By Marisol Barrios, MSPA
Introducing my sons to different vegetables, grains, and juicing early on helped me when I became intentional in taking charge of my nutrition. But for a parent who is making lifestyle changes, planning meals when you have young children’s taste buds to consider can be challenging. I asked Pam Mahon, a nutritionist for Wholistic Kids & Families and a nutrition educator for Chow Bella Nutrition, Made Simple, what three ingredients comprise a healthier family lifestyle. Here’s what she encourages families to do:
Eliminate processed foods
Try to eliminate as much process food as possible by finding healthier alternatives. Anything that comes in a package should be replaced with whole foods, foods that are unprocessed or unrefined such as legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Pam suggests choosing rice instead of rice pilaf.
Many families ask her how they can make meal planning quicker, especially working parents. Pam says to choose foods that have less than 10 ingredients that are healthier for you. If you’re in a bind, buy organic rice that is already cooked. She says Trader Joe’s, who’s making a concerted effort to sustainable food packaging, offers an organic frozen rice package that can be made in minutes.
Try to eat a color of rainbows. Most people eat the same seven things every week. For each season there is a different fruit or vegetable that is fun and interesting for the family, says Pam. Each week or every other week prepare one of these food items, talk about it and cook it. She suggests children can participate by reading online or finding a fun recipe of a certain kind of melon, figs, or squash they’ve never had. Instead of zucchini squash children can try a butternut or spaghetti squash.
Fall is also an ideal season to add more leafy greens with swiss chard, spinach, kale, mustard greens, and broccoli sprouts. Find ways to purchase these greens and other foods at local Farmers’ markets or cost effective grocery stores like Vallarta Supermarkets, Costco, and Sprouts.
Try to drink pure water and eliminate the sodas, the energy drinks, and decaffeinated beverages. Coconut water is another alternative and contains natural electrolytes unlike other sports beverages with artificial sweeteners. Instead of juices, Pam flavors water with citrus. Instead of artificial sweeteners try switching to herbal mixed teas or blend teas. “You can freeze mint and berries in an ice cube and add that to your water,” says Pam.
Our brain and heart are composed of 73% water. Essential to our health, water serves a number of functions for us. With all the daily activities of a family, the benefits of water can help you and your children focus at work and in school, keep everyone hydrated, and sleep better. On average adults should consume 64 or more ounces a day, and children should have 40 to 64 ounces, depending on age and activity level.
By following these three basic steps, you and your family will be on your way to a healthier year.
Mother of two sons, Marisol Barrios, a communications strategist, grace changer, and content creator, is still on a journey of self-discovery and learns many life lessons, primarily how wine and cupcakes can soothe her soul during challenging times.