowing and understanding the importance of nutrition has come slowly for me over the years. I struggle with how to teach my children. I know force and full restriction isn’t healthy. I am wondering how someone, with your knowledge, implements and inspires your family in nutrition…

This is one of the questions I get asked most frequently. It takes A LOT of work, intentionality, and preparation to take care of our own nutrition. How in the WORLD do we help our kids? 

Obviously, the best way is by example. But also with dropping hints along the way. haha! I try to offer my young kids different foods multiple times for them to have the opportunity to like it. Sometimes they never do. But there is a statistic that says it could take as many as 12 tries before you like a certain food. I also like to tell my kids what different nutrients or foods “do” for our bodies. For example, I’ll tell them that broccoli helps heal their scrapes and cuts. Or eggs can help keep their eyes strong. They think that’s pretty cool. I actually remember my mom telling me the same sorts of things growing up. 

I also talk A LOT about the effects of junk food on our bodies and moods. Don’t get me wrong, we LOVE treats and desserts. But I can tell in myself and my children if we’ve been having a lot of sugar.  I can tell because we all get so grumpy afterwards!! I’ll tell my kids, “Sugar tastes SO good. But it doesn’t make me feel very good. Those brownies are kind of making my stomach hurt and I think we all may be a little grumpy from it.” Or “I had a CRAZY dream last night, do you think it could have been the chocolate ice cream I ate before bed?” I want to teach them there is a connection between what we eat and how we feel. I am VERY careful not to use words like “fat” in front of my kids. We like to talk about the benefits of how healthy foods help us be STRONG. Or I tell them things like healthy food helps us be awesome soccer players or ballerinas. 

For older kids, which I haven’t fully experienced yet, I have offered the idea of having kids track their food in an app like, My Fitness Pal, for just a day or two. So they can have a better understanding of what calories are and which foods have more or less calories and nutrients. I don’t believe kids, including teenagers, should track their food intake long-term. Kids bodies are growing so rapidly and I don’t believe they should be worried about restricting calories. Besides putting their growth at risk, it could also cause more self esteem problems and unhealthy relationships with food. However, teenagers are old enough to understand what different nutrients can do for their bodies and how balanced nutrition can help them perform better in school, in sports, and in life. If you could challenge kids to go sugar or junk food free for one month, I think they’d be surprised at how good they feel and how clear their minds are!

I also think it’s very important to involve kids in cooking and preparing food from an early age. Preparing food at home is the healthiest way to eat and they need to know HOW to menu plan, grocery shop, and prepare food. 

Anxiety and depression are on the rise, as we all know. And I can’t help but suspect that our diets are a huge culprit in those illnesses. Blood sugar regulation helps with mood stabilization. Adequate water helps with energy and proper bodily functions. Protein helps rebuild ALL our cells in our bodies. Healthy fats help with brain and hormone function. It also keeps our hair looking good! I know there are so many facets to mental health. But for the sake of our kids, cleaning up their nutrition should be one of our first lines of defense. And I believe we need to teach our children these things!

I want to thank Aly (and her beautiful family!) for taking the time to share, not only what she is passionate about, but also details on how to put her work into practice. If you don’t already, follow Aly on IG, you can find her wisdom there @food.rebel

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