As mom of four active boys, our weekends are full of activities. This past weekend it was baseball and lacrosse. A crazy schedule, but I would not change it for a million dollars!
And as sports moms (and a registered dietitian) the question I get asked A LOT is how I feed my family of four active boys (and a super busy husband). I think people assume that since I am a Dietitian I must have perfectly balanced meals on the table every single night. NOPE. But with that being said, I have always had a pretty consistent approach to feeding the boys.
My Approach to Family Nutrition
After about the age of 4, I stopped being a short order cook (75% of the time). Although I understand that kid’s, just like adults, have specific food preferences, I refuse to cook 4 different meals. If there was a component of the meal (usually meat) that one of the boys did not like, there was always 1 back up choice for protein (yogurt, cottage cheese, cheese sticks) and they could eat the rest of the meal. (Not liking is different from not feeling like eating.) I have to admit, many times I would break the meal into pieces to avoid the “food touching” issue for son #4. How many moms’ can relate to this??
FRUITS AND VEGGIES
I always have fruit on the counter and cut up veggies in the fridge. Although I never forced them on the boys, I realized that if they could see them, they would eat them. My boys are 24, 21, 19 and 14 and I have to say this method must work because they are all HUGE produce eaters. Along with this, we have salad at every meal. It was always their choice if they ate it, but it was on the table if they wanted it.
We have sweets in the house but rarely have dessert right after dinner. I found not having a traditional “dessert time” helped to avoid the, eat your dinner so you can get dessert mentality. My boys have always been super active, often doing 2 sports at the same time, and keeping calories in them has always been a challenge. I never felt it was necessary to restrict sweets because they are great eaters, rather I chose the sweets we had in the house. Home made cookies and quick bread have always been a staple and when life gets crazy I always have some Trader Joe’s items in the cabinet (no high fructose corn syrup and other artificial “junk”). I found that the less of a big deal I made about the sweets, the less of a big deal they were. Categorizing foods as good and bad never seems to work and usually leads to kids over-consuming when they do get the desired food.
Soda (I include sports drinks in this category) was never and is still never in the house (unless we have a party). That is one sweet that I drew the line at. There is no reason for a kid to drink soda. Soda contains no nutritional value and is filled with chemicals. If they want to drink soda outside of the house, that is their choice. I am still working on the hubby with diet soda but that is a story for another day….
No artificial sweetened food or drink in the house. Just as with soda, there is no value to these foods and more and more research is revealing how very bad they are for our metabolism and physical well being.
Real, Whole Food is the basis of what I feed my family. Rather than making a big deal about every little aspect of nutrition, I choose to prepare meals with unprocessed ingredients. Rather than stress over calories, I put the focus on the ingredient list. The fewer the ingredients on the label the better and in addition, I opt for ingredients that the body recognize as food and can metabolize as such.
My boys are older now, the days of baggies of Goldfish and Cheerios are over but that does not mean my job is finished. My main focus is to help them realize that they are responsible for what they put into their bodies. Food is a source of fuel and what they choose to eat on a daily basis will directly impact how they feel both on and off the field. Son # 3 called me this past Saturday, 2 hours before his college lacrosse fall ball game to ask me if a Chicken Caesar wrap was a good pre-game food.
I am not going to lie, this made my day!
Developing a healthy attitude toward food and health is one of the greatest gifts we can give our children. Fueling their body is something that they will do everyday for the rest of their lives.
Noreen Gallo MS RD