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You Don’t Need to Be Martha Stewart to Get Healthy with Your Littles

Friday, December 28th, 2012

This post is sponsored by Little Remedies — makers of children’s medication without artificial colors, artificial flavors, or alcohol. 

The time: 9:33 a.m.

The scene: My two-year-old daughter covered in frosting crusties, hands stained from food coloring, teeth unbrushed, bedhead rampant, meticulously eating every last miniscule sprinkle that escaped from her cookie onto her plate.

Cookies before 10 a.m. are not the norm for us, but it was a sugary exception, an unadulterated moment of indulgence while prepping for a holiday party. As I gazed upon her totally content, totally deplorable state of cleanliness I thought, she is happy. Her age and innocence doesn’t allow her to be encumbered by regret for the number of cookies she ate or taint the scene with thoughts of the gym later. She just devoured and enjoyed.

As a parent, I worry about the messages conveyed to my daughter regarding body image and fear the day she learns the word “fat.” In the spirit of raising healthy kids, I have banned the word “fat” from our home and choose to talk about nutrition in terms of healthy and unhealthy.

I realize as her parent, it is my job to guide her nutritional choices. I believe in teaching the importance of nutritional balance and above all, food is fun and enjoyable and even occasionally, indulgent.

We are simple folk. We do simple things to make healthy choices every day. We choose whole grains, fruits, veggies, and kid friendly health powerhouses like hummus and quinoa.

While I see inspiration for a hundred creative animal faces and adorable scenes I can recreate with food to make lunchtime more fun, I usually end up crying 4.7 tears at my inability to recreate a lion’s mane out of cheese. Martha Stewart, or even her lowly step-cousin twice removed I am not.

If I’m to lead by example though, crying over mutilated cheese isn’t the best one to set. Instead, I focus on a few simple things I can do to foster a healthy lifestyle:

Cook Together – We don’t fear the spices and always have milk on hand for when she accidentally gets into the red pepper flakes. My bad.  She excitedly talks about the day she’ll be a big girl and can use a knife to cut the veggies herself. Oh to be a big girl.

Grocery Shop Together – It may take us 20 minutes longer and sometimes a bucket-load of patience, but she likes to name all the foods we put in the cart and place them on the conveyor belt. She loves to bag the fruits and veggies as well. Sometimes this means we pick up a few extra green beans because her germafide toddler hands excitedly touched more than mom was planning on buying. I’ll take the enthusiasm though.

Exercise Together – We walk it out as often as we can but some days, exercise means a rhythm-less dance party where she tells me to “shake it little mama” because maybe she’s heard that a time or two from me.

Eat Together – Family mealtime is the best place to model healthy habits. Even though stubborn is most toddlers’ middle name, we ask her to try foods again and again. Reportedly it takes up to ten times for a child to determine a food preference. We gave tomatoes a good run with at least twenty tries, but it’s time to give up my pipe dream of the mother-daughter duo who eat tomatoes like apples. She’s taken a firm stance (read: spitting it out) on her deep and abiding hatred of the little red delicacy.

Get Your Veggies on Together – We put veggies in anything we can. Martha would be proud of my recent discovery to fill ice trays with pureed carrots, spinach, or kale to freeze and add to smoothies, soups, muffins, etc. A surprisingly easy thing to make and enthusiastically endorsed by this cook-less wonder.

These are just a few of the simple things we do every day to promote healthy habits.

Some days I am the mom who makes ice trays full of pureed veggies, but also, some days I am the mom who busts out the cookie making ingredients before Sesame Street is over. Again, we strive for balance. I choose to teach my daughter about being healthy in the grocery aisles of errand time and the counter tops of dinnertime.

I want to teach my daughter healthy habits, by my side, apron clad, snitching bites, in a gloriously messy kitchen (or not so glorious if you’re a smidge type-A like me).

It is not a habit of ours to make cookies every morning, but it is a habit to work as many natural and whole foods into our day as possible. Read: frozen veggie ice cubes. Can you tell I’m really proud of that small idea? Go on brush your shoulder off. Martha, look, maybe I’m not such a lost cause.

In the comments please share your favorite healthy options to make with your little. This mom is always looking for new ideas and ways to easily knock Martha’s socks off.

A big thanks again to Little Remedies for sponsoring this campaign!

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