Want a “healthy” eating family? First, you need to rethink what “healthy” means and then you need to make sure that you are feeding and treating yourself well. Here are 7 tips for joyful, nourishing eating for moms.
Those images on social media featuring moms and families eating “perfectly” can be both inspiring and annoying. After all, “healthy” eating–and getting your family to eat healthfully–isn’t always joyful and for many moms can be quite stressful.
Imperfect is the New Perfect
But what if we take a step back and instead of getting it all perfect be happy with doing our best. What if we are a little more kind to ourselves? What if we stop comparing ourselves to others and just do our own thing?
Rather than striving to serve up “healthy”, Instagram-able dinners that our kids happily gobble down, why not take a more relaxed approach. Imperfect is the new perfect. Realize that nourishing habits and new preferences can take weeks, months, and even years to establish.
Choose Nourishing over Healthy
First of all, I’ve realized that it’s better to use the word nourishing than “healthy” when it comes to food and eating habits. Nourishing is a kinder word than healthy and reminds us that:
- All foods are good (even a sugar-filled candy bar brings health in the form of joy, satisfaction, and caloric nourishment). Thus there is no need to label food as “healthy” or “unhealthy”.
- “Healthy” eating is about more than the nutrient values of the foods we eat. Other important components of healthy eating include enjoying the taste, feeling satisfied, finding pleasure, honoring culture or tradition, receiving love, and enjoying the social aspects of eating.
Also, rather than focusing on just food, it’s important to focus on all aspects of your life that nourish you and help you thrive.
Kind Family Eating Goals
So let go of your “healthy family eating” expectations and instead:
- Aim to serve yourself and your family a variety of nutrient-rich, whole foods.
- Don’t worry if you aren’t a master chef. Look at your cooking as a work in progress and try to have fun with it. (Also, get other family members involved!).
- Nix the idea of “perfect” eating. Instead, discover the joy of intuitive eating.
- Make peace with the fact that you can control what, when, and where your kids eat…but you can’t control whether they will eat or how much.
7 Tips for Joyful, Nourishing Eating for Moms
Additionally, as a caregiver, it’s important to focus on establishing nourishing eating habits for yourself. Chances are, these habits will naturally spread to your family. So here are 7 tips that I find to promote joyful, nourishing eating for moms (and everyone else too).
- Start the day with a colorful, fiber-packed breakfast. A nourishing breakfast goes a long way to making a great day. Here are some ideas to get you tempted, but remember, anything can be nourishing, even leftover pizza or a chocolate croissant!
- Almond butter and berries on whole-grain toast,
- Avocado toast with eggs and a side of cherry tomatoes,
- A veggie frittata and roasted sweet potatoes,
- Oatmeal with fruit, nuts, and milk,
- Greek or Skyr yogurt with granola or muesli and berries,
- Dark chocolate chip oat-spelt pancakes with berries,
- A green smoothie and peanut butter toast, or
- A smoothie bowl.
- Take a “fika” break. Fika is the Swedish custom of taking time out of one’s busy day to sit down and savor coffee (or tea) along with a little something sweet (or savory) to nibble on. It’s a chance to hit pause and slow down, while at the same time recharging. Bonus points for taking your fika outside, enjoying fika with friends, co-workers, or family members, or cozying up with fika in one of your favorite spots (i.e., not by your computer!).
- Make half your lunch plate veggies. Scour the fridge for leftovers or forgotten fresh veggies. If you need a portable lunch: put some dressing or sauce at the bottom of a mason jar, next add 1/4-1/2 cup of beans, lentils, chicken, or fish, and then add veggies (cooked/heavy first) then raw/leafy greens. Bring to work along with sides/snacks such as fruit, nuts, Skyr yogurt, dark chocolate, or your favorite energy bar. Need inspiration? Check out this mason jar lunch.
- Eat an afternoon snack. If you are at work, see #2. Have fika with coworkers when you can! But also pack a healthful snack to keep you from hitting the vending machine or getting hangry come 5 pm. If you are home when your kids come home from school, try to eat a snack with them when you can. This will help get everyone into the good habit of taking a break from whatever needs to be done next and sitting down to a mindful snack and conversation.
- Cook ONE family dinner and make sure it appeals to you too–not just the kids! If you have been a short-order cook or making special meals for the kids, this may take some transitioning. Be persistent but patient and involve your kids with helping you plan dinners. Read more about how to have joyful family dinners here.
- Enjoy sweet treats. Whether as fika or dessert, don’t deprive yourself of a little something sweet. A few squares of dark chocolate, mini muffins, or cocoa-coconut bliss balls can go a long way to satisfying a sweet craving. But realize it’s ok to eat more than this too–sometimes if we crave a lot of sweets it’s because we are calorie deprived! Other times maybe they are just so delicious and other times maybe there is another emotional need you are trying to fill. Just check in with how you are feeling and acknowledge it. Also, when it comes to sweets in your home, set up a routine that works for you. Maybe you serve dessert just on weekends, or maybe you have dessert every night, both are ok–do what works best for your family. (We tend to have a little dessert every night.)
- Create a healthy bedtime ritual. What do you do to wind down? One nice way to transition to bedtime is to savor a cup of chamomile tea, ginger tea, or golden milk. If you find that you are hungry come bedtime, enjoy a healthy snack such as half a banana and some plain Greek or Skyr yogurt, homemade granola and unsweetened almond milk, or a handful of walnuts and an apple.
Why not pick one of the above to start with. Or come up with your own suggestions on how you can make eating both joyful and nourishing. And remember, part of nourishing yourself well includes letting go of old habits or ways of thinking that aren’t so kind.