Creating a Healthy Eating "LIFESTYLE"

Here's the bottom line:  By consistently following the 6 strategies listed in my previous blogs, healthy eating will simply become your “lifestyle.” The environment you create around food at home will influence your children and eventually become their eating style as well - it all starts at home.
Just to review – here are the 6 strategies:
  1. Be a Role Model
  2. Stock up
  3. Offer choices
  4. Have Fun
  5. Talk About It
  6. No Pressure
To illustrate these strategies, below are examples of two different home environments and you can guess which scenario will produce the most favorable eating style. Also, inserted in parenthesis throughout the “Good Scenario” are the healthy eating strategies that have been detailed in my previous blogs so you can see them in action and refer back to them for more information on how to implement a particular strategy. 
“BAD” SCENARIO:    You have a fair amount of junk/processed food in your house and you and your husband hardly eat any vegetables and definitely not consistently. When you eat out or order in (which is often), you don’t usually order veggies, and food and nutrition are never topics of conversation with your family. Breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks may or may not involve fruits or vegetables –either because there are none in the house, you’re not in the habit of serving them, or you’re just too tired or busy to think of what to make. When you do serve veggies at dinner, it’s just one or maybe two … You then become frustrated when your kids refuse to eat the canned peas (or insert here any other non-kid-friendly choice ….) that you plopped onto their plate (you don’t like peas, but you heard they’re good for kids to eat), and then your kids only eat their tater-tots (that’s considered a veggie right?) Now it’s 7pm and you’re stressed and your kids are exhausted and cranky – you throw your hands in the air giving up and think “why won’t my kids eat fruits and veggies??”
GOOD SCENARIO: In the morning the kids know that dad usually eats a veggie omelet or oatmeal with blueberries and mom makes a green smoothie or has a bowl of granola/yogurt/berries (ROLE MODEL). Each day your kids are offered a fruit with their breakfast, sometimes they only eat one or two bites but you always try to have it on the table(CHOICES & NO PRESSURE). They pack a fruit or veggie, either an apple, strawberries, baby carrots, clementine or whatever is in the house (CHOICES & STOCK UP) as part of their lunch. If they buy lunch, you consistently review the school lunch menu with them and talk about what a well balanced choice would be and then check-in with them often to see what they had to eat and give them recognition for their good choices – focus on the good, even if it’s just a few slices of cucumbers– this way they know you care and are involved (TALK ABOUT IT). Before you go grocery shopping, you talk to your kids about trying some new fruits and vegetables (CHOICES & TALK ABOUT IT & STOCK UP). One time you all decide to experiment with a pomegranate and another time your daughter asks you to get a few individual packs of guacamole because one of her friends had it at lunch and it looked good (CHOICES & MAKE IT FUN & TALK ABOUT IT). You stock up on kale so you can make a special after school snack of kale chips and also use some for smoothies (STOCK UP & MAKE IT FUN). For dinner, besides the protein and whole grains, you serve your usual spread of baby carrots and sliced bell peppers (or insert here any other raw veggies your kids like) that you had already prepped from a couple days ago, along with hummus so your kids can pick and choose (CHOICES). And since your kids won’t eat salad you quickly slice up a cucumber and serve it along with a dipping sauce (seasoned rice vinegar or salad dressing) (CHOICES). If you have time, you also make either lightly steamed broccoli or roasted cauliflower because those are “tried and true” veggies that you know your kids like (CHOICES & TALK ABOUT WHAT THEY LIKE). You offer them a bite of your sweet potato, but they don’t seem interested …maybe next time (NO PRESSURE). As a bedtime snack, your kids clamor for blueberries with whipped topping (“blueberry sundae”) so they can earn their blue Raise Your Rainbow® band, because it’s last band they have left to earn that day (MAKE IT FUN). You start talking about how hard it is to earn the blue band and then come up with other blue/purple foods they’ll try in the future – eggplant parmesan, plum cobbler, and get a bag of frozen blackberries to put in our next smoothie…(TALK ABOUT IT)
It’s blaringly obvious how much longer it took to describe the “Good Scenario” versus the “Bad Scenario” and yes this does translate into more time and effort needed in order to make this happen. The end result though is that you will create a healthy, positive, and stress-free environment around food and your child will develop a rock-solid eating habit. 
Luckily, just like with any other habit, once you get these systems into place it will become routine and take much less time and energy than when you first started. For our family, the domino effect began when we started playing Raise Your Rainbow®. Raise Your Rainbow® gave us the jump start to healthy eating we needed and over time all these strategies happened naturally. Raise Your Rainbow® kept me (the nutritional gatekeeper) focused on this goal and it kept my children engaged and motivated along the way. Now I can honestly say that on most days (not all days of course), we are the “Good Scenario” family, or at least we resemble many parts of this story on any given day.
So if you want to improve your family’s eating situation, just take the first step and focus on ONE small change – keep it simple. For instance, give fruits and vegetables a presence in your home by putting Raise Your Rainbow® on your fridge, let your children be curious about it, start eating fruits and vegetables yourself and then let the dominos start falling from there!