Monday, January 10, 2011

Top Tip - Establish Guidelines

For me, establishing guidelines has been especially helpful in making healthy eating a part of our lives. Fortunately, my husband and I are on the same page about what we find "acceptable", and we continuously share these "do's and don'ts" with the kids - along with the reasons we feel so strongly about each one.

Since many of our friends have a similar approach to teaching about nutrition, I've seen many examples of this working well in other families too. Honestly, I think it's fabulous when one of the kids' friends ask me "Is this organic?" or "Does this have food dye in it?" before they'll eat something I serve. How great is that a three-year-old is being taught to think about the effect that food has on their body???

Here are the dietary guidelines that our family follows for optimal health.

Make whole, unprocessed foods the center of our diet
Fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and whole grains
Choose snacks and treats that don't contain anything listed below
Eat organic when possible

Don't Eat
Anything containing artificial colors, flavors or preservatives
Anything containing trans-fat or high fructose corn syrup
Animal foods (meat, dairy, eggs)

Every family will have different guidelines, of course, but the most important part is deciding what you are comfortable with communicating that to your kids. Being consistent also helps; I've learned from experience that the kids have a harder time when getting mixed messages.

Also, expect your guidelines to change over time. Cutting out artificial ingredients, trans-fat and HFCS was the first step for us; the rest has been a slow journey over the past seven or so years.

If outlining guidelines is new for your family, consider making a list to post in the kitchen. Recently, a friend helped me with home organization by encouraging me to write and post house rules and morning/evening routines - and it's helped tremendously. I realized that I had ideas in my head that I wasn't communicating - no wonder the kids weren't doing what I expected!

No matter where you're currently at on the path to optimal nutrition, I think that establishing written guidelines is a great first step for moving forward on your journey!

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