6 Things Parents Definitely Don't Have to Feel Guilty About

You may be feeling guilty about these "bad" habits (who can drink eight glasses of water a day?!), but we're here to tell you that you're doing just fine.

girl catching mom eating ice cream
Photo: Priscilla Gragg

1. You had pasta for dinner...again.

Pasta is packed with carbs, and that’s exactly why it’s a good thing to eat in the evening, says EA Stewart, R.D., of The Spicy RD blog. “Carbs help you feel sleepy so you’re ready for bed when the time comes.” Pasta can also be a great source of whole grains (if you choose whole-wheat versions) or protein (if you buy varieties made with chickpeas or lentils). For the ultimate balanced meal, up the ratio of healthy toppings like cheese, vegetables, and tomato sauce to the portion of pasta.

2. Most of your meals come out of your freezer.

Some frozen foods—namely, bagged veggies and fruit—may be more nutritious than the produce you find fresh at the farmers’ market. “They are picked and frozen right away, which locks in nutrients,” says Stewart. Grabbing a frozen dinner? No problem. Plenty of offerings from brands such as Amy’s, Luvo, and Saffron Road are both balanced and tasty.

3. You don’t get to the gym very often (or, um, ever).

After you become a parent, fitness may look different for a while. But that can be a positive, says Kathleen Donahoe, a personal trainer and co-owner of Oh Baby! Fitness, which offers exercise classes for new and expectant moms nationwide. Long spans of exercise are great, but breaking your workout into five-minute chunks throughout the day might be better. Research has found that mini sweat sessions reduce blood pressure more effectively and may even burn fat more efficiently too. “Your heart rate stays elevated after each short workout, resulting in a bigger calorie burn overall,” explains Donahoe.

4. You’re totally dependent on your morning coffee.

Keep on pouring that java. Coffee is full of polyphenols, a type of antioxidant that has been linked with a longer life span as well as a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and some cancers. Just make sure you’re not overdoing it on sweeteners, and if you have trouble sleeping at night, you may want to cut yourself off at noon because caffeine can stay in your system for up to six hours.

5. You don’t drink close to eight glasses of water a day.

Now here’s news you can use: The 64-ounces-of-water-a-day rule is pretty much made-up. Although the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommends that the average woman consume 11.5 cups of fluids per day, any drink counts. Coffee (see No. 4), tea, milk, soup, and hydrating foods like pineapple, watermelon, and cucumber all go toward the tally, says Katie Serbinski, R.D., founder of the blog Mom to Mom Nutrition. Also, your water needs depend on your activity level, the weather, and if you’re breastfeeding. Rather than focusing on a specific number of cups, pay attention to your urine. “Aim for a pale-yellow or almost clear color,” says Serbinski. Too dark? Get to sipping.

6. You skip breakfast.

If the thought of food at 7 a.m. makes you queasy, eat later! The so-called most important meal of the day is not required for adults, says David Levitsky, Ph.D., a professor of nutrition at Cornell University. In fact, a review of research in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition called the need for breakfast eating a myth. Some studies have found that a substantial breakfast can lead to a greater calorie intake for the day. That said, if you’d like a morning meal but don’t have time, planning ahead can help, says Serbinski. Make a batch of overnight oats on Sunday nights (mix oats with milk and yogurt and pop in the fridge) and have a heaping scoop every morning. Or if you’re really strapped, grab a banana and some almond butter.

This article originally appeared in Parents Magazine's November 2019 issue as 'Give Your Lifestyle a Break!'

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